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NOTEBOOK: Johnson Helps Men's Basketball Snap Losing Streak

From Downtown
Harvard freshman guard Corey Johnson, pictured above competing against MIT on Nov. 13, had a career-high 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting from beyond the arc on Tuesday evening.

BOSTON—For the second consecutive game, the Harvard men’s basketball team found itself in a 75-69 contest as the clock wound to zero. However on Tuesday night, the Crimson was on the winning side, beating Boston University (3-5) on the road.

Harvard (3-6) was coming off of a 75-69 loss to Kansas Saturday in which they gave the now-No. 2 team in the nation a run for its money. The victory over the Terriers halted a three-game skid for the Crimson, who had not won since an 80-45 victory over Bryant two weeks before.

Looking to end a four-game road trip on a high note before a two-week break from competition, Harvard never conceded the lead in the entire 40 minutes of play.

“After we got back from Kansas, we realized how much we have and how much we are capable of doing,” freshman guard Corey Johnson said. “We got together and just said from here on, we are 0-0 and we are starting fresh and battle for our wins.”

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SPREADING THE FLOOR

With the BU squad already thinned by injuries, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker looked to his team to play inside-out offense, something the squad had struggled to execute early in the season.

The inside game for the Crimson begins with junior forward Zena Edosomwan, who has leads the team in scoring at just under 13 points per game. Though Edosomwan has been largely consistent, the Crimson has struggled to shoot consistently from the outside. Johnson, who is known for his shooting touch, is shooting 52 percent from deep in the team’s three wins, but just 35 percent in the team’s losses.

But on Tuesday night both Edosomwan and Johnson were clicking. Edosomwan finished with nine points and 13 rebounds, while Johnson tallied a career-high 18 points off 6-for-11 three-point shooting.

While all of Edosomwan’s points came in the first half, his presence as a threat inside effectively drew defenders away from Harvard’s other shooters.

“Partly the reason [Johnson] was open is because they were worried about Zena,” Amaker said. “It is still inside out whether we get the ball in there or whether their attention was on him, and that loosened things up on the perimeter.”

Johnson played a key role in the waning minutes as the Terriers fought back into the game behind two three-pointers from an otherwise silent John Papale. After getting beat by Papale on the defensive end, Johnson looked to Amaker on the bench to acknowledge his mistake, then burned BU on the offensive end.

WIth freshman Tommy McCarthy in traffic, Johnson caught the ball steps from the baseline and fired an off-kilter shot that hit nothing but net with 32 seconds remaining to put Harvard up six, halting the Terrier momentum.

“I practice shots like that in the gym sometimes for fun and situations like that,” Johnson said. “I spaced off my defender because he moved a little bit like I showed off him and I just shot it up.”

MATURING MCCARTHY

Coming into the season, how McCarthy would fill the shoes of Siyani Chambers ’15-’16, who is out for the season with an ACL injury, was the biggest question surrounding the team. When junior Matt Fraschilla also went down with an ACL injury in the team’s second game of the year, the weight on McCarthy’s shoulders got even heavier.

His play has, on occasion, reminded spectators that he is still a freshman. The team has struggled with turnovers throughout the year, with McCarthy averaging nearly three giveaways a game.

But over Harvard’s past two games, McCarthy has played much cleaner basketball. Against BU, he had five assists against just two turnovers. Amaker noted that a change in McCarthy’s confidence level has contributed to his improvement at the point position.

“You see how he’s played recently...managing the game and being our quarterback is what he’s been focused on,” Amaker said. “We’re much more efficient when he has that look about him.”

The Crimson bench held its breath midway through the second frame when the guard hit the floor as BU forward Nick Havener attempted to intercept a crosscourt pass intended for the freshman. McCarthy grabbed at his ankle in pain as the training staff attended to him, but was eventually able to stand up on his own power to walk into the huddle. Harvard knew it could breath easy when he knocked down his first two shots when he returned to action.

“I think Tommy’s seen, without a doubt, improvement in the confidence that his teammates have in him,” Amaker said.

—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at theresa.hebert@thecrimson.com.

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