A gritty second half performance allowed the Harvard men’s basketball team to pull away from Army for a 66-54 win Saturday at Lavietes Pavilion.
Junior guard Jeremy Lin led the Crimson (3-1) with 24 points and freshman forward Keith Wright had his first collegiate double-double with 12 points and a career-best 13 rebounds as their team outscored the Black Knights (1-5) 37-26 in the second half after being up just one at the break.
Harvard overcame a rough 9-of-29 shooting performance in the first half and 17 committed turnovers against just nine assists by shutting Army down for several stretches in the second half, where the black Knights were a measly 10-of-31 from long range. The Crimson also set a team record with 12 blocked shots, four of them by Wright.
“Army is a team that was struggling in terms of coming out on top with victories but had played better than its record indicated,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “I was very concerned in that regard and I though our kids found a way. We didn't play particularly well, things didn't go that well in terms of our shots. You give a lot of credit to Army but we found a way to come out on top and gut our way through to a victory.”
The key stretch in a back-and-forth game with six ties and 17 lead changes—13 in the first half—began with just under 12 minutes left in the game. His team clinging to a 43-40 lead, Lin blocked Black Knight forward Kenny Brewer and nailed a three in the left corner after some nice ball movement from senior guards Drew Housman and Andrew Pusar, who was making his first appearance of the season.
Following a free throw by senior forward Evan Harris and an Army lay-up, Lin knocked down two free throws and the Crimson defense forced an opponent miss. Harris fought for a loose ball on the offensive end, forcing jump ball with the arrow to Harvard. With the ball, freshman guard Max Kenyi penetrated and kicked out to Housman, who downed a three to give his team a double-digit lead at 52-42.
The Crimson defense stayed firm, making the Black Knights shoot blanks on their next three possessions, with Harris scoring a lay-up and Housman draining two free throws with 6:27 left to complete the run bringing the score to 56-42.
“[Before the run,] we went into one of those huddles and everyone got really focused and knew we had to step up the D,” Housman said. “Everyone played hard, everyone rebounded and got in the passing lanes. We were slopping through it and then we really turned it on.”
Housman was making his first start of the season and responded in a big way. Hampered by an injured ankle early in the season, he went a team-high 35 minutes and dropped 15 points, 11 after halftime. His points came on 9-of-12 shooting from the foul line and two three-pointers. The first trey with 15:16 left off an offensive rebound by Wright gave his team a 36-34 lead and would not trail after that.
“I felt fine, [playing lots of minutes] is what I’m used to,” he said.
The senior was not the only Harvard hoopster to feast at the foul line. Coming off a win over Holy Cross on Tuesday in which it went to the line 39 times, making 32 of those, the parade continued against Army. The Crimson had 29 attempts from the foul line, hitting on 23 of those. Like Housman, Lin made nine free throws, out of nine attempts. On the other hand, the Black Knights made just 6-of-12 foul shots.
“Ever since the Colorado game [a 70-57 loss last Saturday] we talked about getting to the free throw line as being a weapon for our team,” Amaker said. “For us to have success this season, we think that's a key stat line for our ball club—attempts and hopefully the ability to convert from there. We were able to do both this afternoon. 29 attempts and certainly making 23 of 29 attempts, that is a pretty good percentage overall for our team.”
—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at email@example.com.
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