Moral victory for Harvard? That’s not a bad thing vs. UConn

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Connecticut’s defense gave Harvard a glimpse of what life in the Top 25 is like. But Tommy Amaker’s OK with that.

“Last year we didn’t belong on the court with them,” Amaker said. “Tonight was different.”

For 25 minutes, at least.

Thursday’s 67-53 loss to the Huskies was a far cry from last season’s 81-52 whipping when the offense couldn’t miss, the defense was dominant and the Crimson couldn’t do much of anything. This year, Harvard played much better, particularly in first-half spurts where the offense was patient against the long, aggressive UConn defense. The Huskies weren’t exactly sharp on offense either.

But a couple Harvard lapses – early in the second half and with five minutes left — were enough for UConn to pull away (and with Keith Wright not bringing it). It’s not a surprise given the talent gap between the two teams. Just ask Jim Calhoun.

“The first 12 minutes we played poorly then we turned up the defense and the last 5 minutes of the first half we let them back in,” the Connecticut coach said. “In the second half we started to show better and better. Defensively we dominated them.”

He’d be correct. The Crimson’s 43 percent eFG was 10 points lower than UConn’s, and they were also outrebounded and had more turnovers.

That’s exactly what Calhoun expects of his defense. How do you think he won that third NCAA title last season, anyway?

Still, none of that distressed Amaker too much. His team remains one of the season’s best non-BCS squads and seems bound to break that long NCAA tournament drought.

“I was pleased with the effort from our team and I felt we hung in there for the first 20 minutes,’’ Amaker said. “We didn’t get much of anything easy around the basket, which is probably going to happen to a lot of teams when they face this basketball team with their size and athleticism.’’

He’s got that right. On all counts.

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