Tommy Amaker

Colorado’s second half run results in a missed opportunity for Harvard

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At halftime of their game at Colorado on Sunday afternoon, the Harvard Crimson had the look of a team poised to grab a needed resume-building victory. Leading 42-30, the Crimson executed well on both ends of the floor, finding quality shots offensively while limiting Colorado’s quality looks on the other end.

But as the Crimson began to wear down the Buffaloes were able to wrestle away control of the game with an 18-2 second half run, going on to win 70-62 with Spencer Dinwiddie leading four scorers in double figures with 17 points. But in the win there are concerns for Colorado moving forward, and with non-conference games against Kansas (December 7) and Oklahoma State (December 21 in Las Vegas) still yet to be played the Buffaloes’ execution on both ends needs to become more consistent.

Another concern going forward has to be the shooting of junior guard Askia Booker. Booker scored 12 points on Sunday but did so by shooting 5-for-15 from the field. And on the season he’s shooting 39.3%, and while that’s an improvement on his field goal percentage from a season ago (36.4%) Colorado won’t reach their full potential if Booker isn’t knocking down shots (and just as importantly, taking good shots) at a decent clip.

While Colorado picks up a solid win for their resume the same can’t be said for Harvard, and a look at their remaining non-conference schedule reveals just how important Sunday’s result was. Harvard still has games against Boston College and UConn, and their Great Alaska Shootout opener against Denver will be tougher than some realize. But there aren’t a high number of opportunities to land wins over teams from major conference remaining on the schedule. And if Harvard were to somehow not win the Ivy League that could be an issue for a team that has the look of a group capable of racking up a lot of wins this season.

The return of veterans Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry gives Harvard two talented players who earned All-Ivy honors before missing the entire 2012-13 season. Add them to a group of returnees from last season’s NCAA tournament squad, which includes guards Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard and forward Wesley Saunders, and the Crimson have the pieces needed to not only return to the NCAA tournament but also win a game once there.

But their non-conference schedule doesn’t give Harvard much room for error once Ivy League play begins in January. Harvard should win the Ivy League once again, but if they don’t that could mean trouble come Selection Sunday.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown:

Niang, Morris lead No. 14 Iowa State past No. 24 Texas

Iowa State forward Georges Niang drives past Texas guard Tevin Mack, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After falling at Texas Tech for the second straight season midweek, No. 14 Iowa State needed to bounce back with No. 24 Texas visiting Hilton Coliseum. The return of Jameel McKay, who was suspended for two games, certainly helped the Cyclones and the play of Georges Niang and Monte Morris was key as well. But the biggest difference on this night was the fact that Iowa State was able to limit the effectiveness of Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor.

 

Taylor scored just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field, and with Morris and Niang scoring 24 points apiece the Cyclones won by the final score of 85-75.

Taylor had multiple opportunities to make plays around the basket thanks to his ability to beat defenders off the bounce, but he struggled to finish. Add in a 0-for-4 night from three, and Texas’ most dangerous offensive option was unable to duplicate his performance in the first meeting between the two teams. In Texas’ 94-91 overtime win over the Cyclones January 12, Taylor scored 28 points and dished out six assists with just one turnover, shooting 11-for-17 from the field.

Four Longhorns finished in double figures, with Tevin Mack and Javan Felix scoring 18 apiece, but with Morris decisively winning the point guard matchup Texas was unable to pick up the win on the road.

For Iowa State the aforementioned tandem of Morris and Niang performed as they did in the first meeting, which should come as no surprise. What helped them, especially when it came to Texas attacking the basket, was the presence of McKay. McKay finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes of action, and to have their best interior defender back on the floor certainly helped the Cyclones on this night.

With their lack of depth Iowa State’s margin for error is small, especially when it comes to foul trouble, injuries and disciplinary reasons.¬†Even with Texas’ size advantage Iowa State outscored them in the paint 48-34, and McKay’s defensive ability factored into that. The Cyclones can put points on the board with the best of them, but at some point they’ll need to string together stops as the games get even bigger.

Iowa State managed to do that down the stretch, with Morris and Niang running the show offensively. And that’s a good formula to be able to rely upon as the season approaches its most important month.