Men’s basketball coughs up early lead, drops game to Harvard

Men’s basketball let their halftime lead slip away to Harvard Friday.

The Colonials (5–6) held the lead for the majority of the first frame, but a second half slump allowed the Crimson (7–4) to serve GW a 88–75 loss – the team’s second loss in six games. Harvard netted 51 points in the second half, and the Colonials allowed a season-high 88 points, up from its season average of 68.8.

The two teams employed opposite offensive strategies throughout the contest. Harvard attacked the key, scoring 62 points in the paint. The Colonials focused beyond the arc for the majority of their point production, hitting 11 triples off 25 attempts.

The Colonials netted 45.8 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep. The Crimson shot at a .556 clip from the field and .167 from deep. Harvard sunk just two triples throughout the game.

Harvard switched to a zone defense early in the first half, and GW was never fully able to adjust. Head coach Jamion Christian said the defensive switch kept the Colonials away from their shooting spots and pushed the offense out of its comfort zone.

“Credit to Harvard, they changed a lot of defense up, made it uncomfortable on the floor for guys to know their spots,” Christian said. “Sometimes you have to tip your hat and say, ‘That’s a great decision by them.’ They were able to do that and put us off our spots a little bit.”

Harvard jumped to a four-point lead to start the contest on a jump shot and layup from senior guard Bryce Aiken. A triple from freshman guard Jameer Nelson Jr. placed the Colonials on the board.

The Colonials and Crimson traded baskets until junior guard Maceo Jack drained three straight shots from beyond the arc and boosted the Colonials to a 14–10 lead with 13 minutes to play. Jack finished the game 4-of-9 from deep with 14 points.

Jack, Nelson Jr. and freshman forward Jamison Battle were responsible for the majority of the offense and the entirety of the team’s three-point shooting. The three players combined for 45 of the Colonials’ points on the day.

A layup and dunk from the Crimson evened the score at 14, but a jump shot in the paint from senior forward Arnaldo Toro opened the floodgates. The Colonials retained the lead until 10 seconds remained in the first frame. Harvard sunk a free throw to knot the score with eight seconds left, but a layup from Nelson Jr. at the buzzer sent GW into halftime up 39–37.

In the second half, GW and Harvard remained neck-and-neck through the first eight minutes. The Crimson broke away on a 16-1 run to take a 15-point lead. Redshirt senior guard Armel Potter netted the Colonials’ final eight points, but it wasn’t enough to propel the squad ahead.

Potter notched his first double-double of the season, recording 22 points and 10 assists. He led all Colonials in scoring.

Faulty free-throw shooting also hurt the Colonials. GW made 10-of-18 shots from the charity stripe, down from its season average of 74 percent. The Crimson capitalized on their free throw opportunities, hitting 16-of-18.

Senior guard Justin Williams exited the game with an injury after seeing just two minutes of action. He was able to walk off the court but did not return to the hardwood.

“He does provide such great understanding on the floor,” Christian said. “He makes great plays for us and he’s so great defensively. That was a big loss for us.”

Christian added that Williams’ departure limited his bench options and forced him to keep his top players in longer than he would prefer. Along with Battle and Jack, Potter remained in the game for the full 40 minutes.

“I’d love to get these guys to around 32 minutes a game,” Christian said. “That’s an optimal number for your top three or four guys, but we just have to keep working to get them there.”

Toro was limited to just six points and seven rebounds, down from his season averages of 9.9 and 10.9, respectively. Senior forward Chris Lewis, his Harvard counterpart who is similar in size and plays a strong game in the paint, ended the day with a team-high 22 points and six rebounds.

Christian said that despite the loss, he has seen improvement in the squad’s offensive production and ability to limit turnovers.

“I’m not sure a few weeks ago if we would have scored as many points,” Christian said. “We didn’t turn it over hardly at all, but we generated great offense, and if we’re able to do that and stay consistent, we’re in a great spot.”

The Colonials are back in action Saturday at the Smith Center to battle Longwood. Tip-off is slated for 4 p.m.

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