The Harvard men’s basketball team (0-8) put together two solid halves of basketball this weekend—but they came in two different games.
Despite a career night from junior guard Kevin Rogus Friday night against Colgate (4-3) and a near double-double from junior captain Jason Norman on Sunday against Vermont, the Crimson fell victim to second-half surges in dropping each weekend contest.
Vermont 48, Harvard 42
After another strong start and another dismal performance down the stretch, Harvard found itself on the short end of a 48-42 final at Patrick Gymnasium against Vermont (2-4) yesterday.
The Crimson trailed 48-37 with just over 25 seconds remaining. A Rogus three, a Catamount turnover and a Norman finish allowed Harvard to close the gap to 48-42 with just seven seconds to play. Vermont forward Taylor Coppenrath attempted to grab the subsequent inbound pass but collided with a teammate, giving the Crimson the ball back with just under three seconds remaining.
The furious battle against the clock drew to a close as Rogus missed an inconsequential jumper to end the game.
Harvard was able to stay close to the Catamounts for most of the second half due to its stifling defense and the offensive contributions of sophomore forward Matt Stehle. Stehle scored 11 of his team-high 13 points in the second half. The rest of the team could only muster nine second-half points collectively.
“We ran our offense all the way through,” Rogus said. “We just didn’t make shots. We’ve had that problem in our away games all season.”
An 8-0 Vermont run midway through the second half gave last year’s America East champions a nine-point lead, 40-31. The Crimson closed the lead to seven on three separate occasions, but despite numerous chances could never pull any closer until Norman’s bucket with seven seconds to go.
Norman finished the game one rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine boards.
Harvard bolted to an 18-8 lead out of the gate on the strength of a 14-4 run. The Catamounts responded immediately, with Coppenrath—last year’s America East Player of the Year—contributing nine points, seven on free throws, as Vermont posted a 15-4 run of its own to take a 23-22 lead into halftime.
“Once we started to rotate the lineup, there were a couple of possessions that we got a bad shot and [Coppenrath] would come down and hit free throws,” junior point guard David Giovacchini said.
Harvard mixed up its defense constantly throughout the game, starting in a man-to-man and shifting to a 2-3 and later a 1-2-2 zone. The Crimson defense held Coppenrath—the fourth-leading scorer in the nation entering the game—to just three-of-nine shooting from the floor. However, Harvard could not keep the 6’9 forward off the free-throw line, where Coppenrath converted 13 out of 14 attempts.
“We go to our zone to conserve energy and try and make them shoot from the outside because they haven’t been shooting all that well this season,” Giovacchini said. “That flustered them a lot.”
Once again, the Crimson got into foul trouble early, as both sophomore point guard Michael Beal and Stehle had picked up their second fouls less than five minutes into the game.
Stehle was called for his third just past the midway point of the first half with Harvard leading 15-8 and had to take a seat.
Vermont seized the opportunity and fed the ball to Coppenrath, who immediately established himself inside in Stehle’s absence.
“We got into foul trouble early and they got into the double bonus quickly,” Rogus said. “The punishment for the fouls we committed came in the second part of the first half.”
Colgate 78, Harvard 60
Despite a career-high 29 points from Rogus and a halftime lead of 34-33, Harvard faded fast down the stretch, losing its seventh game of the season against Colgate Friday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
The Crimson was unable to contain the potent Raiders’ offense, while Colgate’s defensive pressure forced Harvard to turn the ball over 22 times. The Raiders shot 48.2 percent from the field and four reached double figures in points, led by senior forward Howard Blue with 17.
“I think our inability to guard them effectively really hurt us,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “Whenever a team shoots 48 percent against you and you turn the ball over as much as we did, you’re going to have a hard time winning the game.”
Coming off its most lopsided loss in over 12 years—an 86-42 shellacking at the hands of the crosstown rival Boston University on Tuesday—the Crimson knew it would have to bounce back with a strong performance early in the game. Rogus answered the call, exploding on the offensive end with 19 first-half points on 7-for-11 shooting.
“We were able to get it going behind Kevin who really helped us get out of that rut with a couple of big threes and some layups in the early going,” Stehle said.
Harvard trailed Colgate 19-11 early on before making some key defensive stops, triggering an 8-0 run to tie the game at 19.
With 1:22 left in the first half, the Raiders forged ahead by five, 33-28. However, a free throw and a three-pointer by Rogus followed by a breakaway bucket by Norman gave the Crimson its one-point halftime lead.
“We didn’t come out strong to start out with,” Stehle said. “But we just played solid defense and did a real good job on the boards. We kept them out of their game by holding [preseason All-Patriot League guard Mark] Linebaugh to four [first-half] points. It was a real defensive effort.”
Harvard came out strong from the dressing room in the second half, scoring four quick points to run its lead to 38-33 and extend its run from before the half to 10.
Colgate quickly answered with a 13-3 run of its own to take a 46-41 lead on the strength of increased defensive pressure on the Crimson guards, especially from Raider guard Alvin Reed. Beal had an especially tough time with the pressure, turning the ball over five times in only 15 minutes without collecting an assist before fouling out.
“The second something went bad, everything just fell apart,” Rogus said. “The second something happens—they’re playing ball pressure—you just see us disoriented. We don’t run our offense and that reciprocates it so they can go and put ball pressure on us.”
With Beal in foul trouble and Stehle having difficulty making shots—he was two for 10 from the field on the game—Harvard’s two proficient sophomore scorers were essentially taken out of the game.
As a result, Colgate was able to double team Rogus and neutralize his hot hand, holding him to ten points in the second half.
As the Crimson offense stalled, the Raiders pulled away with a late 17-4 run in the closing minutes for the 78-60 victory.
“In the second half, our defense just really fell apart,” Stehle said. “We also missed a bunch of easy shots. I personally missed a ton of layups. Nobody was really in the game besides Kevin. So we had our opportunities. We just weren’t able to take advantage of them.”
—Staff writer Robert C. Boutwell can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.