Last Thursday night, in the depressingly silent visitor's dressing room at the University of San Francisco Memorial Gym, Harvard guard Eric Gustavson sat slumped in a corner, replaying the Crimson's two point loss to the Dons.
While coach Bob Harrison, bitterly disappointed, complained about a number of questionable officiating calls, Gustavson stared hard at the patch of floor between his knees. A visitor to the locker room tried to console him: "Don't worry, Gus, at least we'll be ready for the Ivy League."
The 6-3 senior lifted his blond head and drawled, "We've got to stop talking about winning and start doing it."
More than anything else, it is this sense of frustration which characterizes the Harvard basketball team today. The swing through California started dismally, crushing much hope. It ended painfully as Gus and two teammates missed last second shots which would have tied San Francisco. The Harrison-miracle is still in an anticipatory stage.
For the record, after a pre-trip upset of Rutgers, Harvard lost its first round game in the California Winter Classic to host University of California at Santa Barbara, 88-62. The next night, three men scored 20 points or more as the Crimson bounced back to take third place, beating Loyola of New Orleans, 95-84. Later in the week, Harvard lost to a physically rugged San Jose State squad, 91-75 and San Francisco, 65-63.
The Rutgers game was perhaps Harvard's best of the season, especially the second half. Trailing by four at halftime, the Crimson rallied behind 6-4 leaper Ernest Hardy to stun a Rutgers team which had beaten Princeton at Princeton--not an easy task. With the Scarlets' 6-7 star Bob Greacen in foul trouble, Hardy controlled the backboards, and hard-driving sophomore Dale Dover led the scoring in the 78-65 win.
Coach Harrison was elated. His fast break offense had come alive in the second half and Chris Gallagher, Hardy, and Bob Kanuth had crashed the boards skillfully. Concerned about the Christmas layoff, he sent his team home with orders to practice daily and to report back to Cambridge by Christmas night at 8:30 p.m.
The layoff hurt. So too, perhaps, did the time change. Whatever the reason, Harvard never could get started against Santa Barbara. Down by just five at the half, the Crimson tired in the second half--and the statistics prove it.
Playing without starter Bob Johnson, who missed the entire trip because of flu, Harvard outrebounded the taller Gauchos 28-14 in the first half but then got outbounded by 11 after intermission. Santa Barbara hit a six point blitz at the beginning of the final period for an 11 point lead and then just coasted in. The closest Harvard came was 17 minutes before the end at 43-36 on a Kanuth jump shot. Then Steve Rippe, David Rex and Gene Rodgers outscored the Crimson 14-6 over a seven minute span to ice the decision.
Santa Barbara, getting a lot of help from its home town referees, won the tournament with a two point decision over highly-regarded Texas Christian University the next night. T.C.U. had made the finals with a spectacular second half rally, overcoming a 17 point Loyola lead to win on Bill Swanson's last second layup.
Harvard beat Loyola for third place behind Gustavson. Dover, and Hardy. The first ten minutes of this game saw the Crimson's fast break functioning brilliantly, spiced by deadly outside shooting and tough rebounding. If the description sounds somewhat overdone, well, you had to see it to believe it.
Loyola started the scoring on Al Jackson's free throw and then watched as Harvard poured in five straight field goals: Hardy had three, including two well-timed tip-ins, while Gus and Gallagher had one each.
The Crimson continued to pour it on, boasting a 34-12 advantage with 10:07 left in the half, and a 50-37 margin at the half. Hardy led the way with 13 points, and 11 rebounds. Gallagher and Dover had nine points each and Gustavson had eight.
To quash any ideas Loyola might have had of duplicating T.C.U.'s incredible comeback. Dover and Gustavson went on a tear at the beginning of the second half to boost the lead to 63-41. For the rest of the night, it was a 20-point ball game until Harrison cleared the bench with about three minutes remaining.
Gustavson wound up with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists followed closely by Hardy's 20 points and 16 rebounds and Dover's 20 points and five assists. On the basis of his 41 point tournament and exciting style, the sophomore Dover made the All-Tournament team along with Rex and Rippe, James Cash of T.C.U. and Charley Powell (52 points) of Loyola.