Navy Nips Cagers; Record Falls to 2-2
When Harvard basketball coach Frank McLaughlin slouches down in his chair in front of the film of Saturday's 69-64 Crimson loss to Navy, you just know he's going to pay special attention to the last two minutes.
Granted, the two minutes wouldn't have meant much if the Crimson could have maintained the momentum of the first three-quarters of the second half, during which the squad had bounced back from a three-point halftime deficit to take a 57-50 lead with just seven minutes to play.
But the Crimson lost control in those last seven minutes, squandering the lead, and falling behind, 62-61, with 2:20 to go. Then the fun started.
At 2:05, Joe Carrabino drove across the lane and fired home a sweet eight-foot, left-handed hook, putting the Crimson back up, 63-62. Navy.
Poor foul shooting has plagued the Crimson for most of this season, and the problem struck again in the last two minutes of Saturday's game. With roughly a minute and a half to go, on the Crimson possession following Romaine's jumper, Harvard captain Don Fleming went to the line in a one-and-one situation and missed the front end.
Navy wasted a chance to go up by three with less than a minute to go, turning the ball over at the 55-second mark, and the Crimson switched into a passing game, looking for a good shot.
The hoopsters never found it. The Navy press forced freshman guard Bob Ferry to throw up a desperation foul line jumper which clanged against the front of the rim. Carrabino fouled Navy forward Don Griffin on the rebound, and the Middie went to the line for a one-and-one. He hit the front end, making the score 65-63. His second shot, however, missed the rim entirely and fell to the floor.
Harvard, realizing that under the rules possession should have automatically switched sides, made no special effort to recover the ball. Navy got the ball before it went out of bounds and passed it to Romaine, who was promptly fouled by Ferry.
While McLaughlin vigorously tried to make the officials see the light, Romaine sealed the Crimson's hopes of a win, sinking both sides of the one-and-one.
"It was a judgment call," one of the officials said after the game. "It changes possession if the official sees it and calls it, but we didn't see it."
McLaughlin was still angry about the call after the game. "I can understand if the guy [referee] underneath misses it, but the outside guy has to have enough guts to say stop, there's been a mistake."
The last half-minute of the game degenerated into a foul-shooting exhibition, with the Crimson failing to take advantage of several chances to narrow the gap.
While the game was crashing down around them, Carrabino and new sixth-man Ken Plutnicki played their best games of the year, with Plutnicki turning in the best performance of his Harvard career. Carrabino--who currently leads the team in scoring with a 17 ppg average--played tough at both ends of the floor, hitting 10 of 13 shots and pulling down nine rebounds, Plutnicki--who was the first sub off the bench--played 35 minutes, scoring 11 points and grabbing ten rebounds to lead both teams in that category.
McLaughlin wasn't making any excuses for the team's performance and stopped short of placing the blame on the refs. "They came in here and just outplayed us. They outplayed and outhustled us," he said.
Turnovers were probably the biggest single problem, with Harvard giving the ball up 22 times, compared with Navy, which coughed it up just eight. Ferry and point guard Calvin Dixon accounted for 13 of the Harvard miscues. "What'd we have, 22 turnovers?" Carrabino asked after the game. "You can't beat the Brandeis j.v. with 22 turnovers."