It was Senior Night at Lavietes Pavilion, where the Crimson were expected to bring home one last win and extend their home winning streak to 29 games. It would have all but punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament, Harvard’s first trip to the Big Dance since 1946.
So why was Ivy Player of the Year, senior forward Keith Wright — the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer — sitting on the bench? Did I mention he is the reigning Ivy Player of the Year?
There’s really no excusable answer. Crimson coach Tommy Amaker elected to sit his veteran star, while playing two freshmen in the final minutes of an immensely important and close game.
“Coach had a lineup out there that he thought could win the game, and you’ve got to support that,” Wright told The Harvard Crimson after the game.
Good politics from Wright, but a bad excuse. The lineup that did win the game was the one with seasoned players, who knew how to win a close game.
Enter Tyler Bernardini.
The fifth-year senior, hobbled with a stress fracture in his foot, checked in with 3:46 remaining in the game — exactly when Wright was yanked for freshman shooter Corbin Miller.
It was Bernardini, as we all now know, who took the critical charge in the game’s final seconds, negating Harvard’s go-ahead basket and securing Penn’s win. Would Fran Dougherty have had the wherewithal to step and plant in front of the driving Kyle Casey? Would Henry Brooks? Perhaps, but that’s a play you can only count on experience to make.
“We’ve played so many close games,” Bernardini told Comcast SportsNet after the game. “We’d definitely like to win a few more by a wider margin but we know how to win these games and I think that’s because of how old we are and that we’ve been through as many wars as we’ve been through.”
Harvard basketball coach Tommy Amaker has established himself as an excellent recruiter. His current Crimson team — from the freshman Saunders to the senior Wright — is clear evidence of this.
He has not, however, established himself as a great in-game coach. In six years at Michigan he never led the Wolverines to an NCAA tournament. He’s still looking to do so at Harvard, and though he and the Crimson had a chance to seal the deal Saturday night, Penn snuck out of Lavietes Paivilion with a one-point win.
On the other end of the scorer’s table was Penn’s Jerome Allen. While Amaker has been a Division I coach for nearly 25 years, Allen is in his third season coaching. His reputation as a player is first rate. His reputation as a coach — both as a recruiter and game manager — is still to be written.
In the final minutes of Penn’s upset, though, Allen was wise to rely on his star seniors Zack Rosen and Bernardini, even a crippled Bernardini. Allen, the rookie, thoroughly outcoached the veteran Amaker.
CALDER SILCOX is a senior science, technology and society major from Washington, D.C., and is a former senior sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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