It wasn’t over until Harvard senior guard Jeremy Lin’s luck finally ran out with 47 seconds to go. Lin missed a driving floater that would have closed the deficit to three, and UConn secured the loose ball to maintain its comfortable two-possession lead for the duration.
But how did Harvard, which yielded a 17-2 run over a six-plus minute span of the first half, ever get that close? Let’s take a look inside the numbers.
While the thumbnail approach might simply be to say that Lin caught fire, there’s more to it than just that. The most important aspect for the Crimson was controlling turnovers. Harvard committed just 13 on the game and just under 18 percent of its possessions – its second stingiest performance of the year behind the season-opener at Holy Cross.
The Crimson also did a commendable job on the offensive glass grabbing 29 percent of the boards, and the inability to keep the Huskies from grabbing rebounds at the other end (UConn finished with 39 percent of the offensive boards) surprisingly didn’t hurt Harvard, as both teams finished tied with 14 second-chance points.
The Crimson actually marginally outshot the Huskies from the floor (EFG percent of 46.3 for Harvard and 44.1 for UConn). Where Harvard got beat was at the line, where it shot poorly (11-for-18, 61 percent) and gave the Huskies too many opportunities (27-for-41, 65 percent). It’s true that 12 of those opportunities came in the final 1:30, when the Crimson was fouling to stay in the game, but that only explains roughly half of the 23 free throw disparity. The rest can be chalked up to the athleticism of UConn, especially the attacking nature of the guards, that forced Harvard to foul.
While the fouling may have killed the Crimson, the team’s highly disciplined effort to keep the Huskies from getting out and converting cheap baskets on the run was quite encouraging. UConn won the fast break points battle, but only 17-15, as Harvard tried to force the Huskies to win the game with their half-court offense.
As for individual performances, Lin stole the show with 30 points, posting EFG and True Shooting percentages of 66.7 and 70.8, respectively. He also led Harvard with nine rebounds and 8.8 defensive stops for a defensive rating of 98. Freshman Brandyn Curry added four defensive stops for a defensive rating of 99, and sophomore Keith Wright was the only other Harvard player in double figures with 10 points on 56 percent shooting.
Freshman Kyle Casey continued to show flashes of his seemingly boundless athleticism, but struggled to stay on the floor once again, picking up five fouls in 16 minutes of play. Senior Pat Magnarelli had six rebounds in 11 minutes, but picked up three fouls in a two-minute span of the second half to put himself in foul trouble down the stretch.
Next up for Harvard is a Wednesday night meeting with Boston College, which just won its ACC opener against Miami despite the continued absence of star Rakim Sanders, who is still out with an ankle injury.