With the rest of the College off for break, the Back Page is keeping up with the Harvard men’s basketball team (14-3, 1-0 Ivy) as it finishes the remainder of its winter schedule. With Harvard starting Ancient Eight play with a 61-45 win Jan. 11 against Dartmouth, staff writer David Freed previews the Crimson’s rematch against the Big Green in Hanover.
After a disappointing road loss to Florida Atlantic—the Crimson’s first to a team worse than it, per Ken Pomeroy’s rankings—Harvard will take to the road to finish a home-and-home against the Big Green.
Head coach Paul Cormier is in his second term with the Big Green, having rejoined the program in 2010 after being the head coach nearly two decades earlier, from 1984-91. Cormier has led the Big Green to three winning seasons, including consecutive second-place Ivy League finishes in 1988 and 1989 seasons. The 2012 season was a marked improvement over the first two in Cormier’s return, with the team winning five league games after posting back-to-back 1-13 seasons. Already this year the team has seven wins after recording just four victories in each of the previous three nonconference seasons.
Junior forward Gabas Maldunas, the Big Green’s best player, is out for the season with a knee injury after averaging 11.2 points and 8.5 rebounds through the team’s nonconference schedule. Minus Maldunas, the team will rely on a trio of sophomore starters—forwards Connor Boehm and Tommy Carpenter and guard Alex Mitola. Mitola and Boehm each average more than 10 points per game and bring in a powerful inside-outside threat to Dartmouth's attack.
The team’s lone senior is guard Tyler Melville, who averages seven points a game on 42.5 percent shooting from long range. As a team, the Big Green is shooting 36 percent from behind the arc and 46 percent overall. By contrast, the Crimson enters the game shooting 35 percent from three and 45 percent overall.
Early Season Play
Dartmouth finished its nonconference season with a .500 record, highlighted by a late-December stretch of four wins a row and six in nine contests. The new year has not been kind to the Big Green, however. Dartmouth is 0-4 in 2014, including a 14-point loss to St. John’s its last time out. The Big Green shared only two common opponents with Harvard, falling to both Vermont (62-53) and Bryant (87-77).
Sunday’s game kicks off a five-game Ivy League homestand for the Big Green, which—with Maldunas out for the season with a knee injury—will need to perform well at Leede Arena to keep alive any hopes of an Ancient Eight championship. Dartmouth went 5-3 in nonconference at home but finished with consecutive losses to Vermont and Hartford.
Dartmouth may have a 94-83 advantage all-time against Harvard, but the Crimson has won the last nine encounters, including its Ivy League opener, 61-45, behind 17 points from co-captain Brandyn Curry. Since 2000, the Big Green has won just five of 28 matches against the Crimson and its last win in the series came five years ago at home, 73-56.
Harvard enters this game leading the Ivy League with a plus-11.4 point differential and should be able to bump that up Sunday at Leede Arena. A 15-point loss to Florida Atlantic aside, the Crimson has been one of the nation’s most consistent programs. Harvard has not lost consecutive games since last season’s road league trip to Penn and Princeton, and determined not to let one loss balloon into two, should rebound with a victory over Dartmouth on Sunday.