STORRS, Conn.--Harvard tied the UConn Huskies at two-all and then again at 62-all here Saturday night, but the Crimson never really had a chance, as 3971 semester-break fans and a towering Huskie lineup ganged up against the Harvard cagers for a 68-64 win.
Pro prospect Tony Hanson--known as "Dr. T" by the Huskie crowd--led the UConn effort with several key second-half baskets en route to a 22-point performance, and guard Joe Whelton sealed the victory with four last-minute free throws.
Junior forward Dave Ackerman played tough throughout for the Crimson, keeping them in the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
'I thought we played pretty well," Ackerman said yesterday. "We did everything but win the game," he added.
Ackerman & Co. would have had to overcome towering odds to have won. UConn is both bigtime--they packed the fieldhouse between semesters at a school which is 20 miles from civilization--and big-sized.
As if the woods surrounding the campus are not extensive enough, UConn sports a few trees on the basketball court: 6-8 Jeff Carr, 6-10 Al Lewis, 6-8 Jim Abromaitis and 6-5 Hanson. The Crimson, by comparison, had at one point a lineup of 6-2 Jonas Honick, 6-6 Bob Hooft, 6-2 Jeff Hill, 6-2 Dave Rogers and 6-5 Ackerman.
And when the lumbering forwards didn't do the job underneath, the 5-11 Whelton did it outside with some slick ballhandling and shooting.
Given the talented team and the crowd (the College Diner next door was deserted), the game should have been a blowout, right?
Wrong, but in the opening minutes it looked that way. UConn was working the ball well on offense and forced Harvard to collapse its zone defense somewhat. When Carr hit a three-point play five minutes into the game, the Huskies had opened an 11-4 lead.
The lead did not hold up for long, though. With Rogers (five game assists) running the offense, Harvard began to click.
The Crimson narrowed the lead to 15-14 with 11:51 left and to 35-32 at halftime, as Honick and Hill started swishing perimeter shots and Ackerman worked off the lane for a couple of short- to medium-range baskets.
Most surprising of all, Harvard had battled UConn to a standoff under the boards at the half--the Huskies had 13 rebounds to the Crimson's 12.
The Huskies came out snarling in the second half, though. Employing a fullcourt press on defense and a couple of hot shooting hands on offense, UConn reeled off eight straight points to open their biggest lead, 43-32.
With 14:00 left, the lead had grown to 51-38.
But Crimson center Steve Irion hit for the first two of his eleven second-half points, starting a comeback drive that would tie the game at 62-all with 4:55 left, on a pair of Ackerman free throws.
The comeback stalled when Harvard turned the ball over twice at 62-all, hanson hit for a basket at 3:05, and Irion missed a ten-footer a few seconds later.
UConn held onto both the ball and its slim lead, going into a five-corner freeze until Rogers fouled Whelton at 0:56. Whelton sank both ends of a one-and-one, icing the game.
"We had a chance to go ahead three times and we didn't," Honick said yesterday. "We just didn't cash in on their mistakes."
And that's pretty much been the story of the season: missed chances, mistakes not cashed in, and a 4-9 record.