It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but once again on Friday night, the Harvard men’s basketball team needed a second half rally to overcome a double-digit deficit in order to put a tally in the win column. This time around, it was a 25-6 run over Brown, sparked by 18 second-half points from freshman guard Bryce Aiken, that pushed the Crimson (13-7, 5-2 Ivy League) past the Bears (11-12, 2-5), 87-74.
The Crimson has yet to lose the front end of an Ivy weekend this season. However, the trend of starting slow and need second half comebacks has made Harvard coach Tommy Amaker wary.
“I wish we could play better prior to [the second half]. I don’t know what the heck that is,” Amaker said. “It’s not a formula we’re trying stay with the rest of the year, we’re not going to be as fortunate. I think we need to play smarter and better prior to the second half, but I am proud of our guys for settling in and showing some composure.”
ROOKIES RUN THE SHOW
The freshman pair of Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns have led the offensive charge for the Crimson for much of the season, as the duo sit atop the lineup in terms of points per game. That pace did not slow on Friday night, as the pair combined for 40 of the team’s 87 points.
While the rookies took on the heaviest offensive burden, both scored in spurts. The first half was all Towns, as he scored 12 of Harvard’s 15 points over a span of 5:40 in the second half. Despite the hot streak for the forward, the Crimson defense struggled on the opposite end of the floor, making it impossible to create a lead.
“It started with him getting to the foul line,” Amaker said of Towns’ offensive burst. “His first points, I believe, were from the foul line and I think that really helped him calm down and get a rhythm offensively.”
Aiken, on the other hand, had just five points in the first half, but burst onto the scene in the second. The New Jersey native thrived on his ability to beat defenses from a variety of ways. Of his 18 second-half points, three came from behind the arc, seven from the free throw line, and the rest from a variety of driving layups and mid-range jumpers. Of the trips to the free throw line, Aiken got there from drawing fouls in the paint and drawing contact on his jump shot.
“STAY READY SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET READY”
This is the line that Amaker has used with his bench players to keep them focused in the game, even when they aren’t seeing significant minutes.With the addition of seven freshmen this year and losing only three players to graduation at the end of last season, Amaker has a plethora of players to work with. With the freshmen contributing at a high level early, however, that has meant that some players who previously saw significant playing time have had to take on a new role with the team.
Two players who have experienced a shift in their playing time have been senior forward Zena Edosomwan and sophomore forward Weisner Perez. While Edosomwan has been the bigger name after averaging nearly a double-double last season, Perez also came in for significant minutes during certain games when Harvard needed a smaller forward to improve its matchups. Edosomwan has given up some of his minutes—and his starting role—to freshman forward Chris Lewis, while Perez has moved farther down the bench, with freshman Robert Baker taking on a bigger role as a four who can also shoot from outside the paint.
But on Friday night, Edosomwan and Perez came in in the second half and provided a defensive energy that allowed Harvard to distance itself from the Bears. The duo combined for 14 of the team’s 21 second half rebounds, while Edosomwan also tipped in eight points for the visitors.
“Just overall, our team has a whole lot of depth,” Towns said. “You never know who is going to come in and leave an impact on the game. Tons of credit to Weisner who has stepped up...Him and Zena both with the rebounding and the defensive intensity, that’s huge for us. We expect them to do that though.—Staff writer Theresa C. Hebert can be reached at email@example.com.
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