PROVIDENCE — There was little to be proud of at Pizzitola Sports Center on Friday night.
Brown basketball coach Mike Martin approached the media room wearing the pale face of someone who had just seen Godzilla.
Martin was disgusted, repeatedly calling his team’s 19-turnover performance against Harvard in a 65-47 loss “unacceptable,” as the Bears had a season-low offensive output.
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, whose team shot 16.7 percent from 3-point range and 56.8 percent from the free throw line in an erratic performance, is just hoping his squad’s effort doesn’t linger with March less than a week away.
“It was one of those nights,” said Amaker. “Things can become very contagious and it can go either way.
“This game is funny like that. For us tonight, from the foul line, that was the case.”
The Crimson improved to 16-7 overall and 8-1 in the Ivy League, where they are in firm control of first place. At least they had a few positive takeaways from an ugly game.
Harvard jumped out to 13-2 lead over the first eight minutes. Brown had as many points (2) as traveling violations. And with the Crimson’s electric freshman guard, Siyani Chambers, smothering Brown guard Sean McGonagill, the Bears’ offense appeared lifeless.
Harvard’s first three field goals came on hook shots, including a pair from Kenyatta Smith. The 6-foot-8-inch sophomore forward was named the Ivy’s top player last week following an overpowering performance against Penn in which Smith set a school record with 10 blocks, the second most in Ivy history (Dartmouth’s Walter Palmer rejected 12 in 1988).
Smith scored 8 points in limited minutes Friday as he ran into foul trouble.
With quick ball movement and even quicker man movement, the Crimson attacked the hoop with patience. Often using most of their 35 seconds on the offensive end, they simultaneously burned the Bears’ energy with each possession, and it showed as Brown (9-14, 3-6) set up its slow-moving attack.
Chambers was in control, dodging through traffic and delivering whistling cross-court passes. Even against Brown, which has two of the league’s top rebounders in Cedric Kuakumensah and Rafael Maia, the Crimson were able to do damage in the paint, outscoring the Bears, 30-24.
“We were outclassed by a better team tonight,” said Martin. “It had to do with our lack of energy, lack of poise, lack of execution and flat-out lack of effort. It starts with me and we have to be a lot better than we were. We will be.”
Harvard sophomore guard Wesley Saunders worked in tandem with Chambers as the two found ways to dissect the Bears’ porous defense. Saunders was 7 of 11 from the field with 19 points and nine rebounds, the only Crimson player to shoot better than 50 percent.
Brown eventually caught up to Harvard’s ferocious pace and started to catch up in the second half, again thanks to some erratic shooting by the Crimson.
Chambers and Laurent Rivard quickly worked to create another turnover, and Chambers found a sprinting Saunders upcourt for a dunk that extended Harvard’s lead to 10.
“I think he’s the best all-around player in our conference,” Amaker said of Saunders, who is averaging 16.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. “I’m biased, but he’s had that kind of season.”
Chambers was most effective defensively, limiting McGonagill, a junior who entered the game averaging 4.1 assists, to just one assist with six turnovers (double his season average).
Chambers limped off the court after the game but Amaker said he appeared to be fine.
“It was the best [Chambers] could possibly do,” Amaker said. “It’s hard to call kids freshmen at this point in their college careers. There’s a comfort level with him. He’s playing through situations where he could be a little fatigued on the floor, but you see the growth and development and maturity.”