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No. 25 Harvard handles MIT 73-52

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) Harvard spent the summer wondering who would replace record-setting 3-point shooter Laurent Rivard.

For one night at least, the Crimson found the solution was already on the floor.

Point guard Siyani Chambers was 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the season opener on Friday night, scoring 15 points against MIT to help No. 25 Harvard beat the Engineers 73-52. Wesley Saunders had 15 points, 9 rebounds and six assists for the Crimson, who trailed midway through the first half against their Division III neighbor before scoring 10 straight points to pull away.

”Obviously, we had some first-game jitters. That’s to be expected,” Saunders said. ”They forced us into a good game. So it was a good way to start off the season.”

A four-time defending Ivy League champion coming off a second straight NCAA tournament first-round win, Harvard was rewarded with a spot in The Associated Press’ preseason Top 25 – a first in school history, and the first for an Ivy team in four decades.

But they had problems to solve, and one of them was finding a 3-point shooter to help spread the floor like Rivard had.

Corbin Miller, who spent the last two years on a Mormon mission in Mexico, was 2-for-5 from 3-point range against MIT, and the Crimson made 7 of 13 attempts overall.

But it was Chambers who led the way.

”It surprised me,” Chambers said. ”Corbin Miller is a great 3-point shooter. Today they were shading to his side and leaving me open.”

Justin Pedley scored 19 points, Tim Butala had 16 and Andrew Acker scored eight with nine rebounds for MIT, the defending New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference champions. The Engineers led 22-21 with 9:10 left in the first when Miller hit a 3 to give Harvard the lead for good.

”They’re going to be in the thick of things in their own right,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. ”They showed us different things we need to figure out.”

The schools are two stops away from each other on the ”T” Red Line, but the basketball series is one of the few athletic interactions between the schools. Players don’t run into each other in summer pickup games or when they were recruited, and there isn’t much of a rivalry – at least in sports.

So something less than Cambridge bragging rights was at stake when they met at Harvard’s Lavietes Pavillion.

TIP-INS

Harvard: The Crimson were without 6-foot-8 Agunwa Okolie, who is projected to be a starter, and 6-foot-9 Chris Egi, while giving up 10 offensive rebounds. ”That’s not good for us with some of the opponents we’re going to play,” Amaker said.

MIT: The Engineers have lost their last dozen games against Harvard and are 9-52 overall vs. their fellow Cantabridgians.

THE RANKINGS

The schools’ basketball rankings – No. 25 for Harvard, and No. 16 for MIT in Division III – probably aren’t what they’re most competitive about. Harvard was second in the U.S. News and World Report rankings of national universities, and MIT was seventh.

THE STATS

Saunders had five assists and eight rebounds at the half, and he had taken only three shots from the field and two from the line. In the second half, he looked to shoot more, finishing 4-for-5 from the field and 7-for-9 from the line.

UP NEXT

Harvard plays Holy Cross on Sunday at the new Boston Garden in the Coaches vs. Cancer tripleheader.

MIT plays at Gordon College on Tuesday.

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