For the Harvard men's basketball team, all is not well when all are not well. The Crimson cagers entered the season hoping to avoid the problems of last year when injuries to point-guard Calvin Dixon and center Monroe Trout contributed to the Crimson's disappointing sixth-place Ivy finish.
But this year, the injury gremlin struck again, felling junior redwoods Trout and Joe Carrabino in the preseason. Trout suffered a severe strain in a pick-up game and has yet to return to the starting lineup. The 6-ft., 9-in. 225-pounder seems to be shaking his early-season rust, however, as he grabbed 14 points in 24 minutes of action Wednesday night against Holy Cross.
Notably absent from Wednesday's show-down was Carrabino, who reinsured his back after netting a game-high 18 points in Harvard's 45-44 comeback triumph at UMass Saturday, Since Sunday, he's been occupying a Stillman bed, not roaming a hardwood court.
"I woke up Sunday, and I was dead," Carrabino said yesterday. "It's becoming much better." But, the 6-ft., 8-in. Encino, Calif, native added, "I can't walk too well without excruciating pain."
Though the problem lies in his back, the disk pressing against his sciatic nerve causes pain in his legs. Heat treatments and stretching are helping Carrabino fight the wear-and-tear injury, but it's anybody's guess as to when he will again don a Crimson jersey.
"It's a day-to-day thing," Crimson Coach Frank McLaughlin said last night.
McLaughlin has to hope that day-to-day doesn't stretch to week-to-week. Despite his preseason injury, Carrabino leads the team in scoring average, and in his absence, the other cagers need to boost their totals to recoup their 15-point-per-game loss.
"Our margin of error is small," McLaughlin said, "but without Joe it has to be smaller. In order for us to win, everybody's got to play well."
Harvard exceeded its margin of error Wednesday night by two points, as Holy Cross held off a Crimson comeback, 61-59. The cagers nearly recovered from a 10-point halftime deficit, but while Harvard managed to tie the contest, it never regained the lead.
One listener to radio station WHRB's play-by-play took more than a passing interest in the proceedings. "It was killing me in bed here," said Carrabino of the game, "I kept saying, 'Oh, no, don't take that shot.'"
McLaughlin didn't blame the loss on Carrabino's absence, saying, "We have no excuses." But the presence of the sharpshooting junior certainly would have helped the beleaguered Crimson, who shot just 38.5 percent from the floor.
More importantly, Carrabino seems to be the only Crimson cager who doesn't treat the first half like a 20-minute warm-up period. Most of his 12 points against Dartmouth came in the first stanza, and he notched six of Harvard's six first-half points at UMass to keep the Crimson within one at the half.
With Carrabino out of the lineup, Ken Plutnicki, George White, Greg Wildes and Trout need to provide consistency in the Harvard front court. Plutnicki and Trout both netted 14 points and hauled in 10 and 9 rebounds respectively against Holy Cross. The duo must produce again if the Cagers are to win at Navy Saturday.
For Carrabino, basketball on Saturday will probably be no more than a game played by Ralph Sampson and Pat Ewing on a Stillman television screen.