The Harvard Crimson executed some of the basics of inside-out offense to near perfection against UMass on Tuesday night. But, though Zena Edosomwan’s assertive low-post play opened the perimeter, the Crimson failed to capitalize, the Minutemen taking a 69-63 victory in a nonconference game at Lavietes Pavilion.
Harvard (1-2) misfired from the outside for most of the contest — starting guards Corey Johnson and Tommy McCarthy combining for 1 for 18 line from the field — which played into the running tendencies of the Minutemen (2-0). And, though Harvard pulled within 2 points of the lead in the final minutes, the Crimson chased the game for much of the night.
All of which surprised both coaches.
“Looking at some of our shooters and shooting performance,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said, “I’m not sure how we even stayed close, quite honestly.”
Said UMass coach Derek Kellogg: “They missed some shots that actually I wasn’t accustomed to them missing.”
In fact, Harvard was off target on several open looks, but the quickness of the UMass guards was a factor, Jabarie Hinds (24 points) and Trey Davis (13) delivering when it counted.
UMass took control by closing the first half with a 7-1 run over the final 1:38, Hinds’s 3-pointer providing a 38-34 lead. Hinds then missed a buzzer 3-pointer, but the Minutemen continued their spree in the second half as Seth Berger’s layup made it 46-34 with 16:32 to go.
“We’re always concerned about our defense being away from our bench and not having the energy from our coaches and players that are helping our guys on the court,” Amaker said. “And we got into a little bit of a funk there and they came right at us. They put us on our heels, got a double-digit lead, and had us playing an uphill battle the whole way.”
UMass took a 59-48 lead as Hinds picked off a cross-court pass from Edosomwan for a layup with 8:08 left.
“Just told guys at halftime, ‘Listen, let’s see if we can put together a second half of energy, of toughness, of playing the way it looked in the first half,’ ” Kellogg said. “If you don’t come away with a victory but you give everything you have, I think any coach can deal with that.”
Edosomwan (18 points, 15 rebounds) and Agunwa Okolie then sparked a Crimson comeback. Edosomwan scored 5 points and drew Malik Hines’s fifth foul and Rashaan Holloway’s fourth in a 49-second span, cutting the Harvard deficit to 59-55 with 4:24 remaining. But those would be Edosomwan’s last points.
Okolie, whose defending helped limit Hinds to one second-half field goal, cut the Harvard deficit to 61-59 with 2:29 to go. Berger scored in the lane out of a timeout and made a tip-in in transition for a 6-point UMass edge with 1:28 left. Davis countered Evan Cummings’s third-chancer as the Minutemen put the game away.
“We’re going to shoot the ball better,” Amaker said. “It’s just kind of disappointing that we had that kind of a shooting night at home in a game like this. Because we had a lot of opportunities and we talked about that — if teams are going to play and press and extend the floor we weren’t going to be satisfied with just breaking, we wanted to attack it to score. And we did in the first half, we just couldn’t nail our shots to give our young guys some confidence.
“ At this level you have to deserve it and we didn’t. For young guys that can be hard. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but they’ll bounce back.”