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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas—The Harvard men’s basketball team may be known for its prowess on the offensive end, but Friday night, the Crimson showed that its defense can be a force to be reckoned with too.
In the semifinals of the first-ever Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the Crimson held Florida State to just 41 points, more than 35 points below their season average en route to a 46-41 victory.
“We really dug in, and we had to,” said Amaker of his squad’s defense. “We had to fight, scrap, and claw.”
Harvard held Florida State to 36 percent shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers. It was the Crimson’s stingiest defensive performance of the season.
Co-captain Oliver McNally played a crucial role in the Crimson’s defensive effort. The 6'3 guard was charged with the task of defending the Seminoles’ leading scorer, Michael Snaer, a 6'5 guard with the ability to stroke it from beyond the arc,
McNally held Snaer, who was coming off an 18-point performance against the University of Massachusetts on Thursday, to just 10 points on a team-high nine attempts from the field.
“I just tried to force him into tough shots and contested jumpers and not give anything easy and not put him on the foul line,” said McNally, who finished with a team-high seven points.
The Crimson also had success stopping Florida State veteran Bernard James. James, a 6'10 forward who entered yesterday’s matchup averaging 9.8 points per game, was held to just five points on eight field goal attempts.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
After getting outrebounded in each of its first two contests of the 2011-12 season, the Crimson has managed to control the glass. For the third straight game, Harvard out-rebounded its opponent last night, pulling down 40 boards compared to the Seminoles’ 30.
Co-captain Keith Wright led the Crimson’s efforts on the glass, notching a game-high eight rebounds in just 22 minutes of play. McNally finished second in rebounding, securing six boards. Freshman Steve Moundou-Missi came off the bench and secured five rebounds.
Florida State was anchored on the glass by James and Xavier Gibson, who pulled down six boards apiece. But the pair's efforts were not enough.
“[Harvard's] toughness, their ability to execute their defensive game plan and block us out and really being much more aggressive on the boards was, I thought, significant on the outcome of the game,” Seminoles’ coach Leonard Hamilton said.
In total, the Crimson pulled down 11 offensive rebounds and scored seven second-chance points on the night.
By the final buzzer, nine different Harvard players had seen the court for at least 10 minutes of play.
With Wright and junior forward Kyle Casey struggling with foul trouble throughout the contest, Amaker was forced to rely on his bench early and often.
Moundou-Missi and rookie wing Wes Saunders gave the Crimson solid minutes, finishing with six points and five rebounds and seven points and three rebounds, respectively.
But Moundou-Missi and Saunders weren’t the only Harvard substitutes to see significant minutes. In 24 minutes off the bench, sophomore Laurent Rivard notched six points on a pair of late three-pointers.
Rivard, who started the game 0-of-5 from beyond the arc, converted his first three with 8:12 to play in the game. The triple extended the Crimson’s lead to 29-24. Rivard followed up minutes later with his second trey, giving Harvard an eight-point lead.
“We have an incredible amount of confidence in [Rivard’s] shooting ability,” Amaker said. “Laurent has a green light on our team. I felt that he was going to make some big shots and he did.”
Rivard has gotten his sophomore campaign off to a hot start. Through five games, the sharpshooter is averaging 10 points per game on 55 percent shooting from deep.
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