NOTEBOOK: Free Throws, Defense Prove Crucial for Men's Basketball Against Terriers

Wes Wing
Robert F Worley

Senior wing Wesley Saunders led the way once more for the Crimson on Monday night, carrying both the offensive and defensive burdens.

The Harvard men’s basketball team (7-1) finished up a 6-0 start to the season at Lavietes Pavilion Monday night with a 70-56 victory over local rival Boston University (2-6). The Crimson led by just one point at the break but broke the game open with timely shooting late in the contest.


To say that the team has missed Laurent Rivard ’14 this year would be an understatement. With the graduation of Harvard’s all-time three-point leader last spring, finding a threat from beyond the arc was a priority for the Crimson coming into this season.

“[After] losing Rivard from our program, people have really looked at our program differently,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.

While junior co-captain Siyani Chambers and senior Wesley Saunders both improved their shots over the summer, the return of sophomore sharpshooter Corbin Miller from his two-year mission trip seemed to be perfect timing. 


As a freshman, Miller shot 45.6 percent from beyond the arc and began to make a name for himself as a marksman in the Ivy League. Nonetheless, Miller has largely struggled to find his rhythm thus far this season.

“He was telling me he barely [was able] to shoot when he was over in Mexico,” Saunders said. “It’s been crazy what he’s been able to do getting back into the game and his shot still looks pure.”

Coming into Monday night’s contest, Miller had hit four three pointers twice this season, but had begun to find his rhythm amongst a high volume of attempts. After shooting 40 percent from three in the Crimson’s 64-52 win over Vermont, Miller made three of his 13 treys against the Terriers. While the percentage was not desirable from the team’s best three-point shooter, Miller’s self-confidence and increased shot-taking has opened up the floor for Harvard.

“When Corbin hits shots, it really changes our team,” Saunders said. “It’s a big energy boost for us and everyone gets more into the game. Those threes that he hit are big momentum-changers.”


Free throws, free throws, free throws. Every player has heard his or her coach repeat the mantra hundreds of times in practice. No matter what the level of play is, cashing in at the charity stripe is a consistent determinant in the game’s outcome.

On Monday night, Harvard did just that. The Crimson went 23-of-25 from the line, while the Terriers made just 11-of-20 attempts.

“Our ability to make free throws…was tremendous,” Amaker said. “Especially given how poorly we shot the ball.”

In Harvard’s worst games this season, free throws have doomed the squad. The Crimson shot 76.9 percent from the line against Holy Cross in a one-point loss and repeatedly shot itself in the foot versus UMass (57.1 percent) in a two-point win.

For Harvard, whose backcourt is made up of slashers like Saunders, Chambers, and junior wing Agunwa Okolie that love to drive to the basket and initiate contact, consistency from the charity line is demanded. On Monday night, Saunders, Chambers, and Okolie were a combined nine-for-nine from the line, with more than 30 percent of their points coming off of free throws.


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