But none of those came against a team that had just beaten the best team in the land, playing against one of the best guards in the country—a reigning First Team All-Conference performer in one of the nation’s toughest leagues.
Until now. At No. 17 Boston College, Lin bested Eagles guard Tyrese Rice and every other defender as he put up 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, eight assists, and six steals while only turning the ball over twice in a stunning 82-70 victory.
It was quite an improvement from the last time his team battled a ranked opponent. In last year’s opener against No. 23 Stanford, he had no points, turnovers, or assists, but did pick up five fouls in a 111-56 loss.
Showing the vast improvement he has made, Lin made plays all over the court, scoring and creating for his teammates, leading the undersized Harvard effort at the defensive end, and leaving a strong impression on his opponent.
“He got his rhythm going and spread the floor well,” Eagles coach Al Skinner said. “We didn’t do a good job of staying in front of him. He’s very capable of getting his shoulder around our guys and getting penetration to the basket. When we did help, he was able to get rid of it and deliver the ball. In the second half, he just dominated the game for them, taking care of the offense.”
That domination started on the opening possession after halftime, when he stole the ball from Rice and coasted for a layup. The second-half highlight show began there, as he went on to score 19 points in that frame.
Lin nailed a three in the corner after some great ball movement to make it 42-31 just over three minutes into the second half.
He stole the ball and nearly dunked on BC shooting guard Rakim Saunders, drawing the foul instead.
He hit a fade-away jumper over Saunders after a Harvard timeout to put his team up 45-36. The three he nailed to give the Crimson a 52-43 lead with 11:29 to go came from several feet beyond the arc.
As BC moved to close him down, Lin’s teammates got more and more open. And Lin found them—half of his assists came after the break.
Up just 52-45 halfway through the last frame, he led a fast break that found freshman forward Peter Boehm for an easy layup.
Then, with the shot clock winding down and seemingly nothing available, he found Boehm open again for a three-pointer.
With under eight minutes to go, he led the Harvard transition again and found freshman guard Oliver McNally for an open three in the corner and a 62-48 lead.
His highlight-reel assist came several possessions later when he faked a three at the top of the key and instead dished to junior forward Doug Miller for a wide-open layup.
“This team has a lot of weapons,” Lin said. “I just need to throw it out to any of the shooters. We were able to spread the floor, and defenders had to respect our shooters, so it creates open opportunities.”
As opportunities opened for Lin to score, he took advantage of them. Twice in the final quarter of the game he blew by opponents for layups, and then when the Eagles cut it to 10 at 66-56 with three minutes left, he went around Rice and nailed a jumper, giving his team more distance.
His first half was no slouch either, as he pulled Harvard’s strings and had eight points with four assists—the last one on a pass to captain guard Andrew Pusar with seven seconds left to give his team all the momentum going into the break.
“Making the right decision, the right play, we need it in his hands,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “We trust him and he delivers.”
He delivered on defense as well, as in the first half he held Rice—who scored 25 points Sunday at North Carolina—to a goose egg while grabbing three steals, all off Sanders.
“This young man has been tremendous for us in every category,” Amaker said.
He means that quite literally, as Lin is the only player in the nation to rank in the top ten in his conference in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, field goal shooting, free throw shooting, and three-point shooting percentage.
The only downside of his night was that, thanks to picking up several unnecessary fouls around the midway mark of the game, he fouled out with 40 seconds to play.
But it proved to be a fitting end to a great night. Instead of the silly chants given at most games when a visitor fouls out, Lin was greeted with nothing but applause.
—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.