STORRS, Conn. -- Nationally ranked for the first time in program history, the Harvard Crimson fell 67-53 to UConn Thursday night. Here are three quick thoughts off the landmark night:
1. Harvard: Legit team with a glass ceiling. The Crimson held their poise for the full 40 minutes and looked very comfortable on offense for stretches of the game, but their talent isn't quite good enough to win at this level yet. Harvard came into the game believing that it could do some damage inside against the Huskies, but for the second year in a row, Ivy League Player of the Year Keith Wright was mostly ineffective. Against any team that can man up on Wright, the Crimson will struggle to score enough to win. Without a credible inside scoring threat, Harvard's guards had less room to operate and were not the caliber of players who can consistently create their own shots against top-25 competition. They create open shots with ball fakes and ball movement, but with Wright handled comfortably inside without having to be doubled, that closed down the perimeter space and led to Harvard shooting just 7-21 from the arc.
2. Ryan Boatright gives UConn a lot more options. UConn had some of its better moments tonight with three-guard alignments, and Boatright's ability to get to the basket off the dribble is a nice complement to what Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier bring to the table. Much like how Napier spelled Kemba Walker at the point last season -- a move that helped him be effective in long minutes down the stretch of the season -- Boatright can do the same thing by taking on some of the primary ball-handling role and create offense against the shot clock, which is crucial for a UConn team that's still searching for a consistent half-court identity. Boatright's numbers (11 points, three assists and two rebounds) were solid, but his availability for 25 minutes helped make Lamb's and Napier's 37 minutes more effective. UConn should be able to play its best guards longer now because the demands on them at the offensive end will be lessened.
3. Huskies' frontcourt: Too nice? This Jim Calhoun quote is pretty telling: "I liked Andre [Drummond]'s scores tonight: six dunks, 12 points. That's one of the best stats we've had all year. We don't want finesse." The biggest hurdle for UConn to reach the level its talent suggests may be that its frontcourt guys are actually nice guys. That's not to say they have been ineffective to this point -- the Huskies entered tonight second in the nation in blocked shot rate and third-stingiest in free-throw rate, meaning they block and alter a ton of shots without fouling. But when a coach is harping on physicality and admiringly using the word "domination" to help describe his team's defensive effort, it suggests the undertones of congeniality. The Big East this season isn't as good as it has been, but that doesn't mean it will be any less physical. Against teams like Syracuse, Louisville, Marquette, Pitt, etc., nice may not cut it.
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