Sunday, December 12, 2010

Explosive second half propels Harvard past BU, 87-71

By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff

ALLSTON, MA – Coming off a tough, hard-fought home loss to an Atlantic-10 conference contender in La Salle University, the Boston University men’s basketball team knew that even a short trip across the Charles River to Harvard University would be difficult – and the Crimson certainly didn’t do them any favors, as the Ivy League’s preseason favorite carried an offensive explosion in the second half to blow by the Terriers by an 87-71 final at Lavietes Pavilion last Saturday.

The loss is the third in a row for the Terriers, dropping their overall record to 4-7, a season-high three games under the .500 threshold. Senior forward John Holland scored 14 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, but Holland and his BU team withered down in the second half as the Crimson (7-2) posted the all-too-convincing victory.

“We played pretty well in the first half. I don’t know if we got tired. I don’t know if the schedule was poor by me, scheduling this game so quickly right after a tough A-10 game,” said BU coach Patrick Chambers. “Give Harvard all the credit in the world though – they did a great job. That’s a very good team, a very, very good team.”

Junior forward Jake O’Brien added 20 points and five rebounds for the Terriers, and junior guard Darryl Partin continued his emergence as the team’s third scorer by pitching in 15 points.

For a team whose early season was mired by puzzling losses to the like of Hampton University and Bucknell University, the Terriers seemed to turn a proverbial corner in the loss to La Salle and it looked like the team was building on that momentum in the game’s first 20 minutes.

The shooting woes that have been prevalent for much of the young season were anything but apparent as the Terriers shot an impressive 7-or-14 from 3-point range in the first half, and were 12-of-29 from the field behind what amounted to a shooting exhibition from Holland as BU entered the locker room down only two points at 35-33.

Then the floodgates opened on an unassuming, unprepared BU squad.

Leading 44-43 with 17:01 remaining in the game, the Terriers were soon witness to an offensive onslaught from a talented Crimson team. Harvard quickly took the lead back on a 3-pointer from guard Christian Webster, and went on a 12-0 run that gave them a commanding lead they would maintain for the remainder of the game.

After making a small dent in the Harvard lead at 55-48, the Crimson used a balanced, hot-shooting attack to the tune of a 21-8 run that gave them a 76-56 lead that left little to doubt with 6:14 remaining in the game.

The Crimson, to an extent, utilized a 29-8 advantage on free throw attempts to put the game way.

Harvard was led by a team-high 18 points from Webster, but what truly made the Crimson dangerous to a fatigued BU team was the remarkable offensive balance displayed by Tommy Amaker’s squad.

Six Harvard players recorded double digits in points, including forward Keith Wright who continually imposed his will on the low post, posting his fourth double-double of the season with 10 rebounds and 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

This inside-outside balance of the Crimson proved problematic and ultimately lethal for the Terriers.

“It’s really difficult to take something away,” Chambers said. “You try to take one thing away, and they start hitting 3’s. If you take away the 3’s, then they throw it to the big guys, so it’s like pick your poison.”

Particularly troubling for the Terriers a lackluster defensive performance from a team that had used its defensive prowess to overcome poor shooting in many of its early games.

BU surrendered 51 points to the Crimson in the second half Saturday, and for the game, allowed Harvard to shoot 54 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

Between the subpar defense and a 38-23 rebounding deficit for the game, a simple explanation emerged for Chambers, BU players and BU fans coming out of the game: the team simply didn’t play hard enough in the second half.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to play harder,” Chambers said. “I feel like we didn’t play hard in the second half and I’m disappointed with our effort, but I’ll take the blame for playing an A-10 team on Thursday and then coming back and playing this great team two days later – that’s a lot of seven freshmen to handle.”

With finals week fast approaching, the Terriers now have a ten-day break before its next game, a home contest against St. Joseph’s University on Dec. 21 at Agganis Arena.

For a team that, as many are familiar with at this point, has seven freshmen and three transfers, the non-conference slate has produced something of a mixed bag of successes, failures and shortcomings, and the loss to the Crimson epitomized this.

Uncertainty has been a dominant theme thus far for this BU team, but moving forward, one thing is not in doubt for Chambers and his team – they will be succeed and persevere, even if the exact time and date isn’t clear.

“We’re going to get there, I’ll tell you that right now, we’re going to get there,” Chambers said. “I’m not sure when it’s going to happen and I’m not sure if we’re going to win another game, but we’re going to get there. I can tell you that for sure.”

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