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NOTEBOOK: Shooting Woes Doom Men's Basketball Against FAU

By David Freed, Crimson Staff Writer

While a blizzard hit Boston on Tuesday night, the coldest Cambridge residents were 1,451 miles south of the incoming snowstorm. In a surprise 68-53 loss to Florida Atlantic (7-12, 2-2 C-USA), the Harvard men’s basketball team (14-3, 1-0 Ivy) put forth its coldest shooting performance of the season, hitting at only a 23 percent clip from the field.

After the contest, head coach Tommy Amaker said he was “dumbfounded” about how his team performed, missing 10 of its 12 three point attempts in a shooting effort that plagued nearly every Crimson player.

Sophomore guard Siyani Chambers, a 40 percent three point shooter, missed all four of his threes and seven of his eight shots. Juniors Steve Moundou-Missi and Wesley Saunders, both better than 48 percent from the field coming in, missed 20 of their 25 attempts on the night. Senior Kyle Casey and co-captain Brandyn Curry had an even tougher time, making a combined one of 10 shots.

SEASON-LONG STRUGGLES

The team’s shooting woes against the Owls were partially the product of poor ball movement. Harvard’s three assists were the lowest of the Amaker era and less than the season average of three separate Crimson players. The result was the worst shooting performance of the Amaker era, as well.

However, the poor field goal percentage was characteristic of the team’s struggles shooting the ball in 2013-14, where up and down the lineup players have labored to recapture their form of seasons past.

Overall, the squad is shooting 45 percent from the field and 35 percent from three—marks good enough, per Ken Pomeroy, for the 91st best offense in the country and the team’s worst shooting stats since 2007-2008. The top seven scorers for the Crimson are all shooting less than 50 percent from the field, each below his career average.

Co-captain Laurent Rivard, the only Harvard player to make a three in last night’s contest, shot 39 percent or better from behind the arc his first three years in Cambridge. This season, he is at 36 percent. Chambers has been a worse shooter across the board—making just 38 percent of his field goals overall and 71 percent from the line after shooting 43 and 81 percent, respectively, last year. Casey, a 51 percent career shooter coming into the year, is at 42 percent. Four different players shot 37 percent or better from deep in 2012-2013—just Chambers has accomplished that feat this season.

Amaker said that the team, which—shooting woes aside—has won 14 games behind a suffocating defense (35th nationally), will have to turn it around quickly before resuming conference play Sunday at Dartmouth.

“We still have a good club,” Amaker said. “We have a lot of games left, all conference games. We have been the target in our league in terms of the bulls-eye on our chest …. You can drop a game [like this that] you thought you could have played better in and then that triggers poor play as you move forward. That’s what you fight against as we move to league play this weekend.”

REFROSHING PLAY

The team’s silver lining for the night was freshman forward Zena Edosomwan. The former top-100 ESPN recruit came into the night struggling early in his career with the adjustment to collegiate play. Averaging only six minutes a game, Edosomwan has been buried in a deep Crimson frontcourt rotation—Casey, Saunders, junior Jonah Travis, and sophomore Evan Cummins—for most of the year.

The rookie’s uneven play is not for a lack of effort or attempts; the Harvard-Westlake alum takes a shot nearly every two minutes he is on the floor—almost twice as often as high-usage options like Chambers (35 minutes per game, nine shots per game) and Moundou-Missi (24 mpg, 6.6 spg).

On Tuesday, Edosomwan took his normal allotment of shots—10 in just 23 minutes—but, most importantly, was aggressive on the offensive glass. Edosomwan pulled down nine rebounds, including five on the team’s 21 on the offensive end, taking advantage of his teammates’ struggles from the field to generate quality shots in the paint.

“I was very pleased with his effort,” Amaker said. “He was the long bright spot for our team. He played hard and gave a workmanlike effort, unlike some of our other guys .... I was pleased to see that because maybe we can build more off that.”

—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at david.freed@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @CrimsonDPFreed.

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