In a new weekly series by The Back Page, Harvard beat writers will discuss topics about a Crimson athletics team. In this edition, basketball beat writers Hope Schwartz and David Freed discussed the men’s basketball team’s future in the Ivy League as well as their frontcourt rotation and ability to close out games.
Cordelia F. Mendez: The team is facing its second road weekend of the season and will have to meet its most difficult opponent, Princeton. How can Harvard even hope to stop or slow down the Tigers given that they put up a program-high 99 points last week?
Samantha Lin: Princeton is clearly coming off of a high following its 46-point rout of Yale, a team that Harvard bested by less than a third of that margin. Look for its attack to come from Niveen Rasheed, a senior guard who put up 29 points against the Bulldogs and has yet to score in single digits in league play. I think that if the Crimson is able to slow Rasheed, the team has the potential to pull off this upset. Who do you think will be assigned this task?
CFM: Princeton is exceptionally good at holding their opponents down. No Ivy squad has lost by less than 30 points to them, and at 6'0", Rasheed is certainly a guard to contend with. Harvard will need to provide pressure in the paint with taller players like 6'4" Temi Fagbenle and 6'0" Victoria Lippert. Convincing double-digit scoring performances from Fagbenle in her last three games have elevated the Crimson over Ancient Eight foes. Speaking of the Ancient Eight, it's too easy to ignore Penn and playing at the Palestra. What should the Crimson do to make sure they don't repeat blowing its second half lead against a weaker opponent?
SL: You can never count Penn out. At only a game behind Harvard, the Quakers are definitely still in the hunt for an Ivy title. They are clearly a team that improves in the second half, too—they’ve outscored all of their Ancient Eight rivals in the second half all year, even in their loss to Yale last weekend, while the Crimson seems quick to start but struggles down the stretch. Keeping the ball away from the opponent will be key against Penn and Princeton; 17 turnovers against teams like those can cost victories. Last year's team coughed it up 15 times in a tough loss against the Tigers. What are your predictions for this weekend, given the performance by the Crimson on Sunday and Princeton's seven-game winning streak?
CFM: My thoughts? Harvard over the Quakers by seven, especially if Christine Clark, Fagbenle and Lippert are really on. The Quakers are weak behind the arc, and if the Crimson can find some magic from Emma Golen, this should be a pretty solid W. I'm going to have to go with Princeton over Harvard, though. Playing at Jadwin isn't easy for any visitor, and against the hot-handed Tigers, it will be a tough task for the Crimson. The women of Harvard basketball can hope to take some of the good karma that Yale’s men's basketball team had when it upset the home favorites. What are your predictions?
SL: I'm going to take Harvard by 10 in its opener for the weekend. A solid 5-inch advantage that our starting lineup has over Penn's should help Harvard dominate the inside, even if the treys aren't falling (which could very well happen, considering the 3-for-18 performance the Crimson displayed against the Big Red). But if Rasheed and company defend their home territory and play with the same intensity that they've shown throughout league play thus far, I think Harvard may have some trouble in Jersey this Saturday. Princeton by 10 at home.