Game Preview: Harvard at Dartmouth, Saturday 7PM

John Golden and Dartmouth look to hand Harvard its first Ivy loss as the Big Green defends its home court Saturday night. (Photo credit: dartmouthsports.com)

Fourteen days since their last meeting, No. 24 Harvard and

Dartmouth reunite on Saturday to run back a 63-47 Crimson victory. Not much has happened since Jan. 7th. Harvard played two games, wins over Monmouth and George Washington, and the Big Green won its only matchup against a lowly Longwood squad. Little change means little reason to expect a different outcome this time around, but if the first weekend of league play was any indication, sometimes these games are bananas.

In their meeting at Lavietes, Dartmouth gave the Crimson all it could handle for 30 minutes. The Big Green was the aggressor early on, collecting eight offensive rebounds and limiting Harvard to 25 offensive possessions with a tight zone defense in the first half. But the Crimson adjusted in the second period, finding Keith Wright on the interior and kicking to Oliver McNally and Laurent Rivard on the perimeter. The trio accounted for 26 second-half points, and Harvard closed out the game on a 36-13 run.

Big Green freshman Gabas Maldunas was as good as advertised, finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds, but he received little help from his classmates Jvonte Brooks and John Golden. A week later, that duo went gangbusters against the Lancers, racking up 16 and 17 points respectively. The Big Green cannot afford another no-show from its freshmen, who have garnered six Rookie of the Week honors, if it hopes to upset the Crimson.

Dartmouth has shown that it can contain Harvard on defense; its offense is the giant question mark. Juxtaposed against the Crimson’s precise ball movement, the Big Green’s offensive flaws were obvious. Dartmouth dribbles too much and ends most possessions in isolation sets. Without any great scorers, this approach is a problem. The Big Green needs to pick up as many cheap points—off turnovers, on put backs, at the free throw line—as it can because it will not win running its half-court offense.

Harvard will enter Saturday a little more relaxed after it found its groove against George Washington in a 69-48 win. The Crimson dominated on both ends from the opening tip, as it built a 33-13 halftime lead and coasted in the second frame. The Colonials seemed to play into Harvard’s hands with their aggressive man-to-man defense, which the Crimson threw into disarray by reversing the ball and finding the post. Harvard was typically sharp on the defensive end and held George Washington to three-of-20 shooting in the first half.

The win was too easy to provide much insight into this Crimson team, except for the emergence of freshman Steve Moundou-Missi. The first-year forward went a perfect seven-for-seven from the field, flushing dunks and popping jumpers, to finish tied for a game-best 16 points. The big lead enabled Amaker to give Moundou-Missi, as well as Wes Saunders and Jonah Travis, some valuable minutes off the bench and build a little confidence on the court.

The only personnel differences for Saturday’s game are the injuries to Harvard guards Christian Webster (hip) and Corbin Miller (thumb). With the Crimson’s soft January schedule (just two games between Jan. 10 and Jan. 27), it might make sense for Amaker to rest the two shooters for another game in order to have them fresh for the start of back-to-backs. In any case, given Webster’s season-long slump, the Crimson might be better off having the more efficient Rivard playing added minutes.

I haven’t seen enough over the last two weeks to predict a Dartmouth upset. Harvard will win, but I expect that Brooks and Golden show up this time around and make it interesting. The Crimson pulls away late, 60-50.

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