The Harvard men’s basketball team remains on top of the Ivy League after its first full weekend of conference play, thanks in large part to a career-high 30 points from sophomore forward Seth Towns Saturday night against Brown.
Although the Crimson (9-10, 4-0 Ivy League) will not play Penn and Princeton—currently second and third in the Ancient Eight respectively—for two weekends, the level of competition so far from Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown has demonstrated the challenges of winning on the road in the Ivy League. In its conference road wins, Harvard either trailed or led by just five or fewer points heading into the final minute of regulation.
The Crimson is currently in the midst of another extended stretch of road contests as it prepares to travel to Columbia and Cornell next weekend, having played 14 of 19 games away from Lavietes Pavilion so far this season. Saturday’s victory against the Bears marks a successful quarterly point for the Crimson as it looks ahead toward the remaining 10 conference matchups and potentially two tournament playoff games.
BRYCE BACK TO BRYCE
In sophomore Bryce Aiken’s second game back from injury, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker chose to increase his point guard’s minutes from 13 to 20. While Aiken was largely reserved to the role of a distributor and perimeter shooter Friday night against Yale, the former Ivy League Rookie of the Year targeted the interior on numerous possessions against Brown.
Despite only converting on three field goals, Aiken finished with 18 points by continuously attacking the paint and drawing fouls. Aiken shot 11-of-12 from the free throw line and committed just one turnover throughout the contest.
“Just hesitant, second-guessing my body obviously coming back [against Yale],” Aiken said. “But today I was much more comfortable definitely at what I could do on the court so just took what the defense gave me. My teammates put me in a good position to be successful.”
Aiken’s aggressiveness and playmaking finesse also increased spacing for his other teammates, something Towns credited postgame as a central reason to his own shooting success. While Aiken was on the court, Harvard converted on five of its 11 total game triples while Towns scored 12 of his 30 points.
However, Aiken’s Saturday performance was not entirely flawless. His troubles in guarding the Bears’ backcourt noticeably frustrated Amaker at several times during the contest. The coaching staff pleaded for Aiken to do a better job at staying in front of Brown freshman guard Desmond Cambridge and sophomore guard Brandon Anderson and avoid gambling for steals, but Aiken still appeared rusty on the defensive end.
Following a rookie season in which Siyani Chambers ’17-’18 assumed more of the primary defensive responsibilities, Aiken will need to adjust well to an increased role if the Crimson is to be successful going forward.
A THREE-POINT RESURGENCE
The Crimson as a whole was also much more comfortable from three-point range, shooting over 60 percent. The mark was double its season average of 30.7 percent and a noticeable jump from the previous night against Yale, when the team combined for just 6-of-24 from three. Harvard’s current three-point shooting percentage is still last in the Ivies, but improved shooting from wings like sophomore Justin Bassey and junior Corey Johnson has paid important dividends for the team.
The star from deep was nevertheless Towns, who shot a perfect four-for-four from long range. The sophomore is averaging 14.7 points per game this season and is shooting over 43 percent from the three-point line. Consistency from deep is still a concern, as he shot just one-of-six against Yale and one-of-seven three games ago against Wofford.
Another small but critical contributor for Amaker’s squad Saturday night was freshman Danilo Djuricic, who delivered on a critical three in the final five minutes to draw the lead back out to double digits. With sophomore forward Chris Lewis in foul trouble throughout the entire game, Djuricic held up the interior throughout most of his 14 minutes of action.
“Big game for him in a situation which is pressurized,” Amaker said of Djuricic. “Coming through to meet passes against the press and a lot of little things that he did very well enabled us to come away with a victory.”
—Staff writer Henry Zhu can be reached at email@example.com.
Men's Basketball Halts Three Game Skid with Win Over Fordham
Notebook: Christmas Comes Early for Men's Basketball as It Escapes Houston, 57-56
Aiken Leads the Way as Men’s Basketball Closes 2016 With Win Over Howard, 67-46
Towns Unable to Will Men's Basketball Past Princeton
Behind Poor Shooting, Men's Basketball Handed Loss at Northeastern