Wildcats’ Shooting Plan Fails Against Harvard Defense

If you can’t beat ’em, shoot over ’em.

That was the strategy for the New Hampshire men’s basketball team on Tuesday night at Lavietes Pavilion. Faced with the daunting prospect of going inside against Harvard’s twin towers of junior center Brian Cusworth and captain forward Matt Stehle, the Wildcats opted for a bevy of three-point shots over the Crimson defense.

As the 71-50 final score in favor of Harvard (5-0) indicates, New Hampshire (1-4) was unsuccessful. The Wildcats shot just 23.1 percent from behind the arc, making six of their 26 attempts against the Crimson’s swarming defense.

“We worked on having better technique and trying to contest the shooters better,” said Harvard coach Frank Sullivan, who listed three-point field goal defense as one of the major points that his team was focusing on for the game.

New Hampshire shot just 15.4 percent from behind the arc in the second half, as the Crimson put the game away late.

Harvard was 6-15 from international waters, led by senior forward Zach Martin and senior guard Michael Beal with two treys apiece.

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE

Perhaps the most telling stat in the box score was in the free throw column, where the Crimson shot 34 free throws to just six for the Wildcats.

The Harvard players were also extraordinarily accurate, making 29 of their attempts, while New Hampshire was just 2-6. Junior guard Jim Goffredo led the way for Harvard, shooting a perfect 12-12 from the line.

“That was our game plan,” said Cusworth. “We knew we had the size, so we planned on attacking the basket.”

Cusworth more than doubled his season total for free throws made, as he entered the game having shot 8-14 in his first four games and then went 9-13 against the Wildcats.

As would be expected from these numbers, the personal foul situation was also heavily skewed towards Harvard, which slashed its way to the basket to the tune of 25 team fouls for New Hampshire. Every Wildcat player who saw action had at least two fouls, and leading scorer Blagoj Janev was limited to just 20 minutes and two points because of fouls.

“The early foul trouble put a dent in their team,” said Sullivan. “They did a lot of mixing and matching lineups.”

Harvard, which didn’t pick up its first team foul until there was 7:51 remaining in the first half, had just eight team fouls in the game.

I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

While much of the attention has been focused on Stehle and Cusworth early in the season, their teammates have also proven to be adept at putting the biscuit in the basket.

This was especially evident in the game against New Hampshire, in which six Crimson players tallied at least nine points.

Cusworth and Goffredo led the way with 15 points apiece, Beal had 12, and Stehle, freshman guard Drew Housman, and Martin each had nine.

“To have other guys that can go off any night is awesome,” said Cusworth. “They’ve established themselves as scoring threats.”

Both Beal and Martin were especially efficient in the game, as Beal shot 5-7 from the field and Martin was 3-4.

BUZZER BEATERS

Harvard outrebounded the Wildcats by a 42-27 margin. Stehle led the way with 12 boards, while Cusworth and Beal each pulled down nine...At 5-0, Harvard is off to its best start since the 1997-98 season. The Crimson has not started a season with six straight wins since the 1957-58 campaign...For the second consecutive week, Harvard received a single vote in the AP Top-25 Poll. Does the team deserve it? “I watch one team, and I also watch the team we play,” said Sullivan. “I think Duke’s pretty good, though.”

—Staff writer Jonathan P. Hay can be reached at hay@fas.harvard.edu.

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