Fading M. Hoops Undone By Killer P’s

Mike Bechtold’s second-half spurt spoils seven-point halftime lead at Princeton

PRINCETON, N.J.—Maybe next year.

For the eleventh straight season, the Harvard men’s basketball team was swept on its weekend road trip to perennial league powers Penn and Princeton, likely prolonging Harvard’s Ivy title drought for another year.

By virtue of its 78-51 loss to the Quakers on Friday and a 70-59 loss to Princeton Saturday, the Crimson (12-10, 5-5 Ivy) now sits in fifth place in the standings.

Harvard—who has never won an Ivy League championship in men’s basketball— had started the weekend third in the Ivy League behind only Yale and Princeton (12-9, 7-2).

Despite a 19-point performance at Penn (19-6, 6-3 Ivy) and a 23-point effort against Princeton from junior guard Pat Harvey, poor second-half defense let the Crimson down on both nights. In the first halves this weekend, the Crimson defense limited Penn and Princeton to just 48 total points and under 40 percent shooting. In the second halves, those statistics ballooned to 100 total points and 60 percent shooting.

With its Ivy title chances now far out of reach, the Crimson will close out its home schedule against Cornell and Columbia this weekend before making a season-ending road trip to Brown and Yale.

Princeton 70, Harvard 59

After hitting his fifth three-pointer of the first half to give the Crimson a 30-20 lead, Harvey had to be liking Harvard’s chances to pull off an upset at Jadwin Gym.

The Crimson had just completed a sterling half of play on both sides of the ball. Harvard held Princeton to a modest 43 percent shooting—with no Princeton player converting more than two field goal tries—while outrebounding the Tigers, 13-10. The Crimson also converted on half of its shots, including six-of-11 from beyond the arc.

Harvey’s 17 points at the break were three times more than the next closest scorer, and junior guard Elliott Prasse-Freeman chipped in three points, three assists, and four rebounds.

“We went into halftime feeling like we did a good job,” Harvard Coach Frank Sullivan said. “I was really pleased with our field-goal defense.”

But while all the ingredients for an upset were present at halftime, Princeton’s offense generated several open looks for senior forward Mike Bechtold in the second half. The 6’6 Bechtold took full advantage of Harvard’s defensive breakdown, scorching the Crimson for a team-high 21 points.

After a layup by junior guard Brady Merchant gave Harvard a 36-31 edge with 14:41 left to play, Bechtold took over. Three three-pointers, a layup and one steal later, Bechtold had sparked a 14-6 Princeton run that erased Harvard’s lead and placed the momentum firmly in Princeton’s favor.

“This is the third consecutive year that one of their players stepped up big,” Sullivan said. “Two years ago it was Chris (Young), last year it was (Ahmed) El-Nokali, and tonight it was Becthold.”

The Tigers scored an impressive 47 points in the second half, more than twice their first-half output.

“Princeton executed their half-court play in the second half when it really counted,” Sullivan said.

Despite the pair of setbacks this weekend, the Crimson said it plans to press on in the hope of closing out its season with 16 wins.

The school record is 17, set during the 1996-97 season.

“We’re definitely not going to throw away the rest of the games,” Harvey said. “We’ve worked too hard all season to throw it away now.”

Penn 78, Harvard 51

PHILADELPHIA, Penn.—Down only seven points at the half, the Crimson defense fell apart in the second half to Penn, losing 78-51. After holding the Quakers to just 36 percent shooting in the first half, the Quakers lit up the Crimson at a 64-percent clip in the second half.

Penn opened the game with a 10-3 run, leading comfortably until Harvey hit a three with 13:37 left in the half to keep the Crimson in the game. Harvey’s 19 points were a game high, and he was the only Crimson player to score in double figures.

In fact, no other Crimson player finished with more than six points.

“[Harvey] got his numbers in the second half. We lost him a couple of times. But his baskets weren’t as timely as in the first game [at Lavietes],” Penn Coach Fran Dunphy said.

The teams traded baskets to round out the first half, and the Crimson entered the locker room down only 25-18, despite shooting just 30 percent.

However, the second half was a much different story, as Penn shooters found open outside shots the entire half. Quaker guards Andrew Toole and Jeff Schiffner combined to hit four-of-seven three-point shots in the second half. Both players finished the game with 17 points.

“Offensively, we couldn’t play a whole lot better than we did in the second half,” Dunphy said.

In the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Quakers hit five three-pointers, opening up a 50-33 lead. After two free throws by Prasse-Freeman closed the gap to 13 with 8:48 left, Penn went on a 16-0 run over the next four minutes to blow open the game.

“We had no answers for their streaks of momentum, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since the days of [Matt] Maloney and [Jerome] Allen,” Sullivan said.

The Crimson never got into its rhythm offensively, consistently shooting itself in the foot with 18 turnovers.

“Eighteen is not a number of turnovers we can normally create,” Dunphy said.

By the end of the game, the Quakers were toying with the Crimson. Up 58-37 with 5:30 left in the game, Tim Begley hooked up with Ugonna Onyekwe for a monster alley-oop, electrifying the crowd of 4,152 at the Palestra. On the game, the Quakers speed and turnovers resulted in five alley-oops. Onyekwe finished the game with 19 points, and a game high 10 rebounds.

PRINCETON 70, M. HOOPS 59

at Jadwin Gymnasium

PRINCETON (12-9, 7-2) Bechtold 7-11 5-8 21, Persia 2-6 2-3 11, Martin 3-6 0-0 10, Wente 2-3 1-1 9, Venable 4-4 1-1 9, El-Nokali 1-4 1-4 5, Wysocki 1-3 1-2 3, Robins 2-5 0-2 2, Wallace 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 21-43 11-22 70.

HARVARD (12-10, 5-5) Harvey 8-19 5-11 23, Merchant 3-6 1-3 9, Sigafoos 3-4 0-0 8, Gellert 2-5 1-1 5, Winter 3-7 0-2 6, Coleman 1-4 0-0 3, Prasse-Freeman 1-5 1-3 3, Norman 1-1 0-0 2, Beatty 0-0 0-0 0, Rogus 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 8-20 59.

Halftime: Harvard 30-23. 3-pt. goals: P 11-22 (Bechtold 5-8, Persia 2-3, Wente 1-1, El-Nokali 1-4, Venable 1-1, Wysocki 1-2, Wallace 0-1, Robins 0-2), H 8-20 (Harvey 5-11, Merchant 1-3, Gellert 1-1, Prasse-Freeman 1-3, Winter 0-2). Fouled out: Harvey, Sigafoos. Rebounds: P 24 (Martin 10), H 27 (Gellert, Prasse-Freeman 5). Assists: P 14 (Wente 4), H 12 (Prasse-Freeman 5). Fouls: P 15, H 20. A: 6,123.

PENN 78, M. HOOPS 51

at The Palestra

PENN (18-6, 5-3) Onyekwe 8-11 0-0 19, Toole 5-10 5-8 17, Schiffner 7-11 3-5 17, Archibong 2-5 0-1 10, King 3-4 0-1 6, Begley 2-6 1-4 5, Chubb 1-1 0-0 2, Tross 1-1 0-0 2, Klatsky 0-3 0-2 0, Copp 0-1 0-1 0, Fikiel 0-2 0-0 0, Solomito 0-0, 0-0 0, Coates 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-55 9-22 78.

HARVARD (12-9, 5-4) Harvey 6-11 5-8 19, Prasse-Freeman 1-6 1-5 6, Merchant 3-7 0-2 6, Coleman 3-9 0-1 6, Norman 2-2 0-0 4, Gellert 1-5 1-2 3, Rogus 1-1 1-1 3, Giovacchini 0-0 0-0 0, Beatty 1-3 0-1 2, Sigafoos 1-6 0-0 2, Winter 0-7 0-1 0. Totals 19-57 8-21 51.

Halftime: Penn 25-18. 3-pt. goals: P 9-22 (Toole 5-8, Schiffner 3-5, Begley 1-4, Archibong 0-1, Klatsky 0-2, Copp 0-1), H 8-21 (Harvey 5-8, Rogus 1-1, Gellert 1-2, Prasse-Freeman 1-5, Merchant 0-2). Fouled out: Sigafoos. Rebounds: P 37 (Oneykwe 10), H 33 (Harvey 6). Assists: P 20 (Toole 4), H 14 (Prasse-Freeman 5). Fouls: P 14, H 19. A: 4,152.