A career-night for Christian Juzang. An empowering victory at home.
Coming into Friday, the sophomore point guard’s career-high was 12 points. By the end of the first half in Harvard mens basketball's 66-51 home victory over Princeton, Juzang had eclipsed that mark with 13 points. Adding seven more points in the second frame, the Tarzana, Calif. native received a standing ovation from the Crimson bench when head coach Tommy Amaker subbed his starters out in the final minute. Juzang had played every single minute of action up to that point.
“I thought Christian Juzang was fantastic for us,” Amaker said. “He made some big shots, some end of clock shots. I was just very pleased with how he was able to pick up the slack.”
Juzang’s contributions came both offensively and defensively, particularly with sophomore forwards Seth Towns and Chris Lewis severely restricted in playing time due to foul trouble. Amaker deployed a full-court press throughout much of the contest, with Juzang the lead backcourt defender. The threatening junior guard duo of Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens for the Tigers was held to 15 points combined, half of their typical production output.
Moreover, the Crimson point guard showed an accurate shooting touch from the perimeter. Showcasing a variety of step-back moves, Juzang knocked down 13 points from the field and added seven more from the charity stripe. A 35.2 percent shooter coming into the game, Juzang converted on 60 percent of his field goal attempts against the Tigers.
“Coach always talks about letting the game come to us,” Juzang said. “Shots were just there to take. Just trying to make the play whenever I can, and credit to my teammates and coaching staff for that.”
The high point in the game came when Juzang was supported by two critical bench contributors, sophomore forwards Robert Baker and Henry Welsh, late in the first half. Holding a seven-point lead at the six-minute mark, Welsh snatched the ball on two consecutive defensive possessions— both of which led to made layups on the other end. The second steal was particularly memorable, as Welsh intercepted a pass towards Princeton forward Will Gladson at mid-court before dribbling the length of the court and finishing a euro-step.
“Coach always said deny, deny the bigs at the elbow, and I tried to do that.” Welsh said. “I was just out there, dribbling with the ball, and hoping my layup went in, because otherwise I probably would have been taken out of the game.”
Baker then checked in at the 2:29 mark, immediately making an impact defensively. The Woodstock, Ga, native smothered Tigers freshman guard Ryan Schwieger as he attempted to slam down a dunk along the left baseline. This play preserved a 31-20 lead, and two consecutive jumpers in the final two minutes by Juzang gave the Crimson a 15-point lead heading into intermission.
The 11-3 run to end the half for Harvard in the final six minutes was attributed largely to Princeton’s messy offense. The Tigers turned the ball over four times in that span, adding onto its tally of 12 in the first frame. Leading season scorer Cannady was limited to 1-of-7 shooting, while the team as a whole made just five field goals in a 20 point first half.
While giveaways were the main culprit for Princeton’s lack of offensive rhythm, the Crimson’s one issue in the first frame was foul trouble. Lewis drew his second foul within five minutes of action, while Towns would finish the half holding three fouls. Another issue particularly early on was defensive rebounding, although Harvard regained its composure late in the half to finish with 19 total rebounds.
“We talk so much about our bench and our balance,” Amaker said. “You look at our stat sheet, we had tremendous balance. Henry Welsh off the bench gave us great minutes. Robert Baker had a few plays, a big block, big defensive rebounds.”
Although just attempting three shots from deep the entire game, junior forward Corey Johnson 2-of-3 stat line is another positive sign—particularly given the junior’s early season struggles.
The second frame was more calculated and methodical for the Crimson, especially with Towns and Lewis splitting significant time on the bench. Lewis picked up his third foul on Princeton’s first offensive possession and logged his fourth at the 16:42 mark. Still, Amaker would show confidence in his lead big man, bringing him back into the game at the seven-minute mark.
Despite picking up his fourth foul with more than 15 minutes left in the game, Towns stayed aggressive in his bracketed time on the court and would lead all Harvard scorers with 10 points in the second frame. Towns alongside Johnson and Juzang restricted the Tigers to a 7-of-25 night from three-point range and did not permit any one Princeton shooter from picking up momentum.
Notably, no Tiger finished in double-digits with sophomore forward Richmund Aririguzoh the lead man at nine points. Aririguzoh’s length and aggressiveness offensively allowed him to exploit the Crimson frontcourt with Lewis on the bench. Harvard freshman forward Danilo Djuricic quickly tallied four fouls in Lewis’s absence, while Welsh had three of his own.
However, continued shooting from Juzang and a late drive-in layup over the Princeton frontcourt from Towns was sufficient in closing out the game. The Tigers tried frantically to put up triples, but to no avail. By the final two minutes, coach Mitch Henderson had thrown in the white towel as the team trailed by double figures.
Both Towns and Lewis would foul out leading up to the final two minutes, but strong defense, periodic buckets by Towns before his exit, and offensive responsiveness following defensive lapses were critical in sealing the victory. The Tigers would draw within eight at the 10-minute mark after a wide-open dunk opportunity from Aririguzoh, but Welsh immediately responded offensively, splitting two defenders to maneuver his way into a right-handed layup.
This type of locked-in mentality will be critical for the Crimson heading into Saturday’s Penn matchup, which tips-off earlier than usual at 4 PM. Unlike past weekends, however, Harvard will not have to embark on another trek to reach the basketball court.
“Feels good to be home,” Johnson said. “Having the fans at our back, we like those home gym vibes.”
—Staff writer Henry Zhu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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