By Shep Hayes/DFP Staff
In the middle of the toughest nonconference stretch of its 2011-12 schedule, the Boston University men’s basketball team was saddled with a 76-52 loss to the No. 24 Harvard University Crimson on Saturday afternoon at Agganis Arena.
For the first 12:17 of the game, the game was not a blowout. The Terriers (4-6) and the Crimson (9-1) went back and forth, the teams exchanging the lead every few possessions. The largest margin either team was able to hold over the other in that span was three points, a feat Harvard did twice and BU accomplished once.
BU was on defense and up by one when senior forward Jeff Pelage fouled Harvard senior Oliver McNally, sending the latter to the free-throw line to shoot twice. McNally sank both his free throws, and the Harvard didn’t look back.
The Crimson went on a 21-3 run to close out the half, entering the locker room up 37-21. Between a shot made from the charity stripe from senior guard Darryl Partin with 6:07 left in the half and a jumper from senior Patrick Hazel with only a second remaining, Harvard dropped 18 unanswered points on BU.
“I thought we locked in pretty well,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker.
From the other side of the court, BU coach Joe Jones saw his team fall apart after a competitive start.
“We're at a stage right now, where when we’re playing a team of this caliber, there are some moments where we can play,” Jones said. “We have to learn how to sustain it, to be honest with you. I thought, going into this game, if we were able to be mentally and physically tough for 40 minutes, we would have had a better chance.”
At the beginning of the second half, the Terriers were again able to respond to almost every basket the Crimson put on the board, limiting the Harvard lead to only about 20 points. Jones brought a number of his bench players in a little under four minutes into the half, later explaining it was reaction to the way his starters played to start the half.
“I didn’t think we came out in the second half with the intensity level we needed to win the game,” Jones said.
With 5:39 remaining Harvard went on another run, albeit a smaller one. It began with a dunk from junior Kyle Casey and didn’t end until Pelage laid the ball up for BU with 2:48 left in the game after Amaker had begun to sub out his starters and stars.
During the run, Harvard extended its lead at one moment all the way up to 29 points. The difference in scoring between the two teams hovered around 25 points until it finally settled at 24 as the clock ran out.
One of the players Amaker pulled with a couple of minutes remaining was guard Laurent Rivard. Rivard was one of the largest offensive threats for the Crimson, going 6-for-8 from beyond the arc for all 18 of his points. A number of his shots were uncontested – wide-open jumpers from the corner with no Terriers around him.
“At some point [the BU] defense broke down, so we were able to get open shots,” Rivard said. “We knocked down those open shots.”
Casey and guard Christian Webster were the other major offensive contributors for Harvard, shooting 7-for-14 and 6-for-10 respectively. Forward Keith Wright led the Crimson in both rebounding categories, grabbing two offensive and seven defensive boards.
On the Terrier end of the court, Harvard dominated the glass, with 28 total defensive rebounds to BU’s 18 offensive rebounds. Underneath the Crimson hoop, the stat line was a bit more even. Harvard had 11 offensive rebounds while BU grabbed 12 defensive boards.
Partin remained the Terriers’ leading scorer, though the Crimson’s defense limited him to 12 points, much less than half his average of 23.9 points per game heading into Saturday’s contest. Hazel was just behind Partin in scoring with 10 points, including a 4-for-5 run from the free throw line.
One of Hazel’s free throw attempts, in fact, came during halftime. As he made the final basket of the half, Hazel was fouled by Harvard freshman Jonah Travis. The officials took a few minutes to review video of the play while every member of both teams except for Hazel left the court, and they ultimately determined Hazel should shoot one. The senior walked to the line as the cheerleaders were preparing to roll mats out for their halftime routine. Hazel’s shot bounced off the rim for his only miss from the line on the day.
Redshirt freshman forward Malik Thomas and Pelage came of the bench for BU and turned into the third- and fourth-best scorers. Thomas made three of his five field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers for a total of eight points. Pelage went 3-for-4 inside the arc.
Despite the contributions from the bench, Jones wasn’t impressed with his team on the whole on Saturday.
“I think we’ve got to keep getting better, to be honest with you,” Jones said.