Escaping The Midyear Doldrums

The Basketball Notebook

Welcome to the midpoint of the 1985-'86 Harvard men's basketball season.

It's certainly not a pervading philosophy on campus to look forward to the end of reading period--but exams must be a welcome break for the cagers, now 3-10 after a double blowout at Penn and Princeton.

The Crimson has not copped a victory since January 2, when it rallied to top Lafayette, 68-58. Four games have elapsed since then, during which time the squad has suffered three key Ivy losses.

But when Harvard shifts into league gear for good--wrapping up the season with 11 Ivy games starting January 31--it can be sure of one thing.

Its record will stand at 4-11.

That's because the Crimson's next two opponents are Brandeis and Duke. One easy win, one easier loss.

The Judges are 2-13 lifetime against Harvard, the Blue Devils 3-0, and counting.

* * *

Most of the sparse crowd had filtered out of The Palestra in Philadelphia Friday night as Harvard Coach Pete Roby leaned on the benches near the locker rooms. His squad had just dropped an 84-71 decision to Penn, defending Ivy champion and front-runner for the '85-'86 title.

"They have a combination of an inside game, an outside game, ballhandlers, people who have no ego--they have nothing to divide their team," Roby said.

The Quakers had just outshot (52.5 percent to 43.1 percent), out-assisted (22-14), out-blocked (three shots to none), out-stole (16-5) and under-turn-overed (14-24) their visitors.

Just 24 hours later, the scene had changed--but only slightly. Now Roby stood in the bowels of Jadwin Gymnasium, far beneath the court where his squad had just dropped a 77-44 decision to Princeton.

The Tigers had just outshot (56.1 percent to 40.9 percent), out-assisted (18-5), out-blocked (four shots to none), out-stole (14-6) and under-turn-overed (15-24) the Crimson.

And while Harvard had out-rebounded its hosts Friday, 39-35, Princeton owned the boards Saturday by a 33-28 margin.

Just because Penn and Princeton topped Harvard in blocks and steals, however, doesn't mean that the Crimson is deficient in those categories. In fact, this year's cagers are far ahead of last season's pace.

Harvard had 116 steals and 27 blocked shots in 24 games last year. Already, in just 13 contests, the current cagers have 106 steals to go with their 26 blocked shots--and that projects to 212 steals and 52 blocks over the full season.

* * *

The Penn contest marked the first time all season that no member of the Crimson scored in double digits. Twelve of the 15 cagers chipped in for the 71-point total, but freshmen forwards Neil Phillips and Fred Schernecker were high scorers with only nine points apiece.

Four Quaker starters, meanwhile, reached double figures--and the odd man out, guard John Wilson, had nine assists to go with his six points.

Phillips, however, bounced back the following evening with another team-leading performance, recording 14 points against the Tigers.

Sporting a team-high average of 12.6 points per game--7.5 of those coming in the second half--Phillips has now paced the Crimson in scoring eight times.

Schernecker, Harvard's other freshman big-man, earned his first pair of starts over the ill-fated weekend. The 6-ft., 7-in. Yardling pulled down half a dozen rebounds at Jadwin to lead the Crimson in rebounding for the third time this season--and the previous two times were off the bench.