Crimson staff writer
Men’s Basketball Gets Back on Track With Home Win Over Columbia, Remaining Alive in the Postseason Hunt
CAMBRIDGE — As freshman guard Evan Nelson raced down the floor with senior captain Mason Forbes trailing right behind, the Harvard crowd jumped out of its seat in anticipation of yet another highlight reel dunk. A lob off the backboard followed by an emphatic slam cemented Friday night’s 62-54 victory over Columbia (4-19, 1-10 Ivy), bringing cheer back to Lavietes following a three game skid.
The Crimson men’s basketball team returned to Lavietes Pavilion this Friday hoping to re-establish the home court advantage it enjoyed prior to the winter break. Unfortunately for Harvard, the Penn Quakers had other ideas, claiming a 78-74 victory.
As the stands in Lavietes Pavilion were filling up, concessions were being sold prior to tip-off, and the sound of basketballs bouncing during warmups controlled the audio in the pavilion, a sense of normalcy was restored. Tuesday's regular season home opener marked the return of Harvard men’s basketball for the first time in 612 days.
For a team as geographically diverse as the men’s basketball team, it is always fascinating to see whether the incoming recruiting class adds to the vast spectrum of hometowns already on the team. This year’s freshman class did just that, contributing yet another place to the Ontarios and Californias corresponding to almost half of the roster. This year’s freshman class included a state that surprisingly enough has not been seen under the “hometown” column since the 2010-11 season.
Embodying the “next man up” mentality, Rio Haskett stepped up and made it his responsibility to navigate the offense. The total team effort by the Crimson led them to pulling away 77-69 to earn a win on the first leg of their New York trip.
Although it wasn’t pretty, the close finish was certainly a crucial learning experience for a team loaded with young talent.
In some ways, the seniors have fulfilled all of the expectations that were placed on the group, which 247 Sports’ Composite Team Rankings regarded as the 25th-best recruiting class in the nation. They have won at least a share of the Ivy League title in consecutive years and last season advanced to the second round of the NIT for the first time in program history. But one achievement is missing: an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Recording its fifth 20-win season in program history, the Crimson has its sights set on the 2020 season, where a majority of the players will be returning to fight for the NCAA tournament bid.