And coming off an embarrassing 84-68 loss to Fordham last week, the Stags (5-4, 2-0 MAAC) seemed to have learned an awful lot, as they won a lopsided match, 68-53, on yet another poor showing from the Harvard men’s basketball team (2-5).
“One of the things that we’ve talked about is how to win on the road,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “And winning on the road means getting field goal percentage defense down, minimizing fouling, putting the opponent on the line and then capitalizing on every attempt that you have from the free throw line.”
The Crimson started out the game strong and was leading 12-7 with 14:45 to go in the first half. But the Stags quickly silenced all hopes for a Harvard victory, as they put together a 14-0 run over the next 3:26 to take a 21-12 lead. Following this run, Fairfield then scored another 16 points to Harvard’s 11 for the rest of the initial period, and went into the half with a 37-23 lead.
This breakaway was due in large part to the Stags swarming defense, which forced 13 turnovers in the first half and 22 total for the entire game.
“We were playing pretty good defense,” O’Toole said. “Traditionally, we like to press.”
The Stags continued to dominate, most notably at the beginning of the second half, and led by as many as 16 as Fairfield never let Harvard crawl back into the game.
Deng Gai, the Stags’ senior center, also produced many problems for the Crimson, as he had 23 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks. All of these were game highs, and he recorded season highs in the first two categories.
“He’s a tough matchup for any team,” Sullivan said. “He’s very difficult to guard well in the low post because of his quickness. He can get to offensive rebounds real well.”
“We knew he was a good shot blocker,” captain Jason Norman said. “He’s a solid player both offensively and defensively.”
Meanwhile, sophomore center Brian Cusworth led the way for Harvard, as recorded his fourth double-double of the season with team highs of 13 boards and 13 points.
But frontcourt partner and junior forward Matt Stehle struggled. Despite scoring 12 points and recording nine rebounds, he was a glaring 4-of-11 from the charity stripe. Harvard struggled as a team from the free throw line, going just 8-of-16 in the game. Meanwhile, Fairfield was 27-of-32 from the stripe, and Gai himself was 8-of-9. Guards Tyquawn Goode and Terrence Todd also excelled from the line, going 6-of-6 and 7-of-8, resepectively.
“Matt has been hurt,” Sullivan said. “He’s walking wounded for a variety of reasons, so it could be physical too.”
Meanwhile, senior guard David Giovacchini continues to impress, as he came off a career game against Colgate to record 10 points and seven assists, though he did also cough up five turnovers.
“He’s playing solidly,” Norman said. “That’s what we need out of him.”
One of the other few bright spots for Harvard seemed to be its rebounding abilities, as it recorded 47 total and 20 on the offensive side of things, while Fairfield had just 35 and 13 in those categories, respectively.
“We missed a lot of shots,” Norman explained as a reason for the Crimson’s ability to pick up so many boards as a team.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.