I think somewhere Charles Dickens is a college basketball fan. And Sunday's game between Harvard and Colorado would be the Tale of Two Halves.
There was adversity, there was triumph, there was a lot more adversity, and finally a monumental collapse.
Yeah, that is the stuff that long-living classics are made of.
The Crimson just totally collapsed in the second half, scoring just 20 points after putting 42 on the board in the opening 20 minutes. They head to Alaska with a 70-62 loss to Colorado to drop them to 4-1 overall.
This one was plain ugly in the second half for the Crimson, and that was after a brilliant opening 20 minutes that saw them unable to miss from anywhere on the floor.
Let's break this down a little differently tonight. Let's look at the three goods and the three bads for the Crimson.
- Harvard finally figured out its 3-point shooting in the first half of the game, going 6-for-12 from deep as it built its lead. The legs wouldn't hold in the second half, but this has been a team that has struggled to hit the deep ball this season. Given that their interior presence is all of one player, they need to be hitting these longer shots to stay with taller opponents (like Colorado). The funny thing about this is that Harvard was doing really well on offensive rebounding partially because of their bad 3-point shooting. The Crimson was consistently getting long bounces. You have to wonder if that will change going forward.
- The man-to-man sets that Tommy Amaker put out there were highly effective against Colorado for much of the game. You can't prevent every basket, but when the Crimson were in man, it seemed that they were much more effective with staying with the Buffaloes and preventing easy shots.
- Steve Moundou-Missi may have just scored 11 points in this one, but he was the most effective player for the Crimson across the entire 40 minutes. He finished with nine boards, two steals and two blocks in addition to his scoring. His effort to get the ball inside in the second half is the only reason this game didn't end up being much worse for the Crimson.
- Where did the shooting go in the second half? This can't be the old getting tired trope that the announcers seemed to think was what ailed the Crimson. This was right out of the gate in the second half, and if Harvard is that weakly conditioned that they can't play more than 20 minutes and get a rest, and still fall flat, perhaps this isn't the great Ivy team that everyone is expecting this year. It was just brutal to watch them try in the second half, and a lot of this was that they stopped penetrating to the basket. They got caught by Colorado on defense and just couldn't get their guards inside and force the Buffalo bigs to either stop them or foul them (something that was very effective in the first 20). Because of the lack of penetration, the open men on the outside didn't materialize and Harvard was left taking more difficult shots in the second half.
- The 1-3-1 zone was just not working for Harvard. It might be the matchup against Colorado, but when Harvard swapped out of its man defense and went into the zone, they didn't have the ability to stick it to the Buffs. They were left scrambling to catch up and they couldn't effectively challenge. The swap has to be done every now and then for Harvard, or they are going to tire chasing around bigger teams, but they need something different against these teams that can more effectively get inside on them.
- And while we look at defense, the transition defense for Harvard just wasn't there. If there was a turnover, or a bad miss by its players, they were left wanting on the defensive end. There was no challenge. There was no get back and force a difficult decision. There was just a chase and usually a fruitless chase.
You can't be sure what was going on with the Crimson in the second half, but this was just not the team that established a double-digit lead on the Buffaloes. This team looked overmatched and as if it had the short bench common among mid-majors. This wasn't the deep team that is expected to win the Ivy League.
And it is no longer undefeated either.