Basic logic would lead one to believe that basketball shots are easier to make when the shooter is closer to the basket—but don’t tell that to the Harvard men’s basketball team.
The Crimson (1-2) shot a blistering 50 percent from the field in its 85-75 victory over Northeastern, but even more impressive was Harvard’s 52.9 shooting percentage from behind the three-point line, as compared to the squad’s 49.1 percent shooting from inside the arc.
Leading the way for Harvard was senior guard Kevin Rogus, who knocked down four of his seven attempted treys, and sophomore guard Jim Goffredo, who dialed from long distance seven times and was able to connect his call on three of those attempts.
Senior guard David Giovacchini and junior forward Zach Martin each fired true on their only three-point attempts, as the Crimson was 9-of-17 from international waters for the game.
Harvard was able to shoot so well from long-distance in part because the numerous open looks that Rogus and Goffredo had. The Crimson broke down the Huskies’ zone defense by penetrating the lane and then kicking the ball out for open looks.
In addition, Harvard’s big men—sophomore center Brian Cusworth, junior forward Matt Stehle and senior forward Graham Beatty—were able to find their open teammates when Northeastern collapsed on them inside.
“Shots are much more wide open than they were last year,” Rogus said. “[Opponents] can’t just close down on the perimeter, because they have to go inside and double-team [Cusworth] and [Stehle].”
The nine successful three-point shots and the 52.9 percent shooting from behind the arc were both season-highs for the Crimson.
In Saturday’s game—as is often the case in real life—the bigger people were able to take what they wanted.
Boasting a lineup that featured six players who are 6’7 or taller as well as the tallest player on the court in Cusworth, Harvard dominated inside against the Huskies, who feature only three players who eclipse the 6’7 mark.
Led by Cusworth and Stehle, who pulled down 13 and nine rebounds, respectively, the Crimson held a 43-30 advantage in rebounds and a 10-6 advantage in second-chance points. The 13 rebounds for Cusworth tied his career-high.
Fifteen of Harvard’s 43 rebounds were on the offensive glass, allowing the Crimson to retain possession and press the issue against the Northeastern zone defense. Cusworth and Stehle recorded four offensive rebounds apiece.
Harvard also dominated the Huskies in terms of points in the paint, with the Crimson winning the category by a 24-point margin, 44-20.
Despite Harvard’s size, however, the Huskies held a 7-1 advantage in blocked shots, with Cusworth logging the only rejection for the Crimson.
With its tallest starter—sophomore forward Bennet Davis—held to only 21 minutes while battling foul trouble for much of the game and faced with a Harvard team that held a major advantage in size, Northeastern was forced to call on freshman forward Shawn James to try to contain the Crimson big men.
James, who entered the game without a single collegiate appearance on his résumé, certainly answered the call.
With his 6’9 frame, long arms and ability to jump out of the building, James constantly harassed the Harvard forwards and rejected a total of seven shots in the contest. Not only did the Huskies have only a single blocked shot as a team this season coming into the game, but James’ seven swats were also a school-record.
“What a talented, talented frontcourt player,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “We had no clue who he was [or] how good he was, only that there was a chance that this kid was going to be in the game. They’ve got a terrific young player there.”
James’ contributions weren’t limited to the defensive end, however. He scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and even drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key in the first half. He also added eight rebounds—three on the offensive end—to finish the game just two rebounds and three blocks shy of a triple-double.
FAST BREAK POINTS
The victory was the Crimson’s 150th at Lavietes Pavilion, which was first used for basketball in 1982. “If you play enough games, you’ll get to 150,” quipped Sullivan, who earned his 142nd win at Harvard, tying Floyd Wilson as the Crimson’s all-time winningest coach…Cusworth received a technical foul in the second half for hanging on the rim after a failed dunk attempt…Harvard scored more points in each half of this game than it had scored in any half of action so far this season.
—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at email@example.com.