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One of Harvard coach Tommy Amaker’s mantras is to focus on the first and last four minutes of each half. By winning those four four-minute segments of the game, the team can gain and carry momentum. On Tuesday night against George Washington, however, one particular four-minute segment put the Crimson in a hole it could not climb out of.
Harvard went into the locker room at the half down just four to the Colonials. Though the team had led for nearly 15 minutes of the first half and had slipped a bit towards the end, the game was still within striking distance.
The first four minutes of the second half, however, were a different story. Just 13 seconds into the second frame, George Washington’s Tyler Cavanaugh hit a jumper to push the lead to six. A missed jumper by Crimson freshman guard Seth Towns and a flurry of turnovers gave the Colonials the ball back, and guard Jaren Sina added another two to the George Washington total.
After a miss from Harvard senior co-captain Siyani Chambers and a turnover by Towns, Sina responded with another basket, this time for three, to stretch the Colonial lead to double-digits. After more of the same, George Washington (4-3) had suddenly built a 13 point lead.
“We just have to work on finishing halves and starting with the same intensity the second half,” Chambers said. “When it comes down to those first four minutes and those last four minutes, we have to come out with the same energy we had to start the game. We get into trouble where we kind of take a step back, take a little breather, and then all of a sudden we look up at the scoreboard, and we aren’t where we want to be.”
Though the Crimson (1-4) would eventually claw back to within single digits, it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit, and the team dropped its third game in a row, this time by a 77-74 tally. With the team’s only victory thus far coming against Division II Fisher, Harvard has yet to defeat a Division I team in the early goings.
“We’re still a team that’s trying to find the right rhythm, and we haven’t found that yet,” Amaker said. “You have to look at different pieces and players to see if we can ignite that. I think we have seen flashes of that but not enough that we have had victories that we can feel good about.”
For the second game in a row, Amaker’s team had the chance to come back in the waning minutes of the game. While the comeback fell short on Tuesday night, there were bright spots in Harvard’s ability to fight back from behind. Were it not for 13-of-14 free throw shooting in the final two minutes by the Colonials, the game may have seen a different result. Powered by hot shooting from the frontcourt, Harvard tallied 14 points in the final minute to keep the game close. Despite full court pressure, the Crimson was unable to force a steal, which allowed George Washington to maintain a cushion.
Throughout the game, the Crimson’s youth shone through on multiple occasions. Though rookies Towns and guard Bryce Aiken led the team with 17 points apiece, communication and control issues still plagued the team—which has 13 underclassmen. The duo of Towns and Aiken contributed nine of the team’s 16 turnovers, with several coming on passes that sailed out of bounds as players failed to communicate the direction of passes. Fellow freshmen Henry Welsh and Justin Bassey reminded the crowd of their youth, as they combined for just two points despite both being in the starting lineup. But the team is not content with letting its youth be an excuse for its mishaps.
“That excuse can’t fly anymore,” Aiken said. “We’re all in college basketball now, [and] there’s no excuses, whether you’re young or not. You have a few games under your belt and now it’s time to perform. We are representing something that’s bigger than us...and every time we step on the court, we just have to play together, play as a team, and get the win.”
—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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