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Harvard falls to Stanford in season opener in Shanghai

Bryce Aiken had a strong game, but it was not enough.

Harvard v North Carolina Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Harvard Crimson entered the 2016-17 season with sky-high expectations, with one of the nation’s best recruiting classes in tow. But the season got off to an inauspicious start when the Crimson were overpowered by the Stanford Cardinal, 80-70, in both teams’ season openers in Shanghai, China.

The entire game was a contest of runs.

The two teams mostly stayed within a possession of one another until the 5:41 mark of the first half, when the Cardinal went up 21-15 after scoring six unanswered points. The Crimson trailed by two at the half.

Despite staying close, the Crimson never found an answer for Cardinal forward Reid Travis.

Travis, who missed 22 games last year with a stress reaction in his leg, was a man among the Crimson boys. The junior from Minneapolis flashed his experience in the second-half which widened the gap between the two teams.

On the night, Travis tallied a double-double with 24 points and 17 rebounds. 19 of those points came in the last 20 minutes.

During the first-half, the Crimson’s offense was poor, but their defense was phenomenal. Harvard barely shot 30 percent from the field and shot 29 percent from three, but held Stanford to 36 percent from the field without a three. However, while the Crimson’s shooting improved in the second half, their defense fell off.

The Cardinal scored nine out of the first 11 points in the period to go up 39-30. But Harvard was able to pull within three, 47-44, with 11:48 left in the game. The Crimson pulled to within two points of the Cardinal for a couple minutes following that, but then Harvard gave up a 10-2 run to fall behind 62-50 with under eight minutes left.

Harvard’s highly-touted freshman, four-star recruit Bryce Aiken, jump-started an 11-5 Crimson run after converting a pair of free throws. Then, senior captain Siyani Chambers got Harvard within six points, 67-61, but that was as close as Harvard got.

Although the final score didn’t reflect in Harvard’s favor, head coach Tommy Amaker and company should be pleased with the Crimson’s outing and excited for the rest of this season.

In his college debut, Aiken lit-up the scoreboard. The guard scored 21 points off the bench after going 5-of-15 from the field and 3-of-8 from behind the arc. Aiken wasn’t the only Crimson freshman to score in double figures in his collegiate debut. Rookies Henry Welsh and Chris Lewis both tallied 11 and 12 points, respectively, while Welsh was tied for the lead in rebounds with six. Altogether, Harvard’s freshmen accounted for 51 of its 70 total points.

The Crimson were mediocre from the field at 37 percent, but they struggled in the paint and beyond the arc. Harvard was outscored down low, 40 to 26, and only converted on four of 17 three-point attempts.

Harvard returns to action Thursday at home against Fisher College.