The Crimson wouldn’t surrender another field goal until just 3:19 showed on the clock—nine minutes and three seconds later.
With its quick, man-to-man perimeter defense designed to shut down sharp-shooting Ivy opponents being exploited by Holy Cross’ slashing guards, Harvard fell back into a 1-2-2 zone, surrendering less tightly guarded outside shots in favor of defending the paint.
“A lot of their offense was coming off the drive and pitch,” guard Michael Beal said. “We went into a 1-2-2 zone to try to shut down the driving lanes. When we did that, they stopped being able to get into the paint and we were able to close out to their shooters a lot quicker.”
The change in alignment worked to perfection, not only providing more formidable challenges to previously uncontested layups, but encouraging the Crusaders to launch several less reliable long-range shots—none of which they converted.
During the stretch, Holy Cross missed all five of its layups and 10 jumpers—six of them treys.With less space in which to reliably maneuver in the second half, the Crusaders’ field-goal percentage plummeted to 27.3 percent, down from 52.0 in the first period.
While Holy Cross floundered, scoring just four points courtesy of free throws to keep itself afloat, the Crimson whittled away at its deficit. Down eight when the lock down began, Harvard took its first lead of the game—a two-point edge—with 5:05 to go, only to give it back when John Hurley netted two from the charity stripe and a runner high off the glass to end the drought.
For the second consecutive game, the Crimson struggled to maintain a definitive advantage clearing the defensive glass, allowing the Crusaders to pull down 18 offensive rebounds. Harvard gathered just 22 boards at its own end.
“The thing that probably hurt us the most was our inability to really control the defensive boards,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “That’s what happens. We only got about 50 percent of the defensive boards.”
Holy Cross capitalized on the additional chances, tacking on 12 points on put-backs.
The deficiency came despite the Crimson’s switch from man-to-man to the zone defense.
“That should really help us because it’s predicated on always having two guys on the weak side,” Sullivan said. “I think that when we’re playing those positions in the zone that our defensive rebounding is actually improved. But overall, especially on the road, we need to come out with 70 percent of the defensive boards, take away these extra possessions.”
The three members of the Crimson starting front court grabbed just five boards on the defensive end, while the Crusaders’ two-man front court corralled five offensive rebounds. Holy Cross reserve Josh Kramer picked up four by himself, causing additional trouble down low.
As against Fairfield on Friday, Beal led the team, tallying seven boards. His opposite number, Jave Meade, led the charge for the Crusaders with eight.