While the Harvard men’s basketball team ultimately triumphed over Dartmouth (3-8, 0-1 Ivy) in yesterday’s contest at Lavietes Pavilion, both teams had reason to celebrate after the game, as each team welcomed back one of their most valuable players from thumb injuries.
For the Crimson (5-8, 1-0), that player was sophomore center Brian Cusworth—Harvard’s leading scorer—who had missed the previous four games with his injury.
After entering the game just over four minutes into the contest, Cusworth struggled in the first half, missing all three of his shot attempts.
The big man seemed much more comfortable in the second half, however, shooting 4-of-9 from the field and tallying 13 points, including two key buckets late in the game to help secure the victory for the Crimson. He even sank a three-point shot, just his second of the season.
Cusworth also led Harvard with nine rebounds and added two blocks and two assists.
“It’s like starting the season over again,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “His timing was way off and his idea of spacing was way off, but to his credit, he didn’t get discouraged. I think in the second half, he felt confident he could score in the low post. He certainly made some big baskets for us.”
For the Big Green, the returning player was co-captain guard Steve Callahan, who had not played since injuring his left thumb during Dartmouth’s victory over Keene State on Dec. 9.
Despite playing with a cast on his hand, Callahan showed few ill effects from his injury, hitting four of his first six three-point attempts en route to a final line of 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and no turnovers.
“Those opening threes gave him confidence,” Sullivan said. “His shooting rhythm was as on as it’s ever been. I think he got invigorated when he made the first couple [of shots].”
Despite his impressive numbers, the return was bittersweet for Callahan, however, as he missed a long three-point shot at the buzzer that would have won the game for the Big Green.
Usually when your starters outscore your opponents’ starters by a margin of 51-24, the game is a blowout. But in Sunday’s contest, the Dartmouth bench players outscored their Harvard counterparts by 25 points, keeping the contest competitive.
“Their bench really did an excellent job for them,” Sullivan said.
The reserves’ effort was spearheaded by junior guard Michael Lang, who did not start the game but led the Big Green in minutes played, with 35. He also led the team with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting.
“We were conscious of [Lang],” said senior point guard David Giovacchini. “We didn’t know exactly how he was going to get his points, but he seemed to have the complete game [on Sunday].”
Also seeing major time off the bench for Dartmouth was Callahan, who played 26 minutes and scored 17 points. Junior forward Jason Meyer also did not start but logged 20 minutes and contributed eight points on just three field goal attempts.
Three of the top four scorers for the Big Green were substitutes.
For Harvard, the big contributor off the bench was Cusworth, who logged 28 minutes—tied for second-most on the team—and recorded 13 points.
Junior guard Michael Beal played 23 minutes off the bench and scored four points, and sophomore guard Jim Goffredo saw 16 minutes of action and contributed eight points to the Crimson’s bench total.
In what has been a recurring problem for Harvard, the Crimson recorded just four assists in the first half of Sunday’s game, compared to 10 turnovers.
In the second half, though, Harvard made the necessary adjustments, and the Crimson players dished out 12 assists and turned the ball over just four times.
“We came out with more energy in the second half, and got more out of our defense and that makes our offense a lot easier,” Giovacchini said. “It really started on the defensive end.”
Harvard’s 16-14 assist-to-turnover ratio yesterday represented just the third time this season that the Crimson has recorded more assists than turnovers.
“We continued to talk about guarding, rebounding and taking care of the ball,” Sullivan said. “You really don’t want to maximize your opponents’ chances of making big shots.”
Giovacchini led Harvard with six assists against just three turnovers.
COUNT THE BUCKET…AND ONE
Harvard held a major advantage at the free-throw line, making 17-of-22 shots compared to 9-of-16 for the Big Green.
—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at email@example.com.