NOTEBOOK: Men's Basketball Secures Victory over UMass in First Road Contest

{shortcode-ffadd8ebe68b64f7ca7316634e90f81f4d1f07be} A week into the 2018-2019 campaign, Harvard traveled to Amherst for its first road game of the season - it proved to be a test that made the 90 mile trip down Mass Pike well worthwhile for the Crimson. Harvard clung on to secure a 74-71 win over UMass, a result that Coach Tommy Amaker will hope to be the first of several solid road wins.

As road-trips to URI, the University of San Francisco, and Saint Mary’s over Thanksgiving looms large, the Crimson will look to continue searching for consistency. An impressive victory on the road was an encouraging result for a young Harvard team that is without junior stalwarts Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns.


Without Towns and with Chris Lewis coming up gimpy several times Tuesday night, players like Henry Welsh, Robert Baker, and Noah Kirkwood all saw extended court time. Their performances, coupled with solid efforts from starters Lewis, Djuricic, Juzang, Haskett, and Bassey, resulted in a team victory over the Minutemen.

While UMass’ Luwane Pipkins exploded for 36 of the team’s 71 points, the Crimson’s victory demonstrated the archetypal “bench and balance” mentality that Coach Amaker has frequently extolled.


“Yeah I mean we talk a lot about our bench and our balance,” Amaker said. “Those two B-words will be critical for our team, they have been in the past for certain teams and I think this is going to ring true for our team as we go down the stretch on the road.”

With seven players scoring six or more points apiece, it took a complete team effort to knock off the Minutemen. While no player scored more than Lewis’ 16 points, different players had crucial offensive moments throughout the game. Welsh’s first career three-pointer helped quell a UMass run, Kirkwood’s energy off the bench repeatedly galvanized Harvard, and crucial 2-for-2 efforts at the free-throw line from Juzang and Bassey in the last minute helped seal the victory.


Tuesday night’s game at the Mullins Center was, unsurprisingly, a nail-biter that came down to the final possession of the night. A Pipkins half-court effort rattled off of the rim, allowing the visitors to breathe a sigh of relief, as Harvard improved to 2-1 on the young season.

The Crimson win was another addition to the record of spectacular basketball games between the two programs, and represented the fifth consecutive matchup decided by 2 possessions or fewer. Last season’s game was settled in equally dramatic fashion, as Aiken drilled an overtime three-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining to give Harvard the 70-67 win.

“I think it’s great for us, I think it’s great for Harvard,” Minutemen coach Matt McCall said of the budding rivalry between the Massachusetts programs. “You know it’s always going to be a battle, and it’s a really good game to prepare us going forward for A-10 play.”

The Crimson led for all 20 minutes of the first half, and well into the second frame, but a Pipkens-inspired run by UMass cut the deficit and brought the Mullins Center crowd to its feet. Nevertheless, Harvard weathered each Minutemen run, as the hosts never led by more than one point. A combination of good free-throw shooting, rebounding, and crucial stops down the stretch helped the Crimson seal the game.


Through three games this season, Lewis’ impact has been unmistakable as the team searches for scoring without Towns and Aiken. The junior from Alpharetta, Ga., has scored almost 18 points per game thus far, on a ridiculous 77.4 percent shooting from the field. What’s more, the forward is only averaging 23 minutes a game, allowing him to stay fresh as Harvard eases into the season.

Lewis is the only scorer on the team averaging double-figures, and his presence on both the offensive and defensive end will be crucial if the Crimson hopes to make Ivy League, and NCAA Tournament runs.

“We play inside-out, we play through Lewis,” Amaker said. “He’s our post presence, we went to him early… it changes things when you have a guy like that that you can throw it into.”

With a sky-high shooting percentage, and with his ability to attract extra defensive attention to help free-up teammates, Lewis can afford to be even more aggressive in kick-starting the Harvard offense. For as long as Towns and Aiken remain out, the forward will be the lynchpin on the offensive end.


With the road portion of the schedule underway, the Crimson will head to Kingston, R.I. this friday night for a matchup with another A-10 foe, URI. The Rams knocked off Oklahoma in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last season, before falling to Duke.

URI boasts a deep roster of talent, including junior forward Cyril Langevine. Langevine has averaged 14 points per game through the Rams’ first three games, and was a high-school teammate of Aiken’s at the St. Patrick’s school, graduating in the same year as the injured Harvard guard.

As URI looms, the Crimson will hope to rekindle the team effort it put forth Tuesday, on Friday night and beyond.

“They weren’t going to beat themselves,” said coach McCall. “Every single mistake we made, they capitalized on, and that’s what really good teams do.”

Harvard will look to continue to be a good team, emphasizing fundamental basketball. For the Crimson, if the turnovers, rebounding margin, and bench points are under control, the team can expect many more nights like Tuesday.


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