M. Hoops Denied First Win in OT
Unexpected Contributions From McCrone, Yada Propel Crimson in Thriller
Instead, all it got was its most heartbreaking defeat yet, a 101-95 overtime setback to Rider at Lavietes Pavilion.
The Crimson (0-10) had a chance to win the game in regulation at the buzzer, but junior guard Kevin Rogus had his three-point attempt blocked by Edwin Muniz.
In overtime, the Broncs (6-3) hit all eight of their shots from the floor and got seven points—including the last five of the game—from guard Jerry Johnson as they put Harvard away.
“We didn’t play any defense in overtime,” sophomore forward Matt Stehle said.
With Rider already leading by one, Johnson hit a three-pointer with 32 seconds to play in overtime to make it a two-possession game.
After junior Graham Beatty couldn’t handle an interior pass from Stehle, Johnson broke free behind the Crimson press and finished a layup for the final margin.
“We do lack the mental toughness and the expertise with the ball in end-of-game situations,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said.
Junior captain Jason Norman had put the Crimson ahead by one with a steal and a reverse jam with 2:03 to play in overtime before Rider center Steve Castleberry carved out inside position and took the lead back with a layup twenty seconds later.
But overtime wouldn’t have been necessary if Harvard had held on in regulation.
The Crimson led by a bucket after Beatty tipped in a Norman miss with 31 seconds remaining in the second half, but Bronc Robert Taylor drove and converted a layup to tie it with 13 seconds left.
Harvard twice battled back from 11-point deficits to tie the game, first with a 9-0 run over the first 1:39 after halftime and then with an 8-0 run spurred by six points from sophomore forward Luke McCrone midway through the second half.
All night, the Crimson benefited from significant contributions from unlikely sources.
McCrone nearly tripled his previous career high with 16 points—10 in the first half—on 7-of-8 shooting in just 15 minutes.
Freshman point guard Ko Yada gave Harvard 17 key minutes—almost matching his previous career total of 18—including the final 13:42 of the second half, when he orchestrated the Crimson’s comeback from a 63-53 deficit.
But Sullivan pulled Yada in favor of sophomore starter Michael Beal 1:17 into the extra period.
“I thought [Yada] was pretty tired at that point,” Sullivan said. “I thought there was a lot of fatigue. He’s not in that condition. He hasn’t played in games.”
“Michael is still one of our best rebounders,” Sullivan added. “He has a little more experience…I thought [Yada] was just a little bit used at that point in time.”
Harvard got big nights from its mainstays as well.
Stehle scored the Crimson’s first six points of the game en route to his—and Harvard’s—second double-double of the season. Stehle’s yeoman effort included 22 points and 11 rebounds in a team-leading 39 minutes—all career highs—and a perfect 10-for-10 performance from the charity stripe.
Rogus, the Crimson’s leading scorer, led Harvard with 26 points, passing Norman—who finished with 16 on 7-of-9 shooting—as the Crimson’s active career scoring leader. Rogus now has 268 career points to Norman’s 266.
In one 3:21 stretch of the second half, Rogus scored 12 of Harvard’s 14 points, including nine in a row on two conventional three-point plays and a trey.
The Crimson also dominated the boards, pulling down 42 rebounds to Rider’s 31, with Stehle and Beatty combining for half of Harvard’s total. The Crimson had 19 offensive rebounds, while the Broncs only managed 17 on the defensive end.
But ultimately, it was 25 turnovers and an inability to contain the Rider backcourt that doomed Harvard.
Johnson finished with 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting, including a 5-for-9 performance from behind the arc, while Taylor chipped in 22 points, hitting nine of his 12 shots.
“We couldn’t stop them in the post and that led to some inside-out threes,” Norman said.
Following the Crimson’s run to open the second half, the Broncs rebuilt their advantage on the strength of the 7’ Castleberry, who had played just three minutes in the first half after picking up two quick fouls. But after Beatty tied the game at 48 with a tip just over a minute and a half into the second, Castleberry scored 11 of Rider’s next 15 points as Harvard had no answer for his size.
“We talked about rim toughness at that point,” Sullivan said. “I thought there were a couple of times we could have tied that ball up.”
“I don’t think he’s particularly good,” Stehle said. “He just got his hands on it, jumped straight up and dropped it in.”
“A lot of the plays, the ball just happened to end up in his hands,” McCrone agreed. “Somehow, he’d find a way to get it in the basket.”
The loss was the Crimson’s twelfth in a row, marking its longest skein since it dropped 17 straight in 1991.
—Staff writer Alan G. Ginsberg can be reached at email@example.com.