The Siena men’s basketball team jumped to an 11-2 lead, and it was all downhill — and Chisom Okpara — after that.
Okpara, a 6-foot-8 first-year player from Bronxville, scored 24 points on 10-for-13 from the field, including some important baskets when the Saints were making a comeback push in the second half, as Harvard won a non-conference game 69-59 at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Sunday afternoon.
Siena (2-2) committed 20 turnovers, for which starting point guard Javian McCollum was responsible for five.
He also came into the game leading the team in scoring, at 20.3 points per game, but was held to two points on two free throws with 17.2 seconds left in the game. McCollum was 0-for-4 from the field, after having gone 19-for-34 (55.9%) in Siena’s first three games.
“Obviously, today, when we had bad offensive possessions, it led to easy baskets, it led to high-percentage shots for Harvard,” Siena head coach Carm Maciariello said via the team’s Twitter feed. “Credit to Harvard, great gameplan, and they won the game.”
Everything went Siena’s way in the opening minutes, as Jared Billups opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, and Andrew Platek made it 11-2 with a floater heading into the mandatory under-16-minute timeout.
Harvard (4-1) answered with a 9-0 run to tie it, and Okpara emerged as an unstoppable offensive threat in the first half, scoring 13 points from there, including a 3-pointer to put the Crimson up 30-24 on the way to a 35-27 halftime lead.
Saints center Jackson Stormo got his offense going to start the second half, as the Saints got within 45-43 midway through.
But the turnovers continued to pile up, and a breakaway layup and a breakaway dunk by Sam Silverstein contributed to an 8-0 run that put Harvard up 57-45 with 7:39 to play.
A 3 by Platek cut it to 63-55 with 3:27 left, but Okpara answered with a strong move on Stormo.
“I thought we played the best four minutes to start a game that we’ve had in a long time,” Maciariello said. “And then we just started doing some uncharacteristic things.
“We responded when we cut it to two, and then we just stalled. Offensively, we have to learn how to grow when teams are going to key on certain players, and then are we going to be able to stick with the gameplan, and be able to play inside-out, and be able to screen and move. So if we run good offense, it’ll help our defense.”
Platek led the Saints with 15 points, and Stormo scored 12.
Harvard made 58.8% of its field goals despite making just one of 10 3-pointers.
The Saints hit the road for three games Thursday, Friday and Sunday at the ESPN Events Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.