RTC Live: Harvard @ ConnecticutPosted by mpatton on December 8th, 2011
RTC Live is back in Storrs tonight for one of the more interesting matchups between a regional mid-major and a powerhouse that you’ll ever find. Join us this evening for Harvard vs. Connecticut from Storrs, after the jump.
Game #50. Harvard gave Connecticut a scare in 2009, only losing by six at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs to the struggling Huskies. Last year, Harvard was a better team but so was Connecticut. The Huskies dominated the Crimson 81-52, allowing only the Crimson’s Brandyn Curry and Keith Wright to have good games (the two combined for 12-20 from the field for 28 points), while the rest of the rotation struggled mightily (6-40 from the field). Kemba Walker led the way for Connecticut, finishing with 20 points, but Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi were more efficient. This year, don’t expect the scoring margin to be that disparate. The Crimson are off to a historic start and are ranked in both Top 25 polls for the first time in school history. Tommy Amaker has extended the rotation to include several talented freshman, and Kyle Casey is finally healthy. Connecticut is still the more talented team, but the Huskies are much shorter on experience. They will need to stay focused all game. Harvard isn’t as athletic as Central Florida, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a similar game flow (Connecticut runs the lead out to double figures thanks to good defense, threes start falling for Harvard, and the game finishes very closely). The keys for Connecticut are to limit Harvard inside and force them to win from beyond the arc. On offense Connecticut should really try to take advantage of their athleticism. If it does, Harvard will be really hard-pressed to win, even at home. This is shaping up to be a great game (Connecticut is a 5.5 point favorite according to Vegas).
Connecticut and its athleticism proved to be too much for Harvard. Specifically, Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond were too much for the Crimson to handle. Drummond was a force most of the night, finishing with six rim-rocking dunks and setting the tone against Harvard’s leading scorer Keith Wright. Drummond and Lamb’s performances had Jim Calhoun raving after the game. It was clear he’s expected Drummond to break out like this since the beginning (as a side note, this was the first game Drummond played without the face mask). For Harvard, the offense was very good in stretches. Kyle Casey had a fairly solid game. For much of the first half, Harvard’s defense was good enough to make up for inconsistent offense, but three straight threes to start the second half put the Crimson on their backs. The atmosphere was terrific, which definitely affected Harvard’s ability to keep bouncing back from the Huskies’ runs. The loss certainly isn’t a death sentence for Harvard. The Crimson won’t see anyone near as athletic as Connecticut the rest of the season. They also played very well for the first half. As the freshmen continue improving, Harvard should improve with them. Tommy Amaker’s team may not quite be in the top 25 yet, but it’s very close. This is still a team that can win one or two games come March. Connecticut played very well in stretches: Ryan Boatright really helps spread the floor on offense, and there are very few teams athletic and big enough to match up against the team. But there were also mental lapses on both ends of the floor. It’s clear this team is still searching for a vocal leader. The prime candidate is Alex Oriakhi, who has struggled in the early goings. Until someone steps into this role, I think we can expect inconsistent play. But based on Jim Calhoun’s optimistic tone during the post-game conference, this team has the potential to be great.