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Rivard, Crimson prep for Penn

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff  February 21, 2014 05:56 PM

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PHILADELPHIA -- The last time Quakers saw the Crimson, Laurent Rivard showered them with six 3s and his 22 points on the night helped the Crimson cruise to an 80-50 win.

In his four years at Harvard, Rivard’s made a habit of doing a rain dance on Penn. In seven career games against the Quaker’s, Rivard he’s shot an absurd 47.6 percent (20 of 42) from deep.

On the year, Rivard’s knocked down 58 3s so far, shooting 40.6 percent, and Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said every one he knocks down is like a boost for the Crimson.

“It really gives us a shot in the arm and it gives us a confidence that we gain from it,” Amaker said.

As the Crimson continue their four-game road trip Friday night at the Palestra, Rivard is sitting on 265 career 3s — the most in Harvard history and fourth all-time in the Ivy League annals.

He’s slowly creeping up on Princeton sharpshooter Douglas Davis for third place (276), and there’s a good chance he’ll gain ground against the Quakers.

He’s knocked down at least two 3s in five of his seven career games against Penn. Only once has he gone without draining one from deep. That was in 2012 when he went 0 for 5 from range and the Crimson still pulled out a 56-50 road win.

OKOLIE AND TRAVIS BACK IN THE ROTATION

A huge part of the Crimson’s early success came down to two things, Amaker said.

Their bench and their balance.

When injuries hit, it took a toll on both. Jonah Travis missed the first Penn-Princeton weekend with a concussion and Agunwa Okolie sat out those games plus the next one against Brown with knee issues.

But they both returned last weekend against Columbia and Cornell and their presence restored some order to the Crimson rotation. Okolie scored six points and grabbed three boards in nine minutes of a blowout over Cornell. Travis quietly slid back into his role as the glue guy, chipping in eight minutes against the Big Red.

“I think with Jonah and Agunwa being out for us, it hadn’t helped us certainly,” Amaker said. “I think having those guys back in the flow is different and I think you’re seeing us showcasing a little bit of how deep we can go. It’s not only having them out there but they’re playing well for us. They’re giving us good minutes."

PENN FALLING SHORT OF EXPECTATIONS

Despite going 9-22 last season and 6-8 in the Ivy League, when the votes came in for the Ivy League preseason poll the Quakers were considered the second-best team in the conference behind the unanimously-favored Crimson.

But so far, the season hasn’t played out the way the Quakers had hoped. For all he’s done Despite dropping last year’s meeting in Philly, the Crimson have won four of the past five at the Palestra.

They started the season 2-10, going on a seven-game losing streak that shot an early hole in their season. Then earlier this month, as they struggled through start of the Ivy slate, they lost freshman guard Matt Howard to a broken foot.

They’re giving up the second-most points in the Ivy (75.8) and committing by far the most turnovers (16.4).

“They’re certainly dangerous and capable with Hicks and two inside guys. We’re always watching film thinking how are we going to guard these guys.

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