Commentary

Harvard takes it to BC

Aggressive play leaves Eagles flat-footed

Updated: December 10, 2009, 2:34 AM ET
By Brian MacPherson | Special to ESPNBoston.com

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Harvard already had Boston College on the ropes in the second half Wednesday night, but playmaking guard Jeremy Lin made sure to find forward Keith Wright in the huddle during the first official timeout.

"If you roll hard, I'm going to find you," Lin said.

Wright rolled hard. Lin found him -- and he picked his spots to keep the ball for himself, too. Either Lin or Wright scored 18 of their team's 21 points during a second-half run in which the Crimson turned a three-point deficit into a seven-point lead they'd never relinquish.

Lin finished the game with 25 points. Wright finished the game with a career-high 21. Harvard shot 57.1 percent in the second half and rolled to a 74-67 win, its second upset at Conte Forum in as many tries.

"That's what we did, that teamwork, that chemistry," Wright said.

Boston College had no answer.

"There was no recognition on our part," BC coach Al Skinner said. "We knew what we wanted to do, and we did not execute it. On top of that, you've got to give Lin some credit. He's a good player. But the fact of the matter is that we didn't defend it as well as we should have, and I was really disappointed in our response. We did not attack the ball as well as we should have."

It wasn't just about the BC guards failing to chase down Lin. It wasn't just about the forwards failing to step out on Lin quickly enough or roll with Wright strong enough. It was about all five players on the court failing to recognize and defend a fairly simple pick-and-roll over and over and over.

The Eagles picked out their man and stuck with their man. If Wright got free underneath off a screen, no one jumped in his way. If someone jumped in his way, no one scrambled into the lane to pick up the pair of hands that had come free.

If Lin took the ball to the basket himself, no one did anything about that, either.

"We all kind of had tunnel vision," BC forward Joe Trapani said. "We were just focused on our own guy, glued to our own guy. When they would do the ball screen, somebody would be open -- either Lin going to the basket or one of their guards slashing to the basket would drop it off to [Wright], who killed us down low."

Said Skinner, "We just didn't see the play develop. That part was disappointing, that we didn't see the play develop. It wasn't like it was something new. We should have had a better feel for what we wanted to do. We talked about it and we talked about it, but we just didn't execute it."

It didn't take Harvard long to pick up on that.

Lin, after all, scored 27 points against Boston College a year ago and hung 30 on Connecticut less than a week ago. When the 6-foot-3 guard drove into the lane, the entire defense collapsed down on him.

Late in the first half, with the Crimson storming back, the Eagles triple-teamed Lin in the lane only to see him drop a pass for Pat Magnarelli.

The next time Harvard came down the floor, Lin did it all himself, driving the lane and draining a floater in the face of 6-10 center Josh Southern.

"We tried to get more aggressive, use their bigs in a lot more ball screens," Lin said. "We were just trying to get good shots. We knew that if we dragged their bigs out, that would open a lot up for us. We had shooters on the outside that they couldn't really leave, and we had the big guys who were rolling -- and Keith, obviously, with the career high, was being a beast down there."

The trend has become alarming: BC simply cannot defend guards who can slash to the basket. Lin hit only one 3-pointer -- a bomb of a 3-pointer to snap a 14-0 run for BC in the first half -- and did the rest of his damage either at the rim or at the free-throw line.

But he was only the latest guard to torch the Eagles' perimeter defenders. Miami's Evan Grant scored 13 second-half points on Sunday to spark a late rally. Michigan's Manny Harris hit just one of his six 3-point attempts but still scored 19 points thanks to his ability to get to the rim. Providence's Sharaud Curry turned a rout into a nail-biter with his 20 points. Northern Iowa's Kwadzo Ahelegbe hit 14 of his 17 shots against the Eagles -- and just three of them were 3-pointers.

Playmaking guards are feasting on the Eagles.

"We're going to have to regroup," Trapani said. "Miami and Harvard today got their hands on us, and they were very aggressive. Instead of meeting their intensity, we kind of backed off and let them dictate how the game went in the second half.

"They got comfortable and started making shots. We're going to have to change some things."

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