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.
Two nights later, Harvard faced the only team on the trip the players felt had better personnel--San Jose State. The Spartans started a 6-10, 6-7, 6-5 front line which eventually wore down the under-manned Crimson.
As at Santa Barbara, Harvard stayed in the game for the first half. Unfortunately both Hardy and Gustavson blew layups off Dover assists so the Spartans owned a five point lead at the half, 41-36. Again, with the guards helping out and the forwards blocking out the big forwards. Harvard held the rebounding edge 17-15 after the first 20 minutes.
Hardy and Dover had 22 points between them for the period while 6-10 Colby Dietrich led San Jose with 11 and five rebounds.
With Gallagher in foul trouble and Hardy and Kanuth tired, the Spartans, throwing in platoons of tall, muscular forwards, went on a 7-2 tear to open the half and then exchanged baskets until Harvard tried to mount a counter-charge with 14 minutes left. Sophomore forward Mike Janczewski, bothered the whole week by a sore tendon in his foot, hit a jump shot and then Dover and Gustavson tipped in shots to cut the lead to nine.
San Jose came down the floor and passed the ball to its 6-7 sophomore star, a great leaper named Darnell Hillman. Hillman took the pass and then four steps from the foul line to the baseline before putting the ball either on the floor or in the air. Coach Harrison stormed the length of the bench to protest but Hillman's jump shot was counted and the Crimson momentum was gone.
Dover continued his impressive scoring with 27 points, hitting 11 of 14 shots and, at 6-1, led the team in rebounds with seven. Hardy had 13 points and Kanuth, playing tight defense against much taller men, managed 16 points on a combination of twisting underhand drives and jump shots from the key. Hillman led the Spartans at 19 points and three of his teammates followed in double figures.
Harvard lost the game despite shooting 55 per cent from the floor, because of the Spartans' offensive rebounding. San Jose had 19 more tries from the floor to balance its 48 per cent average.
The crusher came after a relaxing three days in the wonderful city of San Francisco. Of all the losses, this one hurt the most.
U.S.F. pulled out to a six point lead midway through the first half and then Dover, drawing repeated ovations from the 2000 fans, scored seven straight points on three incredible drives to put Harvard in the lead at 30-29. Then, after senior Paul Waickowski had come off the bench in fine style to replace a foul-laden Kanuth, Hardy sank a turn-around at the buzzer for a 39-37 half-time cushion.
In the second half, Harvard outplayed the Dons, but, perhaps under the spell of U.S.F. alumnus Bill Russell or, as Harrison would have it, some rotten officiating, the victory went to the lesser outfit.
San Francisco got just 15 shots in the second half, a tribute to stout Harvard defense and the rebounding of Hardy and Gallagher as well as Waickowski, but hit 10 of them, an impressive 67 per cent. Harvard took 33 shots and made nine.
The key to the outcome, besides the cold Crimson shooting eye, was probably San Francisco's shift from man-to-man to zone defense. Against the man, Dover had 16 points in the first half and Hardy eight. The pair had just five between them against the zone.
Still, with 2:15 to go, Harvard trailed by just four, 63-59. Gustavson--who had a poor shooting night with two of 10 from the field--converted a tip-in. Then the excitement began.
Dover, taking a pass from Gustavson steamed in for what looked like a routine layup for the talented guard from New York. But, experiencing the same difficulty with the backboards which had cost him two layups earlier, Dover missed and collided with reserve Don guard Charlie Dullea under the basket.
From Section B, row J, and from the Harvard bench, it was clearly Dullea's foul--and a nasty, dangerous low-bridger at that. But the referee saw otherwise and gave Dover an offensive foul, the sophomore's fifth and disqualifying personal.
After Harrison had resumed his seat on the bench--unhappily is not precisely the word--Dullea converted the one-and-one situation, reestablishing the four point margin. Jay Noble, another sophomore who replaced Dover, responded under pressure with a 15 foot jump shot from the right, and, then, with 57 seconds left, stole the ball and passed it to Hardy.
Hardy galloped off down court, went into a low post and put up a short turnaround which missed and fell into U.S.F. hands. Dullea was fouled but missed the free throw and, after a wild scramble, Kanuth and Hardy came away with the rebound. Harrison called timeout and set up a play for Gallagher to tie the game. The "Rabbit" spun in from the right corner, but leery of an offensive foul, went with a left-handed hook in the lane rather than continuing his drive.
The shot bounced out and U.S.F. came down the floor again. This time is was Rich Schaer--the Dons' high scorer with 21 points--who got fouled and he, too, missed on the one-and-one and Gallagher cleared the rebound.
Fourteen seconds remained. Harrison hoped to isolate one of the big men under the basket, but Harvard had trouble putting the play into operation and finally, Gustavson, who had just made a spectacular save to keep the ball in play threw up a 20 footer from the top of the key. It hit the rim and time ran out before the Crimson could get the ball up again.
The major problems with Harvard basketball at the moment are these: a lack of depth until Bob Johnson returns; a lack of height although Paul Waickowski's performance against San Francisco was very encouraging; a surfeit of careless errors and missed opportunities. Harrison has done a remarkable job in instilling spirit in his team--sophomores Noble, Joe Stanislaw, Mike Collins and George Yates typify the spirit: though sparingly used, they talk it up on the bench and hustle through practices, all interested in improving the program.
Harvard's record now stands at three wins and seven losses. Dover is averaging better than 20 points a game and certainly impressed many West Coast fans and writers. As Gustavson said, much later that sad Thursday night in San Francisco, "We didn't win them all, but there's no one laughing at us. We left the floor with respect. Now it's time to start winning."
The Ivy League season starts Friday at Pennsylvania, and Harvard knows it must set back the Quakers.