AMHERST, Mass.--The Minutemen launched the first strike, but the Harvard men's basketball team saved its best missiles for last as the Crimson edged host UMass, 45-44, in a come-from-behind classic Saturday at Curry-Hicks Cage.
The Minutemen (0-2) shot out of their silos in the opening minutes of each half, but despite the deafening roars of a 4200-member capacity crowd. Harvard (2-1 overall, 0-1 in the lvies) did not surrender. Down 38-25 with just 11:07 to play, the cagers regrouped for one of the biggest turnarounds in Crimson history.
Harvard outscored UMass, 18-2, in the next 10:38. The once-porous defense had suddenly tightened, and the Crimson front line began to block out. Forced to take outside shots and stripped of the second opportunities they had cashed in on minutes before, the minutemen could manage only one basket, an 18-footer.
Not only did Harvard's 3-2 none tighten, but Crimson defenders became more aggressive Point guard Calvin Dixon nabbed three steals, and forward Ken Plutnicki grabbed two. As the cagers defensive pressure grew greater, the Minutemen became flustered, throwing the ball away and dribbing wildly.
Dixon sparked the Crimson comeback by leading the transition game. The supersonic senior sped to 10 of Harvard's 18 comeback points and dished off for several others. Harvard didn't waste the Minutemen's 19 turnovers, scoring 24 points off UMass miscues.
After a Dixon free throw lifted the Crimson to a 43-40 edge, Minutemen Edwin Green broke his team's scoring drought to make it 43-42 with just 27 ticks on the clock. Harvard navigated the UMass press and ran 19 seconds off the clock before the Minutemen managed to commit a foul.
With just eight seconds lift, sophomore Bob Ferry sank both ends of a one-and-one to give Harvard a three-point lead and a stranglehold on the game. Green's last-second dunk brought UMass to within one, but the concession basket came too late, and the Crimson celebrated its first road victory of the season.
It was also Crimson Coach Frank McLaughlin's first victory ever brother Tom, the second-year UMass coach. Last year, Tom captured a 75-73 win at the IAB. Both coaches downplayed the effect of their relationship on the contact.
"Out there he isn't my brother, he's an opposing coach," younger brother Tom said after the game.
"He's about 10 years older than me now," Frank joked.
The coaches displayed very different substitution strategies, with Tom shutting 10 players in and out of the lineup, and Frank using just seven men. Ferry and Dixon played the entire 40 minutes, while Plutnicki played for all but there.
Strangely enough, one of Harvard's two substitutes became the game's leading scorer. Junior Joe Carrabino tallied 18 points off the bench and played 31 minutes. The former Ivy Freshman Player of the Year hit five of eight from the floor and eight of 10 from the line in his second game since suffering a pre-season back injury.