The Harvard men’s basketball team took advantage of a 23-3 second-half run Saturday afternoon to avenge its Jan. 3 loss to Dartmouth in the Ivy League opener with a 60-49 win to begin its home Ivy campaign.
The Crimson (2-12, 1-1 Ivy)—and junior center Graham Beatty in particular—was able to control center David Gardner, limiting him to just three points—all in the final two minutes with the Big Green (3-9, 1-1) facing a double-digit deficit—and five rebounds, including only one on the offensive end. Gardner scored 11 points and had seven offensive rebounds in the second half as Dartmouth pulled away in the teams’ first matchup.
“Playing the five-men in the Dartmouth scheme of things is a very challenging thing mentally,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of footwork stuff... There’s a lot of movement from high to low.”
In another marked reversal from the first game, the Crimson players were able to stay out of foul trouble. Harvard committed just three first-half fouls, and sophomore power forward Matt Stehle was called for just one all game after being limited to 17 minutes—and just four in the first half—in the teams’ first meeting.
“It was a combination. The refs did a real good job of letting some stuff go that other games has been called and also we just did a better job defending with our feet rather than our hands,” Stehle said.
“I think it was easier because we knew their stuff so we weren’t caught off guard and having to hold on to retreat,” he added.
Sophomore point guard Michael Beal, who has fouled out of six games this season, remained foul-free all game.
“A big thing for us: at the end of the game, two of the starters that usually have not been on the floor at the end—Matt Stehle and Mike Beal—were both in there,” Sullivan said. “That was real big for us that we guarded without fouling.”
No Harvard player fouled out—the first time this season aside from blowout losses to BU and No. 4 Stanford that has happened.
After a three-pointer by guard Steve Callahan gave the Big Green its biggest lead of the game at 31-26 6:33 into the second half, the Crimson reeled off 14 consecutive points to take a 40-31 lead with under nine minutes remaining.
Callahan hit another three to stop the bleeding temporarily, but Harvard answered with nine more points, giving it its biggest advantage of the afternoon at 49-34 with 5:19 to play.
Dartmouth twice cut the lead to nine points, but that was as close as it would come as the Crimson cruised to its second victory in three games after opening the season with 11 losses.
Harvard won despite a lackluster outing from junior shooting guard Kevin Rogus, who was battling a broken toe. Rogus, the third-leading scorer in the Ivy League, went 0-for-7 from the floor in the first half and didn’t score for the first 32:33 of the game before finishing with five points on 1-for-10 shooting. Rogus did, however, tie a career high with six rebounds and extend his streak of consecutive free throws made to 13.
With Rogus struggling, the Crimson bench helped pick up the slack, as freshman guard Jim Goffredo, junior point guard David Giovacchini and sophomore forwards Zach Martin and Luke McCrone combined to chip in 19 points, including 10 during Harvard’s game-breaking run.
Goffredo, Giovacchini and Martin each hit first-half threes to account for nearly half of the Crimson’s 20 points at the break despite every starter seeing at least 15 minutes of action before halftime.
Harvard shot 23.3 percent from the field in the first half, hitting just two two-point shots and going nearly seven minutes without a field goal in one stretch.
“We were not playing good offense at all,” Sullivan said.
The Crimson forced the Big Green to commit 14 turnovers in the half, but didn’t score a single point off any of them.
“While our defense was good in the first half, we didn’t get any offense out of the defense,” Sullivan said. “It was still a point-to-point kind of game.”
“We’re still trying to find our way in terms of understanding how to capitalize on turnovers,” he added. “I think our team still gets turnovers, gets overly excited and all of a sudden it’s a giveback to the other squad.”
Dartmouth had an equally abysmal half, shooting 3-for-13 from three-point range and not attempting a single free throw as Harvard took a 20-19 advantage into the locker room.
The Crimson had opened the game with an 8-0 run covering the contest’s first five minutes before the Big Green responded with a 10-1 spurt.
Beal had one of his steadiest games of the season running the Harvard offense, dishing out seven assists while only turning the ball over three times. He went 0-for-5 from the floor, but hit all six of his free throws and led all players with a career-high 10 boards.
Junior captain and small forward Jason Norman added eight rebounds of his own, meaning Beal, Norman and Rogus—the Crimson’s three starters on the perimeter—were the team’s three leading rebounders.
Norman also chipped in 10 points, including four on two drives early in the second half.
“I think that helped kind of break the ice in the second half…where he really got to the rim and finished,” Sullivan said. “It’s a big relief for our team when he can get to the rim. Our team feels better, and it’s a big release for him.”
“[Norman] really brought us back in the second half,” Stehle said. “He took it upon himself. He’s the reason we won this game…He really lit a fire under us in the second half.”
Stehle led all scorers with 18 points, while Callahan tallied 17 to go along with eight rebounds for Dartmouth.
As in its first game against the Big Green, Harvard didn’t score a single fast-break point.
The two games represent the Ivy League’s first series split since the 2001-2002 season. Last year, all 28 Ivy series ended in sweeps.
—Staff writer Alan G. Ginsberg can be reached at email@example.com.