As long as Harvard’s captain was on the court last night, LIU didn’t
have much hope of upsetting the Crimson at Lavietes Pavilion.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.