Harvard 62 — Michigan 51

Jessica Boullion

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who for the previous six years was Michigan coach Tommy Amaker, faced the potentially uncomfortable task of greeting his old team Saturday night.

But because of lucky timing, Amaker could welcome his old friends without fans and media watching.

Amaker bumped into the Wolverines as they entered Lavietes Pavilion and said hello to everyone he could. That included the players, radio crew, managers, coaches and even their wives.

“They kind of said to me, ‘Hey, it looks like you’re doing it all up here. You’re even greeting people at the door,’ ” Amaker said.

He missed sophomore center Ekpe Udoh but shook his hand during pregame warmups. After the Boston College game Wednesday, Michigan coach John Beilein said he would not address the Amaker issue with his team.

Almost as big as Yale: Hosting the Wolverines, a Big Ten team with a strong alumni base in the area, Harvard saw quite a passionate crowd Saturday night.

The atmosphere was electric as 2,050 fans packed Lavietes Pavilion, about a third of them with Michigan allegiance, to see Amaker’s new team take on his old one.

Michigan was one of Harvard’s more expensive home games in the Crimson’s two-tiered pricing system and the only home game listed as televised on Harvard’s schedule

“When ESPNU comes to Harvard, that’s a pretty big deal,” Crimson captain Brad Unger said. “It has to be the first time in Harvard history. For something like that to happen, everybody realizes it’s a pretty big deal and a pretty cool thing.”

As both cheering sections seemed to compete with each other – “Let’s-go-Blue” cowbelling vs. “We’ve got Tommy” chants – the Crimson Crazies got the last laugh, rushing the court after the game.

“For our kids, and our program, I’m proud,” Amaker said. “I’m proud for our student body, who showed up here in full force. To have a chance for us to have our place filled, and to build on this, will be big for us. Hopefully, we can.”

Even though the atmosphere was unique for Harvard – one Crimson player said professors were even talking about the game last week, which he said is completely unheard of – the Wolverines weren’t unsettled.

“We’re Michigan,” Udoh said. “Everybody’s going to go hard. Every team is going to try to go at your heads. It was expected. It just wasn’t our night.”

The series with the Crimson was scheduled while Amaker was at Michigan. The Wolverines beat Harvard 82-50 at Crisler Arena last year.

“We thought this area’s an outstanding area for our alums, as you could tell here tonight, a good recruiting base because we had a few kids that we recruited from here, so we always thought this was an area that could be a strong area for Michigan,” Amaker said. “That was the thought behind it, in addition to the great Harvard name.”

Now on the Crimson sideline, Amaker still sees value in the game.

“It’s hard to get teams like a Michigan to come to places like this,” Amaker said. “We’re grateful that this was able to take place.”

Not so sharp shooting: Beilein repeatedly seemed to scold various Wolverines about their shot selection as they went to the bench during their lowest-scoring game of the season.

“I think that sometimes we’ve had good shots and passed them up to take tougher shots,” Beilein said.

Michigan, which went 20-for-62 (.323) from the field, didn’t make things any easier on itself, failing to capitalize on numerous fastbreak opportunities, scoring just four points in transition.

Beilein said the Wolverines haven’t done any three-on-two or two-on-one drills in about eight days because of limited practice time.

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