Boston College men’s basketball has had trouble dispatching tough opponents under head coach Jim Christian, but the one repeat opponent the Eagles beat each of the last two years was Harvard University.
Last year, the Eagles took down Harvard to start the season 3-0, which marked their best start to a season in seven years. BC limited the offensively-challenged Crimson to only 56 points in that contest in a comfortable 69-56 victory.
On Wednesday night, nothing was the same.
Though the Eagles (4-4) went on a rampage late in the second half to chip away at the double-digit lead, it was too little, too late. Harvard (4-4) attacked the paint on offense, forced BC into foul trouble, and converted its scoring opportunities en route to an easy 74-66 win. The loss marks BC’s fourth of the season, with five games remaining on its nonconference slate.
Simply put, BC looked sloppy all night against Harvard. The Eagles didn’t take care of the ball on offense—giving up 16 turnovers, many of which were unforced—and failing to stop point guard Siyani Chambers on ball screens at the top of the key.
Though he only scored four points, Chambers set the tone for the Crimson with his leadership, reliable ball-handling, and impressive court vision. With 11 assists and zero turnovers, he was the most impactful player on the floor for Harvard.
“[Chambers] is tremendous,” Christian said following the loss. “We did an awful job of hedging the ball screen. He was able to turn the corner, get in the lane, and make good plays.”
BC came out playing tough defense through the first five minutes, but a 11-2 Harvard run out of the first media timeout put the game out of reach almost immediately. The Crimson never looked back after taking a 13-point lead with 12 minutes left in the first half, and led the rest of the way. BC never held a lead at any point in the contest.
The Eagles struggled to get consistent offense from anybody not named Jerome Robinson. The sophomore from North Carolina led the Eagles in scoring for the fifth time this season, notching at least 25 points for the third consecutive game. AJ Turner was also impressive offensively, as he added 13 points of his own. But no other Eagle finished in double figures.
BC struggled to get free-throw opportunities against the Crimson, and when the team did get to the line, it struggled to convert. The Eagles took six free throws to Harvard’s 18, and they only connected on three of those six. The Crimson, meanwhile, only missed two chances from the charity stripe.
“We avoid a lot of contact,” Christian said. “When we’re driving, we try to shoot over the defenders instead of jumping into their bodies. That’s something that’s been a problem for us.”
According to ESPN, Harvard recruited the 12th-best freshman class in the nation in 2016, and the group showed why it was ranked so highly on Wednesday. Harvard’s dynamic freshman duo, forwards Chris Lewis and Seth Towns, led the way in scoring for the Crimson.
Lewis tormented the Eagles in the paint the entire game. The big man got plenty of open looks around the rim, and he converted nearly every time. Lewis was active on defense, forcing bad passes and altering shots around the rim. At 6-foot-9, 235 pounds, he’s not much bigger than BC’s frontcourt, but he looked unstoppable down low against the Eagles.
Meanwhile, Towns shredded BC’s defense from the outside. He connected on three 3-pointers, contributing 18 points overall. His two best offensive performances of the season came on back-to-back nights, following his 24-point outburst against Northeastern University on Tuesday night.
“Our defense was awful tonight,” Christian said. “I’m not taking anything away from Harvard—they’re a good team. But we took a huge step backward tonight.”
The victory was Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker’s 179th win overall, which makes him the all-time winningest coach in program history. Amaker, who was a standout at Duke University during his playing days, joked about the milestone and a comment he made to former coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“After he reached his milestone [winningest coach in Division I history], I told Coach K that if I was a better player, he might’ve gotten those wins a little sooner,” Amaker said with a smile. “I wouldn’t dare say that to these guys.”
Though Amaker was all smiles after his landmark victory, Christian was left searching for answers. If the Eagles struggled so badly on defense against Harvard, one can only imagine what will happen when BC takes on the beasts of the ACC.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor