“When Kevin let it go, I thought it was good,” senior point guard David Giovacchini said. “It was halfway down in the basket, but it just popped out.”
The rebound of the Rogus miss was snatched by the Big Green’s Johnathan Ball who was immediately fouled by Giovacchini with just two seconds remaining. Ball missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, but junior forward Matt Stehle, who corralled the rebound, didn’t have enough time to generate a scoring opportunity.
Dartmouth (4-9, 1-1 Ivy) led 47-46 with 35 seconds left, when Mike Lang drained two free throws to give the Big Green a three-point cushion. Giovacchini attempted to draw the Crimson (5-9, 1-1 Ivy) back within one on a drive with just 13 seconds remaining, but his shot was off the mark and Dartmouth’s David Gardner pulled down the rebound—one of his team-leading nine on the day.
“We were running a play with a baseline screen for Kevin and [senior captain] Jason [Norman],” Giovacchini said. “Kevin was overplayed, so I kicked it to Jason who threw it back. Since we didn’t need a three [at that point], I drove to the basket, but the shot came off a little hard.”
Gardner was fouled by Giovacchini, but missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Harvard one last chance to tie the game.
The misses by Ball and Gardner were the only free throws that ventured off target for the Big Green, as the team went 7-for-9 from the stripe on the evening, compared to the Crimson’s 6-for-12.
“It was a pretty poor shooting night all around,” Giovacchini said. “If we could have made a couple of free throws here and some layups there, it’s a different game.”
The rest of the statistics were eerily similar, as both squads shot 33.3 percent from the field and each hit six trifectas. Dartmouth had a slight edge in the rebounding department—the fifth straight game that Harvard has been outrebounded—pulling down 39 boards to the Crimson’s 37.
“We need to have a five-man effort on the boards,” Giovacchini said. “We’ve been having trouble retrieving loose balls in general, and the guards haven’t been getting to the longer [rebounds].”
Sophomore center Brian Cusworth recorded a career-high tying 13 rebounds on the game, and Stehle chipped in with eight of his own.
Stehle hit three treys on the evening, including one during Harvard’s 12-2 run out of the intermission that turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a 34-33 lead. After Lang nailed a three for the Big Green to push its lead back to four, Stehle connected from downtown again to bring the Crimson back to within a point.
“We were disappointed with the way we played and our energy and aggressiveness at the start of the game,” Norman said. “We came out fired up [in the second half], but the end of the game just slipped away.”
Sophomore guard Jim Goffredo hit a jumper with 9:26 remaining to give Harvard a 43-42 lead, but Harvard hit just one more field goal down the stretch as its offense sputtered to the finish.
“That’s the way a lot of Ivy games go,” Norman said. “Everybody scouts everyone else well, and everybody knows everyone else’s plays. There are always a lot of stops, so it comes down to who can take care of the ball and who can make free throws.”
The Big Green jumped on the Crimson early, pulling ahead 11-4 after Michael McLaren hit three free throws. McLaren had nine of Dartmouth’s first 11 points and scored all of his game-high 15 points in the first half.
“We were expecting someone to come out and shoot the three,” Giovacchini said. “McLaren hit some big shots to get them going and give them the energy they needed.”
Harvard fought back with an 11-4 run of its own to knot the game at 15. Giovacchini had two of his game-high six assists during that span, setting up both Stehle and junior forward Zach Martin for three-pointers.
“He’s been really solid for us,” Norman said of Giovacchini’s performance. “We can’t ask too much more of him. He’s getting our big men the ball. He’s making great passes.”
The Crimson failed to connect on another field goal for over five minutes, as the Big Green pulled out to a six-point lead, 21-15. Stehle broke the drought with a layup and later converted a three-point play to pull Harvard within four, but Dartmouth went on a 7-2 run over the final three minutes of the half to take a 31-22 advantage into the locker room.
The Crimson returns to Lavietes Pavilion to take on Sacred Heart on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Harvard will then take a 17-day break for exams after which it will continue its Ivy League schedule with road dates at Cornell and Columbia.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.