New Season, Old Problems
The sad thing about Harvard's loss to Indiana Saturday was that the Crimson made the same mistakes that they have been making for the last three years.
During the entire contest, Harvard failed to run one complete offensive pattern. Throughout fall practice, coach Bob Harrison has attempted to teach the team two basic offenses. After arriving in Bloomington Friday night, the team went straight to Assembly Hall to work on its offensive patterns. Yet despite this emphasis, Harvard still failed to execute. Guard Jim Fitzimmons said after the game that the tough Hoosier defense was one of the reasons Harvard failed to run its offense smoothly, but to go through a game without running one complete pattern is quite a feat.
It is also quite an accomplishment to go through a game and commit 38 turnovers. On a good night, a team should probably make only 10 or 15 errors. In the second half, the Crimson gave the ball up 22 times on mistakes. One of the supposed strong points of the Harvard attack is the fast break, but in statistics kept by the Crimson, the team lost the ball 14 times on breaks for the hoop alone.
Harrison attributed the large number of mistakes to players being out of condition due to injuries and also to first-game nervousness. Yet last season, the team was afflicted with the same problem. In a scrimmage against the J.V. last week, the varsity committed 29 turnovers.
Both Harrison and his assistant Ernest Hardy indicated that they were confident that the players could easily cut down on the number of errors they make. However, the team has yet to give any indication that this will be the case.
The third major problem with the Crimson is that it does not really play good man-to-man defense. As most coaches will say, you cannot teach a player how to play offense, but you certainly can teach defense. Indiana's coach Bobby Knight proved that assertion when he turned a run-and-gun Hoosier ball club into one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Except for center Steve Downing, none of the Indiana ballplayers were very outstanding on Saturday. However, they all played hard-nosed defense which they had been taught by Knight. Knight told Harrison before the game that he did not feel his individual ballplayers were that quick. However, they worked together well enough so that after the game Fitzsimmons--who was held to nine points--commented: "none of the ballplayers was extraordinary but anytime I got by the man who was covering me, another guy picked me up."
Harvard Defense Poor
Harvard's front line played poor defense and Indiana ballplayers had little trouble driving the baseline. Harvard defenders failed to help out when an Indiana player beat his man. Last year. Harvard gave up an average of just over 84 points a game. Against a not particularly strong offensive ball club Saturday, the Crimson gave up 97 points.
The question which comes out of this discussion is whose fault are the errors. Obviously the players cannot go blameless, but to stop there would be a mistake.
Harrison has failed to produce a disciplined ball club in his years at Harvard. He has told the players time and again what they are doing wrong, but evidently he has been unable to make an impact. Harrison has an open disdain for Harvard and the Cambridge atmosphere and does not seem to communicate with his players. He said after Saturday's game that he thought the errors would be easy to correct, but that statement, in light of his record at Harvard, is certainly open to question. The sad thing about Saturday's game was that Harvard had more native basketball talent than Indiana, but just could not marshall its forces.
The Crimson should have little problem in its next two games against Springfield and Boston University. Even if the team rolls up big scores, it will not be indicative that they have developed a disciplined style of play. In order to be a contender in this year's Ivy League race, Harrison must get the squad to play tighter defense and better patterned basketball.