Two road games down, two straight 73-69 defeats.
After a haphazard performance against Holy Cross on Thursday night, the Harvard men’s basketball team looked to rebound Saturday afternoon against Manhattan College in The Bronx.
Despite significantly reducing its turnover count compared to Thursday’s contest, the Crimson (2-2) suffered from a difficult overall shooting performance and fell just short of a spirited comeback against the Jaspers (2-0).
“Shooting 9-for-30 from three is incredibly disappointing,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “We still had opportunities to win the game...I thought they put us in a big hole early and were able to keep the momentum going.”
Notably, Amaker sat out his regular starters during the opening tip-off. Freshman forward Reed Farley was one of Amaker’s selections to start this game, seeing his first action in a Harvard uniform. This decision was merely symbolic, as the Crimson began the second half with its regular five.
“We weren’t pleased with the start we got off against Holy Cross.” Amaker said. “We made some switches to make a point...it is such an privilege and honor to be a starter and we have to adhere to that level and standard.”
Despite this plea for a more invigorating start, the Crimson again fell behind quickly in the first half even with the quick re-entry of leading scorers like sophomores Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns.
Manhattan senior guard Rich Williams and forward Calvin Crawford overwhelmed the Harvard defense in the opening 20 minutes, each sinking 14 points and combining for a perfect six-for-six from beyond the arc.
The Crimson shot just 10-for-32 in the opening frame, and fell to its largest deficit of 18 points with 1:17 left in the half. Freshman forward Danilo Djuricic was a lone bright spot for Harvard in the half, knocking down a pair of threes and finding the rim for two easy layups.
Digging itself into a 40-25 deficit going into halftime, Harvard needed better performances from its core players in the second half. Towns was one such player who was up to the task for the Crimson. The sophomore forward scored 16 points in the latter frame, including the go-ahead three at 9:46 to give Harvard its first lead of the game at 51-50.
A resilient defense was also important in sparking the Harvard run. Between 18:39 and 15:12, the Jaspers were unable to put in a single basket, and struggled defensively to halt the Crimson offense. In the time period, Harvard scored 12 straight points to narrow the deficit to 42-37.
“Certainly that was the reason we were able to make the run we made—we made some threes,” Amaker said. “Corey [Johnson] made a few, Seth made a couple, that allowed us to get on the run. But I think we are a better three-point shooting team than we have displayed thus far.”
The Crimson was able to widen its lead to 59-53 with 6:11 to go, but a slew of fouls proved to be costly. Harvard tallied its seventh foul at 4:48, and five straight free throws brought the score to 62-61.
The teams exchanged points in the final few minutes. With his team down 70-66 with a minute to go, Aiken penetrated into the paint but was met by two defenders. Manhattan sophomore guard Aaron Walker, Jr. successfully wrestled the ball from Aiken’s hands, but after diving for the loose ball, Aiken recovered and got rid of the rock, which eventually fell into the hands of Towns.
Towns capped off the peculiar sequence of events with a three, but this was the last made bucket for the Crimson. Two missed jump shots by Johnson in the final minute concluded the up-and-down performance from Harvard, as it fell again by two baskets at 73-69.
Compared to Thursday’s loss against the Crusaders, the Crimson reduced its turnover count from 22 to 13. However, the team’s shooting continues to be a concern, as a field goal percentage of 42.3 on Thursday was lowered to 38.3 on Saturday afternoon.
“Youth is always synonymous with inconsistency and we have seen that throughout the course of a game, not necessarily the whole season yet,” Amaker said.
—Staff writer Henry Zhu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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