WORCESTER, MASS.—As the clock expired on a 50-49 Holy Cross victory, its second consecutive one-point win over the Harvard men’s basketball team (2-4), the Hart Center was a scene of pure jubilation.
Junior Robert Champion, whose three with 2:45 to go put Harvard in a six-point hole from which it never recovered, was lifted up in the air by his teammates, violently pumping both fists. Senior Anthony Thompson, who hit more free throws in the second half than the Crimson did in the game, beat his chest with one palm, gesturing to the crowd with the other. The official Holy Cross (3-3) social media account was effusive, tweeting “TWO STRAIGHT OVER HARVARD!!”
The reaction, fit for a program-defining upset, highlighted the disparity Sunday between perception and performance.
The Crimson, the de facto heavyweight of the region that dominated state foes to the tune of a 21-3 record over the last five seasons, fell to 1-3 against Massachusetts competition, with its sole win against a Division III squad. A team that had not finished outside the top 100 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings since 2010 found itself 181st Sunday afternoon.
The culprit, once again, was the Harvard offense. The Crimson shot just 37 percent and committed 14 turnovers, misfiring on three-quarters of its three-point attempts and scoring just 12 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
“I guess the overall word for me … disappointed comes to mind,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
HELP OFF THE PINE
The Crimson started the game sluggish, falling behind 9-0 in less than three minutes as the Crusaders hit their first four shots. The interior defense, a bright spot for the Crimson through four games, was slow to react twice on backdoor cuts as Bill Carmody’s squad hit layups on four consecutive possessions.
Barking at his troops, Amaker immediately looked for a spark off the bench. The ensuing lineup—senior Patrick Steeves, junior Corbin Miller, sophomore Chris Egi, and freshmen Corey Johnson and Weisner Perez—immediately went on an 8-3 run to bring Harvard back into the game.
“I thought our kids off the bench really gave us a short in the arm and gave us an opportunity to make it a game,” Amaker said.
Steeves, who played a career-high 26 minutes, was a fixture down the stretch for the Crimson. The senior led the team in both rebounds (12) and assists (seven), adding two threes.
The versatile forward played three for Harvard down the stretch in big lineups with classmate Evan Cummins and junior Zena Edosomwan, providing the Crimson with more spacing and passing at the position than starter Agunwa Okolie. He twice found Edosomwan with lob entry passes for dunks, a play later the Crimson went back to trailing by two with 55 seconds left. This time, however, Edosomwan fumbled the ball out of bounds, costing Harvard its best shot at a tie.
“He gives us a lot,” Edosomwan said. “He’s great defensively, can shoot the ball, [and] is a good passer.”
Steeves, who did not see the floor during his first three years on campus while battling knee injuries, was playing in just his third game ever for the Crimson.
NOTEBOOK: Sharpshooting Crimson Halts QuakersJust as co-captain Laurent Rivard hit consecutive threes, the Harvard men’s basketball team (17-3, 4-0 Ivy) earned consecutive wins. The squad notched its second victory in as many nights, taking care of Penn (4-13, 1-2), 80-50, Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
NOTEBOOK: Rosenberg Gives Men's Basketball a ScareWith 6:38 left in regulation, a three-pointer from sophomore guard Siyani Chambers extended the Harvard men’s basketball team’s lead to 12. After trading buckets with Columbia for the majority of Friday night’s game, the Crimson seemed to finally create some breathing room with Chambers’ trey.
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