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John Harvard's Journal

Hoop Hopes

January-February 2015

Senior Wesley Saunders, easing in for a layup in the early- season loss to Holy Cross, led Harvard in scoring through the first six games, averaging 20.2 points per game.

Senior Wesley Saunders, easing in for a layup in the early- season loss to Holy Cross, led Harvard in scoring through the first six games, averaging 20.2 points per game.

Photograph by Steve Banineau

During the past four years, the Harvard men’s basketball team has been a model of consistency: four straight Ivy League championships, three consecutive trips to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, and opening-round victories in the last two of those appearances.

But this year’s squad has been harder to figure out. After entering the season ranked twenty-fifth in the Associated Press national poll (the first time an Ivy League team has received such pre-season recognition since 1974), Harvard began its campaign by besting MIT (a Division III opponent) 73-52, but then tumbled to Holy Cross, 58-57. The margin of defeat was narrow, but the squad’s 24 turnovers and stagnation on offense were disturbing.

Four days later, when the Crimson retook the hardwood against Florida Atlantic, the squad again looked unfamiliar—but for a different reason. Head coach Tommy Amaker had benched all five starters to send a message that he expected every player to live up to the team’s internal “standards.” The move paid dividends. After Amaker reinserted his regular line-up several minutes into the game, Harvard unleashed a 34-9 run, en route to a 71-49 victory. The blowout began a three-game winning streak that culminated with a two-point win over the University of Massachusetts, Harvard’s toughest opponent to date.

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Will the team live up to its pre-season billing? The reaction to the squad’s early hiccup underscores the difficulty of what Amaker is trying to accomplish. He believes that his team can compete with the best in the country—but as the Crimson grows more successful, the margin for error narrows, and the target on its back grows bigger. If this year’s team is to sustain or exceed the consistency of past squads, it will need to be different: it will need to be better. A year-end road trip to Virginia and Arizona, and the beginning of league play in mid January, should quickly bring those prospects into focus.

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Penn's kicker, Jake Haggard, punts the football.

Doink! Harassed by Harvard’s Adam Shepherd (86), Penn’s Jake Haggard punts the ball into the back of teammate Ben Padon. The kick traveled only seven yards and the Crimson turned the miscue into a field goal.
Photograph by Tim O’Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Football 2019: Penn 24, Harvard 20

Batch Catch: Having beaten Columbia's Fara'ad McCombs, Crimson junior wide receiver James Batch prepares to reel in a first-quarter touchdown pass.

Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Football 2019: Columbia 17, Harvard 10

Harvard defensive back Max Jones knocks a ball out of the hands of Dartmouth wide receiver Drew Estrada
Max effort: On a first-quarter interception, Harvard junior defensive back Max Jones makes a mid-air steal from Dartmouth wide receiver Drew Estrada. 
Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

 

Football 2019: Dartmouth 9, Harvard 6

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Penn's kicker, Jake Haggard, punts the football.

Doink! Harassed by Harvard’s Adam Shepherd (86), Penn’s Jake Haggard punts the ball into the back of teammate Ben Padon. The kick traveled only seven yards and the Crimson turned the miscue into a field goal.
Photograph by Tim O’Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Football 2019: Penn 24, Harvard 20

Batch Catch: Having beaten Columbia's Fara'ad McCombs, Crimson junior wide receiver James Batch prepares to reel in a first-quarter touchdown pass.

Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Football 2019: Columbia 17, Harvard 10

Harvard defensive back Max Jones knocks a ball out of the hands of Dartmouth wide receiver Drew Estrada
Max effort: On a first-quarter interception, Harvard junior defensive back Max Jones makes a mid-air steal from Dartmouth wide receiver Drew Estrada. 
Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

 

Football 2019: Dartmouth 9, Harvard 6