Three Thoughts: Providence 76, Harvard 64

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – You may have been distracted by the Kris Dunn Show Saturday night, and what a show it was. Seven steals in the first half, 25 points in the second and a stat line that needed a triple-take: 32 points, 8 steals, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. And Tommy Amaker said afterward he was most impressed with his defense.

While the Dunn Show was certainly worth the price of admission, especially as he took over in the second half, there was another team on the floor with him, and young Harvard did some pretty good things despite falling in the end. The Crimson were actually playing their second game in as many days, shaking off MIT 59-39 after a slow start Friday night.

So what have we learned about Harvard so far? Here are a few things:

Game 5: Harvard at Providence – Yea, let’s see you make a pun out of Edosomwan. #TMMLegacy

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  1. The youngsters have potential

It remains to be seen what will happen when scouting reports across the Ivy League are edited and revised before January, but freshman Corey Johnson is 8-of-15 from behind the arc already this season and fellow frosh Tommy McCarthy did not look scared, even when faced with the aforementioned Mr. Dunn, even if he finished 2-13 from the field. Johnson and McCarthy look like the starting backcourt this season, so they’ll have to lean on the fly.

Harvard will be a little discouraged by 22 turnovers, 14 in the first half, but it’s worth noting that exactly a year ago, the Crimson posted 24 turnovers in a 58-57 loss to Holy Cross in Boston and were eventually able to figure it out. McCarthy “only” had four turnovers and Johnson two, and the big change in that area (Harvard was a solid but not great 127th in turnover rate last season at 18.4%) will come in the frontcourt, where Wesley Saunders (17.2%) and Steve Moundou-Missi (16.6%) had outstanding turnover rates.

The Crimson were 325th nationally in adjusted tempo and don’t figure to play too much faster this season, so they will have to take care of the ball. Luckily, Kris Dunn won’t be running around picking off passes the rest of the way.

“He (Dunn) is sensational and complete as you can ask for in a backcourt player,” Amaker said. “I’m very impressed with his defense, to be honest. He’s strong, he’s quick and he reads passing lanes so well. Looking at our stat line, I think the 22 turnovers was key in us not being able to hang in there the whole way.”

2) Harvard needs Zena Edosomwan on the court

Edosomwan has been able to play a supporting role in his first two seasons in Cambridge, but he’ll need to be a star this season. He showed some of his potential Saturday, scoring 13 points and adding 16 rebounds against a Big East opponent in 31 minutes. Edosomwan posted a whopping 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes last season, which wasn’t that big a deal because he wasn’t playing that many minutes anyway.
But now needed on the floor and new freedom of movement rules in effect, the pressure is on Edosomwan.

He passed a big test against Providence, though. After picking up three fouls in the first half, Edosomwan was able to avoid picking up his fourth foul by playing smart as Harvard stayed in the game until Dunn did his thing and put the game away. It was a positive step after picking up three fouls in just 17 minutes against MIT.

“We talked about wanted to trust him (Edosomwan),” Amaker said. “Sometimes you can just pull a kid and that’s hard, too. But he’s got to grow through it, he has to learn how to play with foul trouble. And it was a good opportunity to see if he could do it, he was more disciplined and smarter in the second half, and that was a positive tonight.”

3) Harvard’s depth might be a big question

One of the reasons Edosomwan has to stay on the floor is there isn’t much experience behind him. Next in line, at least early, is sophomore Canadian Chris Egi, who played just 45 minutes last season. Otherwise Amaker has to mix and match with a smaller lineup. Matt Fraschilla had been serving as the backup point guard and he left Saturday’s game with a knee injury. Corbin Miller is a veteran who can play just about anywhere, but after that, the Crimson lack any kind of experience from their bench.

“I thought we really competed. We gave a great effort. Dunn is a great player, and he was a little too much for us, but I thought we really competed. We weren’t as smart as we needed to be at the offensive end for some of the silly turnovers, but hopefully that will come,” Amaker said.

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