Tag Archives: Tommy Amaker

Harvard Wins In OT, But Can Crimson Get Offense Going?

Even with Bryce Aiken out injured, the Harvard basketball team is chock-full of recruits that the Ivy League likely wouldn’t have gotten a decade ago. Tommy Amaker has raised the bar, and went to where no Crimson team had gone before, four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and two NCAA victories (and a near Sweet 16 visit).

In many ways, Amaker and Harvard have dragged other Ivy League competitors, particularly Yale and Princeton, with them (Yale also grabbed an NCAA Tournament victory, while the Tigers lost by two to Notre Dame last season).

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Manhattan 73, Harvard 69: Jaspers Hold On Again At Home

Heading into Saturday’s game at Draddy Gym, Manhattan’s path to victory seemed to run through its vaunted press. Its opponent, Harvard, was only 42 hours removed from an ugly 23-turnover performance in a loss at Holy Cross, leaving the Jaspers’ defense with an opportunity to feast.

Instead, the Crimson committed just 13 turnovers, only a handful of which were attributed to Manhattan’s pressure. The hosts committed 18 miscues of their own, and they blew a 17-point lead in the second half. Yet they won anyway, getting enough stops and hitting enough tough shots to eke out a 73-69 win. Continue reading

Ivy Tournament Not Just About Princeton-Penn

(Please read Kevin Whitaker’s excellent previews on Penn-Princeton and Yale-Harvard before proceeding:)

Wide-eyed and full of smiles, the Brown women’s basketball team arrived at The Palestra with their phones in hand to take in everything about their experience at the inaugural Ivy League Tournament Friday.

The Ivy League tried to make their tournament a bit unique by setting up The Palestra for open practices (like the NCAA Tournament does) the day before the controversial proceedings begin tomorrow. As you’d expect, most of the attention has gone to the men’s side of the draw, mostly the 237th all-time meeting between Penn and Princeton Saturday afternoon, which should have a near full house for one of the most storied college basketball rivalries in America.

What can be wrong with that? Well, depends on your perspective. In any other year, undefeated (in Ivy play) Princeton would be sitting around waiting for Sunday night to see where (likely as a No. 12 or No. 13 seed) they would try to continue the Ivy’s run of NCAA Tournament upsets next week. Now, they face a sometimes dangerous Penn team on its home floor, and if they get past that, possibly an in-form Harvard team that the Tigers barely defeated twice this season.

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Ivy League Can’t Have Buyer’s Remorse Now

You might be surprised to find out that no one truly knows who the Murphy actually is behind Murphy’s Law, and there are plenty of tenured Ivy League professors who would be happy to debunk it for you with evidenced-based research.

Now the karma police? That might be another story.

Regardless of what supernatural forces you think guide the universe, the optics of the race for the final spot of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament devolving into chaos are quite striking. Two decades after every other conference in America figured it would take the money and attention that a conference final on national television brings, the Ivy League finally comes kicking and screaming to the table next week at The Palestra in Philadelphia.

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Harvard Looks Set For Future, But Maybe Not Present

Tommy Amaker has taken Harvard – a program where basketball success was not only non-existent, but largely unfathomable – to four NCAA Tournaments, actually winning games in two, over the last six seasons. Prior to last season, he had led the Crimson to six straight 20-win seasons, five consecutive Ivy League titles, and a 59-15 league record.

So while no one is immune from any questioning or criticism of his methods or substitution patterns, certainly Amaker has more than earned the benefit of the doubt.

But coming off a 14-16 (6-8 Ivy) season, where the Crimson lost seven of eight conference games at one point, Harvard still looks to be a work in progress. It was picked second in the Ivy League largely due to a heralded recruiting class, but mixing and matching the new guys with the veterans has proven problematic with only five players allowed on the court at one time per current basketball rules.

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Three Thoughts: Providence 76, Harvard 64

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – You may have been distracted by the Kris Dunn Show Saturday night, and what a show it was. Seven steals in the first half, 25 points in the second and a stat line that needed a triple-take: 32 points, 8 steals, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. And Tommy Amaker said afterward he was most impressed with his defense.

While the Dunn Show was certainly worth the price of admission, especially as he took over in the second half, there was another team on the floor with him, and young Harvard did some pretty good things despite falling in the end. The Crimson were actually playing their second game in as many days, shaking off MIT 59-39 after a slow start Friday night.

So what have we learned about Harvard so far? Here are a few things:

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Moundou-Missi Sends Harvard Back To NCAA Tournament

Throughout the 2014-15 Ivy League season, Harvard and Yale were evenly matched. The co-champions had identical 11-3 league records, split the season series with close games, and ended the regular season a mere four slots apart in KenPom’s national rankings. So it was fitting that Saturday’s playoff was tied heading into the final possession. Continue reading

After Winning Finale, Harvard Learns Of Ivy Playoff

After losing to Yale the previous night, Harvard entered Saturday needing a win and a Yale loss to earn a share of the Ivy title. The Crimson’s game tipped an hour earlier, so when they finished a 72-62 victory over Brown, the Bulldogs still had 20 minutes left to play at Dartmouth. With their fate out of their hands, Harvard’s locker room was feeling, in the words of senior Wesley Saunders, apprehensive. Continue reading

Cold Shooting Dooms Harvard In Ivy Title Showdown

Basketball is a funny sport to analyze. Over the past four months, we’ve all spent countless hours debating Harvard and Yale as championship contenders. This week, Ray and I exchanged 1,500 words previewing Friday’s matchup. And ultimately, the de facto title game — and the biggest Ivy League contest in four years, a college generation — was decided in large part by who made their three-pointers that night.

Playing at home with a chance to secure its fifth straight Ivy title, Harvard went just 2-17 from three-point range. The Crimson hasn’t been very prolific from beyond the arc all year, but their shots against Yale came mostly from their best shooters in good positions. Corbin Miller, a career 41% shooter from distance, went 0-8 on Friday. Siyani Chambers, 37% for his career, went 1-6. With the exception of two heaves late in the shot clock, most of Harvard’s attempts were open and in rhythm.

Meanwhile, Yale went 7-16 from beyond the arc, even though top shooter Jack Montague was bottled up for most of the game.


As if to underscore basketball’s randomness, Yale forward Justin Sears made his first two three-pointers of the year — both awkward line drives that snuck over the rim — at the best possible time.

“I thought we had a ton of shots. We just didn’t make them. I don’t know what else to say,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.

None of that means Yale didn’t deserve to win. The Bulldogs put themselves in position to take advantage of Harvard’s drought, scoring 1.05 points per possession against the league’s best defense. Javier Duren constantly frustrated the Crimson, getting his 22 points on a combination of tough floaters and three-pointers, including a dagger from 23 feet in the final two minutes.

On the other end, the Bulldogs sent double-teams aggressively on the perimeter and in the post, which paid off when Harvard’s big men didn’t make the right passes. Zena Edosomwan played only nine minutes after missing four early shots in the face of Yale pressure.

Still, if Miller makes two or three of his treys, and if Chambers hits another — bringing both in line with their career marks — then a 10-point margin becomes a toss-up. Miller in particular had a rough night: Chambers and Wesley Saunders found him time after time, in transition and from kick-outs, sticking with their guns even as Miller struggled (as they should). But the sophomore’s shots kept finding the top of the rim, as he missed eight treys and another long jumper.

“He’s our marksman, our three-point guy, and what a tough night for him. Of his nine shots, only one I know for sure was forced or a bad shot,” Amaker said. “Boy, did he get some looks that we would kill to have for him tomorrow night, and I know he’s going to be better than he was tonight.”

Harvard’s loss overshadowed a dominant game from Steve Moundou-Missi. As in the first meeting, Moundou-Missi kept Justin Sears quiet: Sears got only one shot at the rim, which came off his only offensive rebound, and needed his two surprising treys to reach 10 points. And on the other end, the senior attacked Sears fearlessly, scoring 21 points on a combination of face-up jumpers, physical drives and put-backs from 10 rebounds.

“He was one of the few people out there who really battled, and I think he left it all out there on the floor,” Saunders said. “He was trying to spark us and get us energized, but we never really caught on.”

Harvard trailed 22-19 at halftime — not much prettier than the 16-11 score in the first meeting — but Yale ballooned its lead to 12 points, thanks to second-chance points from Armani Cotton (who finished with 14) and Sears. The hosts made several small runs, but each was answered by the Bulldogs — an athletic putback and-one from Khaliq Ghani here, a patented Matt Townsend two-point jumper there. Duren was perfect on free throws down the stretch, slowly hammering the penultimate nail in Harvard’s coffin.

Harvard’s only path to a fifth straight Ivy title is a win over Brown tomorrow night and a Yale loss at Dartmouth. (The latter is hardly a longshot, as the Big Green has won five of its last six.) If that parlay hits, Harvard and Yale will play a rubber match at The Palestra next week to determine the automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament.

And though Friday’s loss was devastating, the Crimson has received help in the past. In 2012, they lost at home to Penn with two games remaining, avoiding a playoff only when Princeton beat the Quakers in the season finale. In 2013, they were swept at Princeton and Penn in early March, regaining control of their own destiny only when the Tigers were swept the following weekend.

So Harvard’s hopes for a fourth straight tournament bid are on life support. But they’re not dashed yet.

“We just have to take care of business tomorrow and see where the chips fall,” Saunders said. “Crazier stuff has happened.”

A Conversation Preview About Yale-Harvard Ivy Armageddon

With Ivy League armageddon upon us Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion, we decided to mix things up a bit. Instead of bringing you an Xs and Os preview, Ray Curren and Kevin Whitaker had an e-mail conversation and here is what they discussed. Kevin has covered Harvard all season, while Ray has seen play of Yale. Can Yale repeat its victory at Harvard last season and put one hand on its first outright Ivy crown (and NCAA Tournament appearance) since 1962? Or will Harvard keep the championship belt for at least one more year?

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