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With the rest of the College off for break, the Back Page is keeping up with the Harvard men’s basketball team (14-2) as it finishes the remainder of its nonconference schedule. With Harvard starting Ivy League play with a 61-45 win Jan. 11 against Dartmouth, staff writer David Freed takes a look at the Crimson’s final nonconference opponent—the Florida Atlantic Owls (6-11).
In its final nonconference matchup of the year, the Crimson hope to put the finishing touches on a solid, if not spectacular, first half to the season. Harvard has beaten every opponent it should so far this season, but was unable to raise its game in its two contests against top 25 teams, falling to Colorado and Connecticut on the road.
Owl head coach Mike Jarvis is trying to make history with this year’s Owl squad. Jarvis, who has already led three programs to the NCAA tournament—Boston University, George Washington, and St. John’s—is looking to become only the second coach in history to win 100 games at four different schools.
Jarvis’ forty-five year coaching career has taken him across the country, including a stop in Cambridge. Starting in 1973, he served as an assistant coach for the Crimson for five years before taking his first head coaching position in 1978 at his high school alma matter. From there, Jarvis moved on quickly to the collegiate ranks and has won over 400 games as a coach—making the Elite Eight once and the NCAA tournament eight times.
Senior guard Pablo Bertone has burst onto the scene for the Owls this year. After serving mostly as a spot-up shooter for the team in years past, Bertone has taken on the leading role for Mike Jarvis—averaging 18.2 points per game, nearly double his average from last year. However, this rise in volume has coincided with a drop in efficiency. After shooting 35 percent or better from three in his first three years, Bertone has dropped to 29 percent while shooting more than twice as many triples (more than five a game).
Behind Bertone, fellow international and junior forward Justin Raffington provides the main inside presence for Florida Atlantic. Raffington nearly averages a double-double (9.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and is the only player on the team to make at least half of his shots. Raffington, like Bertone, is turnover-prone, however. The pair averaged a combined 4.7 turnovers a game while the Owls average 13 turnovers (against just four steals) a game.
Early Season Play
After opening the season with a 35-point win over Ave Maria, the Owls’ stumbled in the team’s next contests. FAU lost its next six games, including three decisions by at least 20 points. Against its most noteworthy nonconference opponent, the Owls fell by 33 to Jabari Parker’s Duke Blue Devils.
The Owls rebounded to win its next two home matchups, but its streaky play continued with four more losses. It has won three of four following the losing streak, and picked up its first road win of the season with a 73-68 win against the Rice Owls on Jan. 11. Exactly one week after the Crimson went into Houston and came away victorious, the Owls made eight threes and forced 16 turnovers to beat Rice.
The first-ever matchup between the two schools occurred in 2011 as Harvard defeated the Owls, 61-53, behind 12 points and 11 rebounds from then-senior Keith Wright ‘12. Harvard shot 55 percent from the field overall and outrebounded the Owls by 14 in the winning effort. The teams did not play each other in 2012, making this the first visit that the Crimson will take to Florida to play the Owls.
While Harvard’s offense has suffered without leading scorer junior Wesley Saunders, out the last two games with injury, the defense has stayed strong. The Crimson held Dartmouth to 45 points and a potent Connecticut attack to just forty percent shooting from the field. Harvard will once again need seniors Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey to step up if Saunders cannot play. If they can shut down Bertone and Raffington, the team will be able to muster enough offense to take out the Owls, whose 5-2 home record comes without a win of any consequence.
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