Given their overall non-conference schedule and the strength of it, Harvard’s games at Colorado and UConn were contests circled by many as important games for the Crimson. Why? Tommy Amaker’s team has the talent to merit an at-large berth, and a win in either (or both) of those games likely would have given Harvard the resume-building result that could help in that regard should they not win the Ivy League.
Having already lost to Colorado in late November, Wednesday night’s game in Storrs became a bit more important for Harvard. And with that being the case, leading scorer Wesley Saunders sitting out with a sore knee didn’t help Harvard at all. Averaging 15.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, Saunders had the skill needed to challenge a UConn front court that has struggled for much of this season. Without Saunders the Crimson executed well in the first half but that wasn’t the case in the second, as they shot just 26.7% from the field in what would turn into a 61-56 defeat.
Neither team shot well in the second half, with both defenses making things difficult. But with Shabazz Napier finally getting going (scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half) and an 11-point edge at the foul line, UConn was able to do just enough to turn around a five-point halftime deficit. And defensively UConn was able to limit Harvard players outside of Siyani Chambers, who scored 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
Clearly Tommy Amaker has a talented team capable of not only reaching the NCAA tournament but winning once there, just as they did last season. But the question is whether or not they’ll be able to put together the resume needed in case they don’t win the Ivy League. After Wednesday the Crimson are projected to play just two more Top 100 games this season per realtimerpi.com, with both games coming against Princeton.
Would a split of those two games while winning the others be enough to keep Harvard on the at-large radar? That’s a tough question to answer, and in that scenario it’s likely that they’d have to deal with a one-game Ivy playoff as well. While difficult to look that far ahead, Harvard’s situation illustrates the importance of these games to programs that don’t play in “power” conferences.
While “power” conference teams get numerous opportunities to pick up resume-building wins, those chances are nowhere near as plentiful for teams on the outside looking in. With this being the case, one can only wonder what Harvard could have done Wednesday night with a healthy Saunders on the floor.
Two of the best guards in the country went absolutely bananas on Tuesday night as Iona senior A.J. English and Davidson junior Jack Gibbs had huge nights.
English dropped 46 points and went 13-for-19 from the 3-point line as the Gaels raced past Fairfield. The Iona star went 15-for-25 from the field and also had eight assists in the win.
Not to be outdone, Gibbs started Davidson’s game against Charlotte by going 14-for-14 from the field. Finishing 14-for-17 for the game, Gibbs had 25 points by halftime and 39 points at the under-12-minute timeout in the second half before deferring to teammates in a blowout win.
Steph Curry and his parents were at the game watching Davidson play as Gibbs became the first Wildcat to go for 40 since the former NBA MVP in 2009.
The 40-point efforts for both English and Gibbs were the first of their college basketball careers, and given the way both have scored the past two seasons, it’s not out of the question that this could happen again.
Michigan 66, N.C. State 59: Playing without starting point guard Derrick Walton Jr. in the second half, the Wolverines still played well enough to win on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Caris LeVert played a tremendous overall floor game to finish with 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while Duncan Robinson came off the bench to hit five 3-pointers and finish with 17 points.
A.J. English, Iona: Iona was able to run past Fairfield as the senior guard had 46 points and made 13 3-pointers in the win. English also tallied eight assists as he went 15-for-25 from the field and 13-for-19 from 3-point range.
Jack Gibbs, Davidson: The junior guard had 25 points by halftime and he went 14-for-14 before finally missing a field goal in the second half. Gibbs finished with 41 points in total in the win over Charlotte as he was 14-for-17 from the field.
Robert Hatter, Cornell: The junior guard helped the Big Red to a win over Siena as Hatter had 32 points and six assists to go along with three rebounds and three steals.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: The Hoyas earned an easy home win over Maryland-Eastern Shore as the senior guard went for 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- Another big game for Wayne Selden Jr. as he had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists to lead No. 4 Kansas to a big win over Loyola (MD). In his debut, Cheick Diallo went 6-for-8 from the field for 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
- Abdel Nader had 21 points and Jameel McKay had 15 points and 19 rebounds to lead No. 5 Iowa State past North Dakota State.
- No. 8 Villanova won a road game in Philly as they defeated Saint Joseph’s, 86-72. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart each finished with 18 points while Ryan Arcidiacono had 17 points.
- Virginia was able to win on the road at Ohio State without London Perrantes as Malcolm Brogdon had 22 points and six rebounds. The Buckeyes have lost four consecutive games.
OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS
- Quality blowout win for Florida as they easily dispatched Richmond. John Egbunu finished with 17 to pace the Gators while Dorian Finney-Smith had nine points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.
- Northwestern outlasted Virginia Tech in overtime as Bryant McIntosh had 19 points and Tre Demps finished with 17.
- Georgia Tech defeated Wofford at home as Adam Smith led with 16 points for the Yellow Jackets.
- Georgia needed 23 points from J.J. Frazier and 21 points from Yante Maten to outscore Oakland in a close win.
- Moses Kingsley had 21 points and 10 rebounds as Arkansas ran past Northwestern State.
- B.J. Tyson had 15 points and nine rebounds to help lead East Carolina past Florida Atlantic.
- Nice win for William & Mary over Old Dominion as Omar Prewitt had 18 points and seven rebounds.
- Ohio got past Marshall as guard Jaaron Simmons had 25 points, six assists and five rebounds.
- Shane Rector had the game-winning free throws to lead Utah State over Missouri State.
- Arkansas-Little Rock got a win over Central Arkansas as Marcus Johnson Jr. had 28 points.
- Aaron Cosby had 26 points and went 8-for-15 from the field to lead Western Kentucky to a win over Eastern Kentucky.
- D.J. Balentine had 26 points and eight assists as Evansville ran by Alabama State.
- UMKC had a home win over Tennessee-Martin as Martez Harrison had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists.
- Belmont had 22 points from Taylor Barnette and 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists from Evan Bradds as they beat Lipscomb.