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Three Things to Watch: Harvard-Dartmouth

Published by David Freed on January 23, 2016 at 9:04PM
Steady Steeves

Senior Patrick Steeves is averaging 9.6 points per game, second on the Crimson behind junior Zena Edosomwan.

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After winning just its second true road game of the year, the Harvard men’s basketball team (9-8, 1-0 Ivy) will put its three-game winning streak on the line when it travels to Hanover to take on Dartmouth (6-9, 0-1) in the second half of its conference-opening home-and-home with the Big Green. Beat writer David Freed lists three things to watch.

TURN TO UPPERCLASSMEN

As the calendar turns to the Ivy League season, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker is notorious about shortening his bench and relying on upperclassmen. With the exception of the 2012-2013 season, when the team had just two upperclassmen (Laurent Rivard ’14 and Christian Webster ’13) in the rotation, Harvard has frequently limited its underclassmen to spot duty during Ivy League play. Even junior Zena Edosomwan, a starter last year, played just 13.5 minutes a game during Ancient Eight play. In the last seven contests of the year, he played more than 10 minutes once.

The emergence of senior Patrick Steeves brings up questions about how Amaker will manage the minutes of his youthful squad. The coach has already proved willing to yank freshman point guard Tommy McCarthy early for junior Corbin Miller, who provides steadier, albeit less creative, play. Increased playing time for Steeves, whose 9.6 points a game rank second on the team behind Edosomwan, may knock both sophomore Andre Chatfield and freshman Weisner Perez to the fringes of the rotation.

CHANGING IN THE GUARD

One of the dominant early-season trends for the Crimson has been the change in offense from last year. After having only three passable three-point threats a year ago—all of whom rarely saw playing time together—Harvard has significantly improved spacing a year later. Miller and freshman Corey Johnson have been long-range machines, shooting a combined 41 percent on 12 attempts a game. With Steeves shooting 53 percent and McCarthy boasting a respectably 36 percent mark, Harvard has had excellent spacing.

The improved spacing has put teams in a defensive bind regarding Edosomwan, the only Ivy League player averaging a double-double. Throwing double teams at Edosomwan, as Dartmouth did in the last matchup, has not proven successful. The junior has evolved into a more adept passer, ranking fourth on the Crimson in assists per game, and excels at finding the open man. In the last matchup with the Big Green, he had six assists as Harvard shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in one of its best offensive performances of the year. In the rematch, look for Dartmouth to stick more closely to the Crimson’s shooters.

A THIN BENCH

When the two teams last met, Dartmouth got 65 percent of its production from its two stellar underclassmen—sophomore wing Miles Wright and freshman forward Evan Boudreaux. The early favorite for Ivy League rookie of the year took it to Edosomwan and captain Evan Cummins inside, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds, including a pair of late threes to keep the Big Green in the game. Wright shot a blistering five of eight from three and took advantage when senior wing Agunwa Okolie came off the floor, making all four of his shots.

In the rematch, Dartmouth will need more production from the rest of its team, however. Senior Connor Boehm will especially be called on to shoot better than his one for eight performance in Cambridge.

-Staff Writer David Freed can be reached at david.freed@thecrimson.com

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