College Hoops In Beantown, 12/10/08
Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 11, 2008
Northeastern vs Harvard. A low-major collegiate basketball game. A drizzly Wednesday night. Why was Bob Ryan there? Why were we there? I asked someone who Ryan talked to for most of the half-time, “What’s Bob Ryan doing here?” Turns out he considered Bryant at BC – “interesting because of the Timmy O’Shea thing (local product, played and assistant coached at BC) but not going to be a game”. Thought about Yale at BU – “not going to be a game; Yale (2-6) is off to a bad start this year – ehhhh”. So, as it was for Commissioner Ryan it was for me and my wife and a couple basketball friends, a nice little crosstown collegiate basketball battle. A phone call to get the tickets, a quick drive and an easy park to see what promised (and proved) to be a very interesting game between two teams that really, really wanted to win.
The Northeastern Huskies came in 4-4 including an impressive win at Providence. The Crimson, meanwhile, were presenting evidence stating that the long road back to respectability was about to begin, 4-2. A good effort at Colorado and two road wins gave that notion credence. Northeastern is coached by long-time BC Assistant, Bill Coen, and Harvard, of course, by the big-time, big-name, Dukie Tommy Amaker; a couple of guys looking to build (in Amaker’s case) or resurrect (in Coen’s) programs. Northeastern is led by a nice scoring junior two-guard named Matt Janning who scored his 1000th point last night. (Fourth quickest to do so in illustrious Northeastern Basketball history.) They also have some nice big rebounders. Harvard is blending new talent (four frosh saw considerable time, two of who were pivotal actors) with some talent left over from the Frank Sullivan regime, primarily their leading scorer, Jeremy Lin (he of the undeniable first step) and a guy who looks like he’s in an Amaker doghouse, the previously effective, and de facto team leader point guard, Drew Housman.
Harvard played man-to-man the whole game and, surprisingly, never pressured the Huskies in the backcourt. Northeastern mixed defenses up by going 3-2 (3-2 match?) with mostly man-to-man. They spaced most of the Harvard perimeter players in the halfcourt. Offensively, Harvard ran lots of screens and some nice pin downs for shooters resulting in clutch baskets. Lin went strong to the hoop whenever he wanted. (The thought occurred to me that some offensive schemes that created more space and movement for Lin’s drives would be nice.) Freshman, Keith Wright, once toughened, will be a very nice player; had a couple nice left-hand finishes. Likewise, Max Kenyi, gave the impression through his hard work on defense on Janning and fearless forays to the hoop, that he has All-Ivy written all over him.
Seesaw game. Harvard dropped three three-pointers in the last 90 secs or so to force OT. Big Kenyi deflection/steal late got them the ball for the last three. End of OT saw Nkem Ojougboh of NU drop a two footer in over the rim to force the second extra frame with 2.7 seconds left. The 2nd OT had Northeastern get second chance points, take advantage of foul situation and they made their free throws. There was only one dunk in the game: Lin on a baseline drive. It was one of those nice surprise-you sort of dunks. Got the 343 fans’ attention.
Faces in the crowd: David Lang, 6’6″ redhead out of Darien CT who started a bunch of games for us in the late 80s. Had a sweet up-and-under move; Harry Parker, the John Wooden of college crew; Tom Mannix, outstanding guard for The Crimson in the late 70s, early 80s; Fran Connolly, big-time (Elite Eight of the NCAAs) referee and my former landlord who, early in his career did a bunch of our games; we never mentioned to anyone that I lived in the same house as him (and we never got calls from ’em!); Charlie Diehl, former assigner of officials when I was coaching. (Once called the Harvard AD on me, saying I was “out-of-control” with the officials; I was.) The aforementioned Bob Ryan, true basketball historian. My favorite columns of his are the ones from The Olympics.