BOSTON — So far, so good for the University of Massachusetts basketball team.
"This game's done, and now we're on to Central Arkansas," UMass forward Seth Berger said. "We said before it all started, we wanted to go to Vegas 3-0. That's something we felt like we could really do. We're fully confident.
"We're coming together and starting to form an identity."
That UMass identity on Tuesday night was play pretty tough defense, hold host Harvard to 35 percent shooting from the floor and get baskets from all eight Minutemen (2-0) who played. That formula helped the Minutemen beat the Crimson 69-63 at the Lavietes Pavilion.
UMass won the game with a career-high 24 points from Jabarie Hinds and 13 points from Trey Davis. But the Minutemen also had a big 8-point, 5-rebound game from 6-foot-11, 335-pound freshman Rashaan Holloway.
"I thought that was a good effort by our team," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "One of the things I'm looking for out of this team is just to see if they're going to give me effort. That's the first step in them being able to come and do some things.
"I thought we gave a great effort tonight."
UMass' game with Central Arkansas on Thursday is the first game of the MGM Grand Main Event, which picks up in Las Vegas Nov. 23, when the Minutemen play Clemson and either Creighton or Rutgers.
Holloway was 4 for 4 from the field and may have cemented his fate as a cult hero on the UMass campus when he got the ball at the top of the key and dribbled to the hoop, scoring on a finger roll.
"That's the first time I've ever done that," Holloway said with a laugh. "I was a little winded before I did that, but when I got done I didn't feel it no more. I stayed in the game for like another three minutes."
UMass took the lead for keeps in the final minute of the first half when freshman Malik Hines hit two free throws and then jammed home the rebound of a Coleman miss. That gave UMass a 35-34 lead. The Minutemen took a 38-34 lead into the locker room at halftime, with a large UMass contingent among the 2,195 fans here cheering them off the court.
The Minutemen opened the second half with an 8-0 lead, extending their four-point advantage to 12. They got the lead in the second half to 15 before the Crimson made its last run.
It was 59-45 with just under eight minutes left when Harvard seven straight points. Corbin Miller (11 points) started the run with a jumper from the top of the key while Zena Edosomwan — who had 18 points and a game-high 15 rebounds — made an old-fashioned 3-point play and then made two free throws.
Coming out of the final media time out, Harvard made it 61-59 when, after a Donte Clark basket, Evan Cummings and Agunwa Okolie hit back-to-back hoops, forcing Kellogg to call time.
But out of the time out, Berger drove toward the lane and put in a 10-foot floater. Then Coleman stole the ball from Tommy McCarthy and got the ball to Hinds, who missed a layup. But Berger was there to tip in the miss, and the Minutemen were on their way to win No. 2.
Berger's stats may not jump off the page, but Coleman's do. He was 1 for 7 from the floor, 0 for 3 from 3-point range. But he had nine defensive rebounds of his career-best 12 rebounds.
"Yeah, most definitely," said the redshirt sophomore from Dallas, when asked if he was happy with his performance despite the shooting night. "I think I do a little bit more than put the ball in the basket. Right now, my role is to rebound and to play smart defensively.
"Anytime my shot isn't falling, I don't necessarily get down. I just look to do everything else."