In a low-scoring and gritty affair, Harvard men’s basketball kept its unbeaten streak in conference play through a 54-52 road victory against Yale Friday night.
The Crimson’s overall defensive tenacity was epitomized in its last meaningful defensive frame with 12 seconds to play. Down by three, the Bulldogs (8-11,1-2 Ivy) executed a string of passes to deliver the ball into the hands of sophomore forward Miye Oni. sophomore wing Justin Bassey flew in from Oni’s left and tipped the shot attempt, ultimately landing in classmate Seth Towns’ hands to seal the victory for Harvard (8-10, 3-0).
Although Bassey’s denial was not officially credited as a block, the play was the capstone of the wing’s stifling defensive outing. Largely responsible for covering Oni—Yale’s leading scorer—Bassey limited the wing to just seven points off 3-of-13 shooting while picking up two steals and five boards.
Although this was the seventh straight game in which the Crimson failed to put up over 65 points, Harvard currently leads the Ancient Eight in points allowed with 53.3 points per game. Including non-conference games, the mark of 65.5 points/game puts coach Tommy Amaker’s squad in the top 35 nationwide in this category.
PLAYING THROUGH BIG LEW
In the course of 40 minutes, Harvard scored just three points on the fast break. Of its total 54 points, nearly half—26— came in the paint. Sophomore forward Chris Lewis, who accounted for seven made field goals and 16 points, played a leading role in this slower-paced, methodical offense.
Amaker placed Lewis on the left block throughout the course of the entire game, matching him up mostly with Bulldogs freshman Paul Atkinson. The Crimson backcourt aggressively fed the Alpharetta, Ga. native from tip-off, positioning Lewis in various spots in the interior to curl to his left hook or deploy a right-handed layup.
“Its very hard to stop [Chris], that was why we wanted to play through him,” Amaker said. “That was the point of emphasis. We always want to play inside out and having Lewis as our interior presence...I thought he came through big time for us tonight and especially in the second half. I thought he made the biggest difference in the game.”
Although Lewis did not pick up any assists in the contest, several successful Harvard possessions concluded with a feed-out to the wing from the big man followed by a second pass. Towns, positioned the entire game on the left corner baseline, delivered five assists while Amaker’s other primary wings in Bassey and junior guard Corey Johnson also combined for six assists.
One challenge for Lewis, however, is developing improved consistency from the free-throw line. In the final minutes of action, the Crimson earned numerous opportunities to stretch out its lead at the charity stripe.
Yale had exceeded the foul limit at the six-minute mark, giving Lewis two late game one-and-one attempts. The season 65-percent free throw shooter rimmed out on both initial shots, keeping the game tied at 47-47 and 49-49. Towns, who delivered two critical free throws in last weekend’s Dartmouth game, also missed on consecutive foul shots with his team up by three in the final two minutes.
SECOND HALF SCORING DROUGHT
In back-to-back games, Harvard has squandered early second-half margins and required a late game revival to defeat its hosts.
Against the Big Green, the Crimson was held scoreless for a five-minute stretch in the final twelve minutes, allowing Dartmouth to even the game with 2:03 remaining. Against the Bulldogs, this phenomenon occurred at almost the exact same span of the game. Down seven points with 10:38 remaining, Yale initiated a 13-4 run to take its first lead of the game with 5:11 left to play.
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