The No. 21 Crimson had been in this spot before. Against both Florida Atlantic and Boston College, Harvard didn’t always fire on all cylinders and had to clamp down late on defense and put together a run on offense to pull out wins.
Against Fordham, the flaws in that formula were exposed.
Though they led 27-24 at the half, the Crimson were never able to distance themselves from the Rams. Fordham then used a 12-0 second-half run to take a double-digit lead, forcing Harvard to play from behind for much of the rest of the game.
And this time, the Crimson just didn’t have a big enough run in them and fell 60-54. It was just the sixth time this season an opponent scored 60 or more points against Harvard, and the Crimson are now 4-2 in those games.
“We’re not gonna be able to get runs on every team,” Tommy Amaker said after the 63-51 win over Florida Atlantic on Dec. 22. “We’re gonna be in some tough, tight games. I think we recognize being ranked and the success we’ve had this year, we’re gonna be a target and people are gonna play incredibly hard against us.”
A week later, the Crimson had to put together a run to put away a game Eagles team 67-46 in Chestnut Hill. Afterward, Amaker was asked if he was concerned about his team’s tendency to start slow.
“Yeah, it’s not good for any team,” he said. “But you give credit to the opponent for being ready to play and coming right after us. I wish we could’ve played better right out of the blocks, but I think it had a lot to do with how BC played.”
The loss to Fordham no doubt had a lot to do with how well the Rams defended, holding the Crimson to just 36.4 percent shooting overall, 26.7 percent from 3. But it also hammers home just how important it will be for Amaker & Co. to find a solution for the persistent problem of their intermittent offense.
Because one thing’s for sure: That No. 21 ranking, the best in program history, does make the Crimson a target. And if their own aim isn’t good (they missed half the free throws they attempted in the Bronx), they’ll find themselves back where they were Tuesday night -- forced to watch an opponent celebrate an upset win.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.