Despite a tenacious effort from a visiting MIT squad, the Harvard men’s basketball team came away with a 73-64 win in its home opener at Lavietes Pavilion on Friday night.
Though it led the entire way, the Crimson struggled to close out the Engineers in the second frame. Although Harvard led by as many as 11 early on in the second half, MIT held the Crimson on offense late in the game and made timely shots to pull within four with a minute and a half left on the clock.
Despite a raucous MIT contingency in the crowd, sophomore forward Seth Towns made both his free throws after being fouled and, following an Engineer turnover, sophomore guard Bryce Aiken pulled up from deep to seal the Harvard win.
“I thought, as always, we had a really competitive and good game with MIT,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “They play very hard and we know what we’re going to get, an incredible match and that’s certainly what we got this evening. I told our kids that those kids really played their hearts out against us.”
Coming off a season that saw plenty of playing time for the Crimson’s underclassmen, it was unsurprisingly Harvard’s heralded sophomore class that carried the Crimson offensively—in total, seven second years combined for 65 of Harvard’s 73 points.
Leading the way for the Crimson was Towns. The sophomore finished the night with 20 points, seven rebounds, and three assists while shooting 5-of-10 from the field. Of his 20 points, nine came at the line.
“We’ve talked about Seth being our most important guy and you can see because of his versatility,” Amaker said. “He’s a guy who gives you so much in so many different categories. Twenty points, seven rebounds, three assists, he gets to the line 12 times, there’s a lot there that he can bring to the table and he’s critical for our team.”
Towns’ effort at the line would be indicative of one of the keys for the Crimson on Friday night—with both teams in the bonus early in both halves, Harvard would go to the line 36 times, making 26. MIT, for its part, struggled at the charity stripe, going 13-of-21.
For the Engineers, the difference maker was junior guard Bradley Jomard. He finished the night with a team-high 17 points and five assists to go along with six rebounds. Midway through the second, the guard capped off a 13-4 run for MIT with a backdoor layup off the pass from classmate AJ Jurko.
Minutes later, it was Jomard once again, driving into the lane and finishing through a foul from junior guard Corey Johnson to put the Engineers within four with just over five minutes left on the clock.
“A lot of people were antsy on offense and defense, gambling on defense when we should have just played solid,” Towns said. “On offense, thinking things are there. That’s a great team.”
For the Crimson, it was recurring defensive lapses that prevented it from closing out the Engineers in the second half. With Aiken, Towns, and sophomore forward Chris Lewis all in foul trouble late, and the guests in the bonus early, Harvard struggled to close out the Engineers down the stretch. The Crimson coughed the ball up 14 times and often found itself out of place on defense, leading to easy MIT shots or an open lane to the hoop.
“I think we need to do a better job at hemming our fouling situation,” sophomore forward Chris Lewis said. “We were very antsy tonight and didn’t stick to our principles and that led us to break down. It seemed like we would do well in the beginning of the defensive possession, then one of us would take a chance and it would not turn out well, we would foul.”
Despite the defensive lapses, Lewis was a bright spot for the Crimson on Friday night. The sophomore finished the night with 13 points, a career-high 10 rebounds, and three blocks—good for his first ever double-double.
—Staff writer Troy Boccelli can be reached at email@example.com.