With junior sharpshooter Jim Goffredo sidelined with a staph infection, sophomore forward Brad Unger nailed two trifectas to push the Crimson’s lead to 18 late in the second half, and Harvard coasted to a 61-48 win over Albany on Saturday afternoon at the Recreation and Convention Center.
“There was a little bit of disbelief on the part of a lot of people in the building,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “Except for the guys wearing the red shirts.”
The Crimson (7-3) took a 22-15 lead with 5:15 to play in the first half and never let the Great Danes (2-6) back within seven the rest of the way.
Captain Matt Stehle led all scorers with 17 points, and freshman point guard Drew Housman added 15 while leading the team in rebounds with seven and assists with five.
“I felt that I had to pick up some slack for Jimmy, scoring-wise,” Housman said. “After the Lehigh game, I said that no matter what I was going to play my game, which is attacking the basket and either scoring or finding people.”
Stehle and Housman combined to shoot 15-for-24 from the field on the afternoon.
But the truly remarkable performance came from Unger. The 6’8 reserve drained his first three-pointer—and only his second of the season—from the right side with just less than eight minutes to go to give Harvard its largest lead of the contest, 52-34. Albany guard Jamar Wilson immediately answered with a trifecta of his own to cut the Crimson lead back to 15.
After both offenses had stagnated—combining for six points in a four-minute span—Unger took another stab at a three-pointer and connected to put Harvard back up 18 with under three minutes to play.
“Those were big,” Housman said. “But I don’t think anyone on the team was surprised, because he hits them all the time in practice. He just doesn’t take that many in the game.”
The three gave Unger 10 second-half points and 11 on the contest, a new career high.
Senior guard Michael Beal nailed a short jumper and then blew by the defense on the following possession for a dunk to put the Crimson up 35-24 early in the second half. The Great Danes answered with a couple quick buckets to pull within seven, but Stehle had the answer with a spinning post move for an easy layup.
That bucket triggered a 12-2 run, finished off with an emphatic slam by Stehle that saw Harvard’s lead balloon to 17 with 11:30 remaining in the contest. The Crimson made eight of its first nine baskets of the second half to spur the charge.
Harvard shot just 2-for-12 from the field and 2-of-4 from the line over the first eight minutes of the contest, but a solid defensive effort kept the Crimson within two, 8-6.
“We knew how fast their guards were coming out, so I think we kind of took a step back,” Stehle said. “We were more worried about stopping them on defense than scoring. I think we had to get our feet under us, and once we did we realized that we could not only play with these guys but that we could beat them.”
Trailing 13-9 at the 10:08 mark, Harvard forged a 19-2 run, including three-pointers by Stehle and Housman that put Harvard up 13 with 3:58 to play before the break.
A slick feed from Housman to a wide open Stehle underneath the hoop led to a Crimson layup with one second left in the first half, as Harvard took a 31-21 lead into the intermission. It was the last of Housman’s four assists in the opening period. The freshman guard added 11 points during the opening 20 minutes.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at email@example.com.