The Harvard men’s basketball team’s second half comeback fell short against cross-town rival Boston University, who won the game 68-61.
The Crimson (2-2) ended the first half down 30-27 but came back in the second and took the lead 55-53 with just 4:23 to play.
But Terrier junior guard Matt Turner, who had been silent for most of the season, exploded at the end of last night’s contest, scoring 13 of BU’s final 19 points and leading the Terriers (3-2) to victory.
“I think one of the reasons he was so juiced was because he was finally finding his rhythm for the first time all season,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said.
Turner managed to find holes in the Crimson’s zone defense, which allowed BU to find a lot of open shots. Harvard had been using the zone for most of the night.
“I think the zone was helping us a little bit,” Sullivan said. “[The shots in zone] were a little different than what BU was getting in man.”
But by the time Harvard switched to a man-to-man defense, which effectively shut down BU, the Terriers had already clinched the victory.
Though the Terriers pulled away at the end of the game, the contest was very close. There were nine lead changes, with five occuring in the game’s final nine minutes.
“Looking back on the game, I think we executed pretty well for the most part,” said senior forward Sam Winter, who led the team with 16 points. “But we didn’t make some shots when we needed to, we didn’t rebound very well.”
Captain Brady Merchant also stood out, finishing with eight points, nine boards and three steals.
But though Merchant and Winter performed well, Harvard looked sloppy in other facets of the game. The Crimson was outrebounded 44-41, and allowed BU to pick up 18 offensive boards.
“Last year we played defensively a lot better and rebounded a lot better, and those two things hurt us a lot tonight,” Winter said. “Down the stretch we couldn’t get blocks and they kept getting them.”
Harvard also had trouble finding the net, scoring on just 21-of-58 field goals on the night (36.2 percent).
Part of the Crimson’s offensive woes can be attributed to senior guard Pat Harvey’s inability to score. He had been averaging 15 ppg entering last night’s contest but had a season-low six point effort.
Turner noted that the Terriers’ ability to shut down Harvey resulted from the pressure of guard Kevin Fitzgerald, who almost exclusively marked Harvey all night.
The technique was similar to the box-and-one zone the Terriers employed against the Crimson last year, which held the team to a season-low 41 points.
With Harvey unable to score, senior guard Elliot Prasse-Freeman was forced to create many of Harvard’s scoring opportunities. While he distributed the ball well, finishing with eight assists, he only had six points and did not convert on a field goal until 13:13 was left in the game.
Harvard has had trouble finding a steady center all season. Senior Brian Sigafoos started, but freshman Brian Cusworth came off the bench and played for the most important minutes of the game down the stretch.
Cusworth played 18 minutes, finishing with four rebounds and two blocks, while Sigafoos had 10 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.
“[Cusworth] has been blocking shots, getting offensive rebounds and getting a lot of defensive rebounds,” Winter said. “He’s doing what he’s asked to do, and that’s what we need, a real inside presence.”
Cusworth mentioned that although he has been improving, it has been difficult adjusting to his role in college. Fellow freshmen Michael Beal (seven points, four rebounds) and Matt Stehle (four points, four rebounds) are also expected to play at a higher level, especially in Harvard’s offense.
“I think at times we had some younger players in there who didn’t understand the importance of the screening,” Sullivan said.
The Crimson returns to action this Saturday when it hosts Lehigh (3-2) at 2 p.m. Harvard won last year’s contest 64-62, but it will likely have to pick up its offensive attack to prove victorious again.