Tag Archives: Tommy Amaker

New England Basketball Notebook: Harvard Shines In Season-Opener

Men's Basketball between the Harvard Crimson and the Columbia Lions

Bryce Aiken and the Harvard University men’s basketball team are motivated to return to the NCAA Tournament this upcoming season. (PHOTO COURTESY: David Dermer/Harvard Athletics)

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

For Harvard University, Tuesday’s 84-27 victory over MIT was an ideal way to begin a new season, but also an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum heading into an important non-conference clash on Friday with Northeastern University.

Multiple Crimson players contributed on both ends of the floor against the Engineers, including first-year forward Chris Ledlum, who recorded his first collegiate double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Christian Juzang netted 12 points, while classmate Chris Lewis stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one block.

Harvard’s 57-point victory margin matched the 1945-46 team, which established the mark with their win over Northeastern.

While it certainly was an impressive start to their 2019-20 campaign, Harvard, as well as their coach Tommy Amaker, know they have more work to do in order to accomplish their preseason goals. And one of those goals, according to senior guard Bryce Aiken, is to return to the NCAA Tournament, something the Crimson have not done since 2015.

Harvard has come close to returning to the ‘big dance,’ but has fallen short the past three seasons in the Ivy League tournament. Additionally, they saw their run toward a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) title conclude twice within the past two years, including this past March when they lost a heartbreaker in the second round to North Carolina State University.

But despite falling short of accomplishing past preseason goals or winning tournaments and championships, Aiken remains optimistic. He believes this year’s crew can “make history,” and from what fans witnessed the other evening against MIT, perhaps the senior guard believes this year’s squad is truly capable of not just winning an Ivy League conference tournament but challenging other teams from across the country for the ultimate prize, a national championship. 

“The biggest motivation for us as seniors (this year) is leaving with a bang, man,” said senior Bryce Aiken, who elected to return to campus for one more season after initially entering his name for the 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft last April.

“We haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament, so that is the biggest motivating factor for us.”

Added Juzang, “It’s been three years of all of us (for) things you can look at and you can call motivation (from) the Ivy League championship games, the NC State game, and we could point to a bunch of different things, but I think the biggest thing is (we’re) internally driven, not getting pushed around by the expectations and whatnot.”

The expectations, as both the coaches and student-athletes know, is rather high for a team that is scheduled to face some stiff competition this month against Northeastern, University at Buffalo, and Texas A&M. Harvard could also face the University of Maryland this month, too – they would need to beat the Aggies of Texas A&M in the opening round of the Orlando Invitational, which is scheduled to commence on Thanksgiving Day.

Weeks after competing in the Orlando Tournament, Harvard will commence conference play in mid-to-late January against Dartmouth College before ending the month with a visit to the University of Pennsylvania, which opened its 2019-20 season with an 81-80 win over the University of AlabamaPenn lost to Harvard last March in the Ivy League semifinals but was picked second in the conference preseason poll.

Yet, before Harvard worries about Dartmouth, Penn, and other future foes, they will keep their focus on Northeastern, a team that beat the Crimson last November, thanks to a game-high 35 points by Jordan Rolland. Rolland will certainly be a player the Crimson will need to slow down in order to pick-up their second win of the season, but from a quick glance at this year’s roster, Harvard is loaded with talent to slow down their opponents’ top players, and will certainly receive a boost from an impressive and hard-working first-year class.

Amaker praised his freshman class, which was ranked 38th nationally, according to 247Sports.com. All five newcomers logged time on Tuesday against MIT and have seemed to adapt to the college game quite well it seems.

“I have been impressed with our first-years,” said Amaker during the team’s media day last Friday. “This is a tough-minded group. They are physical – you look at who they are (with their) bodies and (what) they are capable of taking in … they have been durable, but they have been very (impressive) with their durability, dependability, and then fitting in.

“Our future is good hands with this first-year class.”

No matter who is on the floor Friday and later this season – Aiken, Ludlum, Juzang, sophomore Noah Kirkwood or seniors Seth Towns and Henry Welsh – Harvard is expected to compete and play some impressive basketball that should translate into more wins and an exciting 2019-20 season.

News and Notes from New England: 

  • Andrew Fleming became the 31st player in the University of Maine men’s basketball program to net 1,000 points as the senior helped the Black Bears defeat Merrimack College, 84-64, on Wednesday evening. Fleming, who was named a preseason America East All-Conference honoree, recorded 37 points and 10 rebounds against the Warriors to go along with five assists and two blocks.
  • Keep your eyes on the Saint Anselm College women’s basketball team this weekend – the Hawks, who were picked to finish atop the Northeast-10 Conference will tip-off Saturday, November 9th against Bloomfield College at 6:30 p.m. After facing the Bears, the Hawks will cap their weekend with a late Sunday afternoon contest against the University of Bridgeport.

    Senior Shannon Ryan will be one of many student-athletes to watch on the Hawks this winter. Ryan recorded a double-double of 29 points and 18 rebounds last weekend against Bishop’s University.

  • WPI, which secured the fourth spot in our New England D-III Men’s Basketball Top 10 Preseason Poll, tips-off its season against ninth-ranked Brandeis University on Friday. Both teams are two squads to watch this winter – the Engineers were picked to capture the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), while Brandeis is expected to continue its success from last year under second-year coach Jean Bain.
  • Finally, make sure to read Bob Whitney‘s first column, Around The Rim – I am very excited to have Bob join our team this winter to produce some additional basketball content. Bob has covered the college and high school game for years and will be a great addition to our Noontime Sports staff.

D3 Basketball Notebook: Clark-Worcester Set To Tip-Off At Midnight

NS BBALL NOTEBOOK

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11) 

A brand new season of New England Division III basketball is set to tip-off tomorrow morning – in fact, it will be an early morning clash, to be exact, between Clark and Worcester State.

For the third-straight season, the Cougars and Lancers will meet a minute after midnight to compete for that initial win of the season.

Last year, the Cougars edged the Lancers, 77-74, thanks to a late triple from Luca McCormick, who concluded the contest three of eight from beyond the arc.

McCormick returns this season – he is a junior small forward – and will certainly be one of many players to watch on the Cougars this season. Additionally, keep an eye on senior John Pisacreta, who led the Red and White with 12.2 points per game.

Clark graduated a trio of seniors that paced the teams in rebounds, but perhaps McCormick will be a player to watch on the glass this winter.

Worcester State, which was chosen to finish fifth in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) this season, will be led by Cal Howes, who was honored four times last season as rookie of the week. Howes competed in 27 games last year (stared in seven) and averaged nine points per contest. He tallied 244 points, while pulling down 59 rebounds (51 defensive caroms).

Following their early morning meeting, Worcester State will head to Babson College this weekend for the Babson Invite – will include Babson, Endicott and Regis – while Clark will  compete in the NYU Tournament in New York City. The Cougars’ initial game of the tournament will be against Haverford on Saturday, November 18th at 9:30 p.m.

Larry Anderson and the MIT men’s basketball season begin their New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) title defense later tomorrow – 7 p.m., to be exact – when they welcome Bridgewater State to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Engineers competed in the annual MIT-Harvard game last Friday, but came up short against Tommy Amaker‘s Crimson. Harvard defeated MIT, 73-64, but the Engineers provided the Crimson offense and defense with some challenges in both halves.

“They beat us,” Anderson said shortly after his team’s nine-point setback to Harvard. “It’s an exhibition game for us and a regular season game for them, but I just thought in some areas we competed well, (while) other areas we were disappointed in … I was hoping we would (have) done a little bit better (from looking at the post-game stats).”

Harvard’s Seth Towns netted a game-high 20 points, while MIT received 17 points from Bradley Jomard. According to Anderson, Jomard will certainly be a player that will help the Engineers this season, especially in conference games against Babson, Springfield and WPI.

“Brad brings a lot to us. Being a 6’6″ point guard, he can guard one through five on the defensive side of the basketball and (for his height) he is a pretty smooth ball handler,” said Anderson.

“(Brad) fills the stat sheet, but even the things that don’t show up in the stat sheet that we always talk about, getting yourself in the invisible newspaper is doing things that don’t show up in the stat sheet, and he brings that level of calmness that we really covet.”

Look for Jomard to have a big impact on the Engineers this season, who will also receive contributions from AJ JurkoTim RobertsIan Hinkley and Cameron Korb.

Following their opening day tilt with the Bears of Bridgewater State, the Engineers will host Eastern Nazarene on Saturday before visit Tufts University next Tuesday, November 21 at 7 p.m. The Engineers will conclude the month of November with games against Keene State, Salem State and UMass Boston. Keene State and Salem State both advanced to last season’s NCAA Division III Tournament.

The Husson women’s basketball team was picked to captured the North Atlantic Conference (NAC), while Castleton and Colby-Sawyer checked in second and third, respectively.

Husson, which is led by coach Kissy Walker, is optimistic about the upcoming season, but also believes they have what it takes to contend for a conference crown, especially after capturing it the past two seasons.

“We have high expectations,” Walker explained in her team’s season-preview video.

The Eagles collected six first-place votes in the NAC preseason poll, while Castleton garnered a trio of votes. Colby-Sawyer earned one first-place nod.

Kenzie Worcester will certainly be one of many Husson players to watch on this year’s squad.

The Eagles will head to Williamstown this weekend to compete against St. Lawrence on Saturday (Nov. 18th) before facing Williams on Sunday, November 19th. The Eagles’ home-opener is set for Tuesday, November 28th when they host Thomas (Maine) at 5:30 p.m.


Games to Watch on Opening Day: If you’re up early – or perhaps late – make sure to check-out Clark-Worcester State at 12:01 a.m., but here are a few games I’ll be keeping an eye on tomorrow evening.

Brandeis at Roger Williams, 5:30 p.m. (Women’s Basketball)
Southern Maine at University of New England, 5:30 p.m. (Women’s Basketball)
Western New England at Springfield, 6 p.m. (Women’s Basketball)
Keene State at Southern Vermont, 7 p.m. (Men’s Basketball)
Brandies at Suffolk, 7 p.m. (Men’s Basketball)
Bridgewater State at MIT, 7 p.m. (Men’s Basketball)
Lasell at Babson, 7:30 p.m. (Men’s Basketball)
Western New England at Springfield College, 8 p.m. (Men’s Basketball)


The Noontime Sports Basketball Podcast (Episode One)Matt Noonan chats with John  Cabral on the first-ever edition of the Noontime Sports Basketball Podcast about the upcoming season, as well as what he expects from both Babson College and UMass Dartmouth this winter.

RECAP: Second Half Surge, Strong Defensive Play Carries Harvard Past MIT, 59-39

Harvard Crimson Logo

By Matt Noonan 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard commenced its 2015-16 men’s basketball season with a 59-39 victory over MIT on Friday evening, but the team’s initial win didn’t come easily.

MIT kept pace with its Massachusetts Avenue neighbor, trailing by six-points (25-19) at the break, but Harvard responded with a 25-9 run in the second half to push ahead for good.

Harvard freshman Tommy McCarthy led all scorers with 12 points, netting nine points in the second session, while senior Agunwa Okolie finished with 10 points.

As a team, the Crimson converted 20-of-52 field goals and netted 14-of-21 free throws. Harvard limited MIT to just 14 field goals, while the Engineers converted 3-of-17 trifectas and 8-of-14 free throws.

“I was pleased with our defense,” Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said. “I think it’s been a calling card of our program – part of our identity and it is so important for us – (but) I feel like we lived up to that defensively (this evening).”

Harvard’s defense certainly helped the hosts limit MIT to numerous one-shot series, while defending freshman Bradley Jomard, who paced the Cardinal and Gray with 10 points.

“He is a good player,” Amaker said of Jomard. “He is very athletic and (he’s) an active kind of player.

“I think the key for us (in this game) was defending (Justin) Pedley, (who) has been a terrific shooter (and) scorer for their team. We really did a nice job (defending him as) he scored just two points from the foul line, so again, I thought it was a good team effort to allow us to hold (MIT) to 39 points.”

Junior Tim Butala concluded the contest with seven points; senior Russell Johnson recorded a team-high eight rebounds, while classmate Ryan Frankel dished out a trio of assists.

Harvard senior Patrick Steeves competed for the first time in his collegiate career, netting just one point at the stripe, but it was an important contribution for the Crimson.

“I am very happy for Patrick because he has been injured and banged-up throughout his career and (I know) how hard it is to come back and spend that time to get healthy with the injuries he had, so I was very happy for him,” said Amaker. “Our team was very happy for him and I think that is a really cool thing.”

Harvard will look to double its win total tomorrow evening when they travel to Providence College for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off. MIT returns to action next Tuesday, November 17 when they host Bridgewater State University at 8:00 p.m.

Mass. College Hoops: News And Notes From Saturday’s Slate

By Matt Noonan 

There were some interesting outcomes on Saturday in the college basketball world, and below are a few thoughts on the various games.

* I want to congratulate the Bentley University women’s basketball team for earning their 30th consecutive win against an East Region opponent, as Barbara Stevens guided the Falcons to 75-66 win against New Haven. Courtney Finn registered her second straight double-double, while Tyler Parker Kimball recorded a career-best 15 rebounds in 20 minutes. The Falcons are now 17-0 and 13-0 in Northeast-10 Conference play.

* Against UMBC, Boston University’s men’s team had six players record double figures in the Terriers 11th win of the season. Dom Morris, Malik Thomas, Maurice Watson Jr., John Papale, D.J. Irving and Nathan Dieudonne each tallied 10 points or more. The Terriers hadn’t had six scorers record double figures in a game since 2003.

* Kelly Greenberg picked up her 250th win as a head coach, as the BU women’s basketball team rebounded from their loss to Albany with a win against UMBC. The Terriers are now 17-4 overall and 7-1 in America East play.

* Harvard’s men’s basketball team overcame a seven-point deficit with 1:10 remaining and went onto defeat the visiting Dartmouth Big Green in overtime, 82-77. Tommy Amaker’s squad is now 10-6 overall and 2-0 in the Ivy League.

* Anna Maria’s men’s basketball team has been a rather quiet story this year. However, their most recent win a few days ago against Albertus Magnus certainly created a ripple across the region. Yesterday, they earned their eighth consecutive win by defeating Johnson & Wales, 76-68. Anthony Clink led the AMCATS with 22 points, while also recording eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals.

* Daniel Wohl upped his status to Big Man On Campus following his go-ahead layup with 31 seconds remaining, as Williams College handed Middlebury College their first setback of the season in Williamstown. The Ephs are now 17-2 overall and 6-0 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

* Amherst College’s men’s basketball team is on a roll and has now won 11 straight contests. The Lord Jeffs haven’t dropped a game since falling to Babson College on December 6. On Saturday, they defeated Trinity College to earn their sixth conference win, along with their 17th of the season.

* Tufts University’s women’s basketball team earned its 20th consecutive win of the season by defeating Bates College, 55-34. Since the Jumbos started playing basketball in 1972, the Powder Blue and White have tallied 20 wins or more in four seasons. The most wins the Jumbos have recorded were 26, which occurred during the 2007-08 season.

* Amherst’s women’s basketball team picked up its 19th consecutive win of the season, as the Lord Jeffs defeated Trinity College, 67-47. Marcia Voigt and Savannah Holness each tallied a game-high 13 points.  

* The New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) got off to a slow start, but as of recently, it is a two-horse race for the number one spot. Elms College and Newbury College are both 8-1 in the conference and 10-8 overall. Becker College is also 10-8, but 6-3 against conference foes. Newbury defeated Elms earlier this season, but will tangle with them once again on Saturday, February 16.

* Babson College and Smith College each picked up important road wins and remain neck and neck in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC).

* Framingham State’s women’s basketball team shocked Worcester State yesterday, as the Rams handed the Lancers their first setback in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC). Kristen Hoffman, Madeleine Park and Kia Minor each tallied 11 points or more in their team’s 11th victory.  

Mass College Hoops Recap: Harvard 67, Princeton 64

By Matt Noonan

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Consider this one of those “check the box” type of weekends for the Harvard University’s men’s basketball team, who’s currently on par to wrap up the Ancient Eight.

On Friday, they completed their first task, as they defeated a rather impressive Princeton University squad, 67-64.

“What a tremendous win by our kids, and our program,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker. “Princeton has been an absolute sensational team and program in this conference forever, and we have the utmost respect of what they’ve accomplished, and how tough they’ve been against us.”

“There’s no doubt about it that we’ve always [been] looking up at [them] in some ways to try and figure out how to get out of a game against them,” added Amaker. “I just thought our defense, and our will to win [on Friday] was outstanding.”

Harvard mounted a small 7-0 lead during the first few minutes thanks to junior Kyle Casey, who led all scorers with 20 points, before Princeton’s sophomore T.J. Bray drew a foul and registered one point from the charity stripe. Bray’s stroke somehow electrified the Tigers offense, as seniors Douglas Davis and Patrick Saunders combined for four triples at 8:50, which helped Princeton pull ahead, 21-20.

Princeton then went on a 12-3 run, which was halted by freshman Steve Moundou-Missi, who’s layup at 3:38 rejuvenated Harvard’s offensive unit to end the half on a 7-0 run.

“We locked down and [defended],” said Casey of his team’s first half rally. “Against their offense, you’ve got to defend for 35-seconds, and you know, you breathe, they score, so we had to really lock down, stay discipline, and just defend, and make them take tough shots and finish the possession with a rebound.”

Davis, Bray and junior Brendan Connolly helped Princeton’s offense earn a 50-43 lead halfway through the second frame, which was eventually erased by Moundou-Missi, junior Brandyn Curry and senior Keith Wright, who helped Harvard regain the lead at 9:29.

Both teams then swapped a few baskets until Curry sank a critical trifecta at 6:54, which gave Harvard a 57-55 advantage. Curry then recorded a jump shot in the paint literally two minutes later before Bray connected from beyond the arc to make it 59-56 with 2:02 remaining.

“We have confidence in [Brandyn],” said Amaker. “He’s a confident player, and he’s been able to kind of lead us in these last couple games. [The] Yale ballgame, he was outstanding, and certainly [on Friday] in so many different ways.”

Bray then provided his team with an additional bucket in the paint before he fouled Casey, who marched to the free throw line and connected on both shots from the stripe.

Princeton then called a timeout, and penciled a play for junior Ian Hummer, who’s shot in the paint hit iron instead of nylon, which forced the forward to foul senior Oliver McNally, who wound up recording six consecutive free throws on three separate trips to the line to secure the victory, as well as a season split.

“I wasn’t always a great free throw shooter, [but] I worked really hard at it, and every time I get to the line, I tell myself, you’re a senior, you’re a captain [and] you have to make those,” said McNally. “I would have taken this type of game over a 30-point blowout because we’ve been in that situation so many times against Princeton in my four years.”

Harvard’s next task will occur on Saturday, when they welcome University of Pennsylvania to Cambridge for yet another critical matchup. The Quakers defeated Dartmouth College on Friday, 57-54, and have won four of their last five matchups, as well as remain in second place in the conference standings.

“It’s a quick turnaround, so it’s all about getting your rest, and coming back with a mental mindset to fight the next night,” said Casey, when asked about-facing Penn.  “This league is won on Saturday nights, so [I’m expecting] a real, gutsy battle for both teams.”

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