Despite a career-high 31 points from sophomore forward Seth Towns, Harvard fell 83-76 against Columbia at Levien Gymnasium on Friday night. After jumping out to a 15-point lead behind a flood of early three-pointers, the Crimson defense gave up a 48-point second half to the Lions.
Much like it did last week, the Harvard offense came out shooting lights out—with the Lions playing a zone defense, the Crimson connected from deep early and often. Behind the sharpshooting of Towns and junior guard Corey Johnson, Harvard jumped out to a 17-6 lead within the first five minutes. In that span, Towns scored 10 while the Lions turned the ball over four times.
The closing act from Columbia would topple the Crimson, however, as the Lions’ offense came through late. After finishing the first half with just three points on one-of-four shooting from the field, junior guard Quinton Adlesh went off for 17 second half points for Columbia. The Lions closed the game out with five players in double digits while shooting 60 percent from the field in the second frame.
LIVE AND DIE BY THE THREE
In what’s becoming an almost recurring theme with Harvard coach Tommy Amaker’s squad, the guests jumped out to a double-digit lead within the first five minutes of the matchup. The manner in which it would do so, however, was uncharacteristic for the Crimson. After struggling from beyond the arc for much of the season, the Crimson scored 21 of its first 28 points from deep.
While the duo of Johnson and Towns was nailing the deep ball early, the rest of the team struggled to find its rhythm on offense. Sophomore forward Chris Lewis, coming off a double-double performance against Yale just a week ago, was held to just three points on two attempts through the first half. Harvard would be outscored 29-16 in the paint for the game.
“I thought Corey did as much as he could do, made some big shots to keep us engaged,” Amaker said. “We didn’t have enough of an inside presence. Thirty-seven threes, I don’t know if we have ever taken that many, so our inside game wasn’t what it needed to be, whether that’s driving it in there or posting it.”
Despite the lack of presence inside, the Crimson’s shooting from three was without a doubt an anomaly and a historic one at that—the 37 attempts mark the most since that the Crimson took 39 a year ago at Columbia and the 16 makes from deep mark the most made three-pointers since Amaker became coach in 2007.
STRUGGLING TO CLOSE IT OUT
After Harvard conceded its lead at the 15:13 mark in the second half, Columbia would go up by as many as nine before a late run from the Crimson put it within two with just over seven minutes left on the clock.
Down by a bucket and with the shot clock Lewis had the chance to tie the contest off of a pass from classmate Justin Bassey, but his layup barely grazed the iron. The Lions would grab the rebound and sophomore guard Mike Smith would dribble the length of the court and lay one in to give Columbia a four-point edge and a lead that it would not relinquish.
“We just needed to hang in there, I thought we did,” Amaker said. “I thought it was a big swing when Lewis missed the rim and Smith goes down and makes the layup. We had our chances and put some more game pressure on them but we didn’t take advantage.”
Despite holding opponents to an average of 66 points on the season, the Crimson struggled to contain the Lions late. At one point in the second half from the 15:45 mark until there was 8:27 left on the clock, the Lions failed to miss a shot—going a perfect nine-of-nine from the field in that span.
The 83 points from the Lions are the most that the Crimson has allowed this season.
“It’s a team loss, we win as a team we lose as a team,” Towns said. “So collectively, I don’t think our defense especially towards the end of the game was where it should have been. We didn’t stick to our defensive identity so we will really need to hone in on that.”
—Staff writer Troy Boccelli can be reached at email@example.com.
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