Men's Basketball Returns From Break Against Holy Cross

Steven A Soto

Wing Wesley Saunders had 10 points in the Crimson's 73-64 win over Holy Cross last season. The sophomore leads the team in scoring with 15.9 points per game this year.

Finals are over for the Harvard men’s basketball team, and now it’s time to get back to work.

The Crimson (5-4) returns to the court Saturday afternoon at Lavieties Pavilion to take on Holy Cross (7-4) at 2 p.m.

Harvard will be looking for its fifth straight win over its intrastate rival, whom it beat 73-64 in Worcester a year ago.

Last season, the teams went into the break tied before Harvard pulled away in the second half. But 75 percent of the team’s scoring in that contest came from the quartet of players—Keith Wright ’12, Oliver McNally ’12, Brandyn Curry, and Kyle Casey—that are no longer with the team, meaning this year, the Crusaders, like all of Harvard’s opponents, will be facing an almost entirely new group of players.

Those newcomers are headlined by sophomore wing Wesley Saunders, who is second in the Ivy League in scoring at 15.9 points per game—just 0.1 points behind Brown’s Matt Sullivan.

Saunders registered the first double-digit scoring game of his career a year ago against Holy Cross. This season, he has teamed with freshman point guard Siyani Chambers to form a formidable young backcourt duo for the Crimson.

Chambers leads the Ancient Eight in assists per contest (5.1) and hit a game-winning jumper with five seconds to go to give Harvard a 65-64 win over BU in its most recent contest on Dec. 11. Chambers was this week named a nominee for the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s best point guard; Cousy is a Holy Cross alum.

Harvard’s leading returning scorer from a year ago, junior co-captain Laurent Rivard, has struggled to get involved in the offense of late, averaging just 5.25 shots per game over the team’s last four contests.

“He’s a marked guy,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said last week. “We’re going to have some situations where people do things to take [him] out of the game…. We’re going to have to do things to see if we can work harder to get him open looks.”

Like Harvard, the Crusaders also lost a lot of talent in the year since the teams last met.

2011-12 leading scorer Devin Brown, who had 17 points against the Crimson last season, has graduated, while its second-leading scorer from last year, R.J. Evans, is playing a fifth year at UConn.

That has left junior forward Dave Dudzinski to play a larger offensive role, and Dudzinski has responded by averaging 14.5 points—including a career-high 31 last time out against San Francisco—and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Sophomore guard Justin Burrell has chipped in 13.5 points per contest and had 19 in the Crusaders’ 67-56 victory over fellow Ivy League foe Dartmouth on Dec. 8.

After the BU game, Amaker emphasized that his team’s perimeter defense would have to be better against opposing guards such as Burrell.

“I was very disappointed with our guard play defensively, and made that known clearly,” the coach said. “I just thought we weren’t fighting enough to get over the top of screens…[and] I didn’t think our guards were doing enough of their jobs to make it tough for the BU guards to penetrate.”