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Edosomwan Shines in First Half as Men's Basketball Squeezes Past McGill

Zena Dunks
Junior forward Zena Edosomwan, shown in action against Florida Atlantic last November, recorded 21 points and 11 boards in Harvard's 66-63 win over McGill.

In a public exhibition game Saturday afternoon, the Harvard men’s basketball team struggled to dispatch McGill, surviving as a Jenning Leung desperation three clanked of the rim. Instead of heading to overtime, the Crimson walked away from Lavietes Pavilion with a 66-63 victory.

Junior forward Zena Edosomwan set the tempo for the team, finishing the afternoon with 21 points and 11 rebounds. By the end of the first half, Edosomwan had scored 18 of the team’s 39 points, with the next closest player notching only four.

A span of five possessions defined the pattern.

On two consecutive Harvard possessions, Edosomwan lost the ball in the paint and on both occasions, McGill (7-4) capitalized and turned Edosomwan’s mistakes into points, putting the visitors up 22-19.

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Edosomwan then regained his composure and hit three straight layups on Harvard’s next three possessions to regain the lead. This was a trend throughout the game—when Edosomwan was on, so was Harvard.

McGill also found first-half success in the paint. The visitors’ speed advantage over Harvard pulled the Crimson frontcourt out towards the perimeter, leaving a gap in the paint for McGill to find the open player. Edosomwan and Cummins credited the Crimson’s issues on defense to miscommunication and over-helping.

“I thought they were getting really easy slips, they were getting open for threes [as there was] miscommunication on switches or picks or flares, so I think we just have to do a better job on that aspect, making sure we’re just talking on defense,” Edosomwan said.

The second half saw a different Edosomwan. While he dropped 18 in the first half, he tallied only three points in the second. But he was still able to contribute—snagging eight of his 11 rebound in the second frame.

“I think, obviously this year, the team is going to look to me a lot to score, but it’s not all about scoring,” Edosomwan said. “I felt better about my rebounding in the second half compared to the first... I need to be more of a factor on the glass, and those little things are going to help the team.”

The pressure on Edosomwan is especially strong after the Crimson lost senior Siyani Chambers to injury at the beginning of the year. With Edosomwan shouldering the scoring burden, freshman guard Tommy McCarthy took the pressure at the point.

Though junior guards Corbin Miller and Matt Fraschilla have been expected to compete for time at point, Miller spent most of his time at his traditional shooting guard position and Fraschilla sat for the first 35 minutes of the game.

In the second half, the Crimson adjusted its defensive strategy to accommodate for its first-half weaknesses in the paint. But McGill responded and adjusted its offensive plan. After Harvard built up an 11-point lead seven minutes into the second frame, McGill nailed three unanswered three-pointers to pull the defcit back within two.

With the quartet of guards—Fraschilla, Miller, McCarthy and freshman Corey Johnson—all in the game in the waning minutes, Amaker put in a smaller lineup to keep up with McGill’s speed in the backcourt. He needed his defense to keep McGill from scoring from deep—a strength they showed throughout the contest.

“We really just tried to match [sizes], thinking we could see if we could somehow not...give up a penetrate and pitch kind of three-point shot,” Amaker said. “Then they threw it inside and got the basket, but we didn’t give them an and-one, and we certainly didn’t give them the three-point shot, which is really what we were guarding against.”

But the Crimson would not have been in this must-stop position had it cashed in on free throw chances throughout the game. McGill committed nearly twice as many fouls as Harvard, but the Crimson shot only 57 percent from the charity stripe.

The tight contest forced the young Crimson team to learn to play under pressure. Though it was an exhibition, for a trio of players—McCarthy, Johnson, and freshman forward Weisner Perez—this was their first time competing in a real game setting.

“[McGill is] a good basketball team, and it was a good test for us.” Amaker said. “We got to do, obviously, a lot of different things to figure out how to win a game like that for our young team. I’m very hopeful that those kinds of lessons will serve us well as we move forward.”

—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at thebert@college.harvard.edu.

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