CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.—This particular victory tastes even sweeter the second time around.
Led by the spectacular play of co-captain Jeremy Lin, Harvard men’s basketball (7-2) traveled to nearby Conte Forum Wednesday night and took advantage of a dominant interior presence to defeat Boston College, 74-67, in a repeat of the Crimson’s stunning upset of the Eagles (6-3) last season.
“I can’t say enough about how these kids have played and the effort that they’ve given,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “I’m very proud of them.”
Several BC players had admitted to experiencing a mental letdown in last January’s loss—which came a few days after a defeat of then-No. 1 North Carolina—and vowed to make amends. For much of the first half, their promise came true.
After missing their first seven shots of the game, the Eagles held their visitors scoreless over a span of eight minutes. BC junior Joe Trapani came out strong, collecting his team’s first 10 points of the game and a total of 17 in the half. His teammates caught fire as well, and the Eagles used a 14-0 run to seize a lead as great as nine.
But history had a way of repeating itself. As was the case a year ago, the best player on the floor wore a jersey reading Harvard on the front and the No. 4 on the back.
Lin, who had 27 points the last time he stepped onto the Conte hardwood, ended the Crimson’s scoring drought with under five minutes to play in the first half, nailing a long three-pointer that he launched just seconds before the shot clock would have expired.
The offensive spark was followed by a series of layups by Harvard’s big men, and the visitors went into the locker room down by only four.
Determined to avoid déjà vu all over again, BC started the second half with a renewed sense of urgency, nabbing multiple offensive rebounds following errant attempts. Forward Corey Raji’s free throw gave the Eagles a 43-36 lead at the 14:35 mark.
But there was still no answer for Lin, who repeatedly worked the ball off a screen and either drove to the basket—accumulating 16 points in the second half—or passed it off to an interior player for an easy score.
“We knew that if we dragged their bigs out, that would open a lot up for us,” Lin said. “We have shooters on the outside that they couldn’t really leave, and we had obviously the big guys who were rolling…we just tried to spread them out and take what they gave us.”
With about eight minutes left in the contest, the star guard spun into the lane, leapt into the air, and handed the ball off to sophomore Keith Wright, who banked in a short shot to cap an 11-0 Harvard spurt.
The main beneficiary of Lin’s playmaking ability, Wright bulldozed his way to 21 points, a career high.
“What Jeremy said to me in the huddle was, ‘If you roll hard, I’m going to find you,’” Wright explained.
The Crimson advantage would hover around six points until the game’s final minute, when BC guard Reggie Jackson cut the deficit to two.
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