With Harvard pulling away from the Blackbirds in the first half, senior forward Matt Stehle—who had amassed 10 points to help give the Crimson a 28-21 lead—picked up his second foul with seven minutes remaining and was promptly pulled for the rest of the half by coach Frank Sullivan. Without having to deal with the 6’8 forward’s post presence, the Blackbirds quickly went on a 10-1 run to take a 31-29 lead, and trailed by only 38-36 at halftime.
A quick foul on Stehle off of the break would likely have given the Blackbirds a chance to steal a victory with Harvard’s best player on the sidelines.
Instead, Stehle was able to play all 20 minutes of the second frame, pouring in 17 points to set a new career high with 27 total. He shot 9-of-16 from the floor and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw stripe in the second half, helping to kill Harvard’s three-game losing streak with a 91-79 victory.
Stehle’s second half performance was all the more important in light of the continued absence of junior center Brian Cusworth, who missed his third straight game with a left hand fracture. The Crimson had struggled to replace the 7’0 center’s interior scoring until Wednesday night, when Stehle used a series of post moves and outside jumpers to dominate the smaller LIU frontcourt.
“The last two games [without Cusworth] I was definitely pressing—especially up at Lehigh, I was trying to do too much,” Stehle said. “Tonight I was fortunate to get some easy looks.”
Stehle was helped out by his teammates, who assisted on three of his four second half baskets. Frequent forays to the hoop by Harvard’s guards drew defenders away from Stehle, giving him space to put up his shot.
“Guys were driving, and [LIU] was collapsing…I just got some easy baskets my teammates created for me.”
To the Hous
Freshman point guard Drew Housman also had the best scoring night of his short career, piling up 18 points on 5-of-12 from the field. Pressured by LIU’s fleet of nimble guards, Housman was able to put the ball on the floor and successfully get to the basket. All three of Housman’s second half baskets came off drives, and he shot a game-high 10 free throws, making seven of them.
“[Housman] could get to the rim tonight—some of those [offensive] sets with two guys standing high, that’s about creating space for him to drive in,” Sullivan said. “I thought he had good sense against some pretty good, quick guards.”
The first-year point guard played a game-high 35 minutes and also chipped in with three steals, contributing to the pressure defense that forced the Blackbirds into a season-high 21 turnovers. LIU, which came into the game with an assist-turnover ratio of 1.16:1, compiled only 10 assists to post its worst ratio of the season. While the Blackbirds managed to shoot 51 percent from the floor, Harvard came up with a season-high 14 steals.
“You can’t have it both ways—you’re going to go for steals, you’re going to generate turnovers, you’re not going to have a [good] field goal percentage defense,” Sullivan said. “We gambled a little bit [in] playing a little bit differently than we normally play.”
Stehle’s effort seemed to be contagious, for not only did Housman net a career high in points, but senior forward Zach Martin did as well. Harvard’s sixth man scored 13 on 4-of-6 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from downtown. He hit several crucial treys, including one early in the second half that tied the game at 42, calming the Crimson down after LIU had scored six quick points to take the lead.
“[Martin] is capable of going for big numbers any game, just because he’s such a good shooter,” Stehle said. “Our balance is definitely something we’re going to rely on throughout the season…it worked for us tonight.”
The fourth Harvard scorer in double figures was junior shooting guard Jim Goffredo, who scored 18 on 6-of-11 shooting. The Crimson, which shot 49 percent for the game, racked up a season-high 91 points, its highest total in a game since last January.
—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached at email@example.com.