BOSTON—John Papale was at it again.
Two years after the senior hit two late-game threes to help his Terriers overcome a 10-point second half deficit and force overtime against the Harvard men’s basketball team, the scene was repeating itself again.
Down 14 midway through the second half, BU (3-5) had narrowed the deficit to six with just under three minutes to go. After a three from Harvard junior Corbin Miller had pushed the lead to nine, Papale—having missed his first seven field goals—shook free and shot a three without hesitation. Splash.
Two possessions later, after Harvard committed a shot clock violation, backcourt mate Cheddi Mosely found Papale unguarded in the corner—“a mental breakdown,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker later said. Splash. Three-point game.
Coming out of the timeout, freshman guard Corey Johnson was focused on making up for his mistake. Amaker asks his guards to fake help off shooters, and Johnson had gone too far, giving Papale just enough air space.
“I looked at Coach [Amaker], and he looked at me, and I kind of a gave a look [saying] ‘I know what I did,’” Johnson said. “I said to myself, ‘I’ll make up for it right now.’”
Out of the timeout, freshman Tommy McCarthy drove right, only to see Johnson’s man hedge hard on him. Without hesitation, the point guard whipped the ball to his classmate, who let the shot fly as he faded out of bounds. The ball splashed through the basket, redemption and relief in one.
Thirty-two seconds later, the Crimson (3-6) had its first road win of the season, 75-69.
“[The win] is critical for us,” Amaker said. “Given where we have been and the tough games and tough losses that we have had…the game was going to be a pivotal moment for our ball-club.”
The loss broke the Crimson’s second three-game losing streak ahead of the team’s longest break of the season, a two-week hiatus for exams ahead of its trip to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic during the Christmas break. After battling No. 4/7 Kansas down to the wire in its last outing, Johnson said the team had talked about how good it could be.
“Everybody says we are young but we know from that game that we are really capable of a lot so it is just really realizing that,” Johnson said. “When we play together, play our defense, take away shots, and listen to coach [Amaker]…. It just speaks for itself.”
Harvard carried that momentum directly into the first half, where the Crimson ran out to an 11-point lead after just eight minutes. Harvard did it on both ends of the floor, making 10 of its first 19 shots while turning the Terriers over nine times in the first 12 minutes. Junior Zena Edosomwan scored nine points during a 12-4 run late in the first half that had the margin at 17.
Edosomwan, who finished with 13 rebounds, nine points, three assists, and three steals against just one turnover, earned the praise of his coach after the win.
“What you see in Zena is a level of confidence that has grown tremendously and that’s as big as anything,” Amaker said. “It allows a player to relax in the play and have the confidence to make a pass or make a move.”
The Terriers continued to chip away at the lead from that point forward, however. Harvard scored just two points in the last six minutes of the first half, exiting with a 14-point lead that fell to eight after a 6-0 Terriers spurt to start the second.
When Harvard pushed the lead to 14 twice in the second half, BU responded instantly. The second time, after a Patrick Steeves trey with seven minutes to go, the Terriers went on an 8-0 run to cut it to six with 4:10 to go. Big men Eric Fanning and Nick Havener were the catalysts in each run, combining for 37 points as BU outscored Harvard 36-30 in the paint.
The Terriers never got closer than three, however, and Steeves secured the victory with two late free throws.
“We talked about the team getting better and that’s been the focus for us,” Amaker said. “Certainly having a win to go along with that was a significant moment.”
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.