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The Harvard-UMass game has, for a few years now, been the marquee New England matchup, with each of the last two games coming down to the final possession.
On Tuesday night, Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge had the same atmosphere as the previous two bouts, complete with a raucous crowd of mostly UMass supporters filling Harvard’s home gym. In the end, however, UMass (2-0) earned Bay State bragging rights with a 69-63 victory on the road over Harvard (1-2).
A defensive battle began from the tip-off as both teams struggled to make a shot in the game’s opening minutes (the teams finished a combined 38% from the floor). Despite ice-cold shooting from behind the arc (0 for their first 8, and 5 for 27 in the game), the Crimson kept pace with the Minutemen throughout the first half. UMass guard Jabarie Hinds played the half of his life, scoring 20 of his game-high 22 points in the first frame, and led UMass to a four-point lead at the break.
UMass began the second half on an 8-0 run and eventually pushed the lead to 15 points. Zena Edosomwan (18 points and 15 rebounds) and junior sharpshooter Corbin Miller (11 points) led the Crimson back, while freshman starters Johnson and McCarthy – who had played well in Harvard’s first two games but could not buy a bucket vs. UMass – sat on the bench. Five straight points from Edosomwan brought Harvard within four, finally giving the outnumbered Harvard fans something to cheer about.
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Then, just as Harvard had taken command of the game’s momentum with less than five minutes to play, head coach Tommy Amaker pulled Harvard’s hot hand, Corbin Miller, and reinserted highly touted freshmen Corey Johnson and Tommy McCarthy. After 15 minutes of sitting on the bench, however, Johnson and McCarthy could not find their rhythm, and Harvard’s comeback sputtered.
The Crimson struggled to score from the outside for the next few minutes, and when Corbin Miller reentered the game with under a minute to go, it was too late. Trey Davis (13 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists) and Jabarie Hinds, who were tremendous all night for UMass, sealed the deal with two late points each, and UMass handed Harvard a rare home loss.
The game was an early-season confidence-booster for UMass coach Derek Kellogg and his Minutemen. On the other side, Harvard players were certainly shaking their heads after this one, realizing that even on a night when two of their best shooters went cold (freshmen McCarthy and Johnson shot a combined 1 for 18), the Crimson came close to pulling it out.
Any team with two freshman starters knows there will be bumps in the road, and this game was certainly one of them for Harvard. The Crimson hopes to get back on track next Sunday against Boston College at the Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill.