Harvard Welcomes Penn, Princeton

The Harvard men’s basketball team looks to get back on a winning track this weekend when it hosts Princeton tonight and Penn tomorrow night at Lavietes Pavilion. The Crimson looks to regroup and snap a seven-game losing streak against two teams also in the bottom half of the Ivy standings and with less than stellar road records.

Three weeks ago, Harvard lost to each of these teams on the road. Princeton dealt the Crimson a 68-54 loss in a back-and-forth game that saw 12 lead changes.

Sophomore Jeremy Lin paced Harvard with 17 points and captain Brad Unger also contributed 11.

Harvard (6-18, 1-7 Ivy) comes into tonight’s game looking to move up in the Ivy League standings at the expense of the Tigers (5-17, 2-5 Ivy), who are experiencing their own five-game losing streak and have been winless so far on the road. The last time these two teams met, Princeton’s three-point shooting proved to be the difference. The Tigers went 12-of-29 from behind the arc, led by senior Kyle Koncz’s six long balls and sophomore Lincoln Gunn’s four.

Crimson coach Tommy Amaker is aware of the three-point threat but confident that Harvard can take care of business.

“We’re concerned with that and we’re hopeful that we can do a better job,” Amaker said. “And then hopefully being at home again we’ll have enough spirit, confidence, and energy that can propel us to get over the hump if we find ourselves in a nip-and-tuck situation—as we anticipate it will be.”

Tomorrow night, the Crimson will take on the Quakers, who barely edged Harvard, 73-69, in the teams’ last meeting. Unger and sophomore guard Dan McGeary both had career high scoring nights of 17 and 16 points, respectively, but struggles at the foul line down the stretch proved to hinder the Crimson’s efforts.

Penn was led by freshman Tyler Bernardini’s 20-point effort. The Quakers also out-rebounded Harvard, 44-32, and the Crimson know that they have to do better to earn the win Saturday.

“Getting the ball to the rim and rebounding it off the glass will be a point of emphasis,” Amaker said. “And if we don’t stand firm and hold our ground then it’s going to make for a long night.”

Another key will be to successfully shut down the hot-handed Bernardini.

“I think, if I could use a football analogy, if you don’t protect Tom Brady and that front line, it can make things interesting, as we saw in the Super Bowl,” Amaker explained. “If [Bernardini] gets time, there aren’t many teams or people that will be able to hang with him.”

To get the victory, the Crimson will look to tighten up its interior defense and find its own offensive spark.

That spark may very well be provided by junior guard Drew Housman. Last weekend, Housman erupted for 18 points in a one-point loss to Cornell and then notched 25 points, seven rebounds, and three steals in the loss against Columbia. Amaker could only praise Housman’s play of late.

“I do feel that he’s been an incredible bright spot in the two tough losses over the weekend,” Amaker said. “If we can get others to raise their play and pitch in a little bit more here and there, with the way he’s playing right now, I think our team will continue to improve.”

Harvard will look for a more balanced effort this weekend, as they will again be without injured sophomore Pat Magnarelli.

The Crimson has played in a number of close games but has mostly experienced the short end of the outcome. Hopefully for Harvard, returning to Lavietes will boost its play and the home crowd will prove to be an effective sixth man this time around against the Killer P’s.

“We have absolutely had no luck on the road and we’ve struggled at home as well,” Amaker said. “But we’ve had some positive results here and we’re looking forward to maybe some again this weekend.”

The Crimson will take the court looking for those positive results at Lavietes Pavilion tonight at 7 p.m. against Princeton and tomorrow at 7 p.m. against Penn.