The Harvard men’s basketball team failed to avenge last year’s lopsided defeat to Boston University (1-5), falling 72-63 on Tuesday night at the Terriers’ Case Gymnasium.
Though the Crimson fared much better than it did in last year’s 92-55 blowout, Harvard (5-2) still came away with its second consecutive loss after opening the season with five wins in a row.
The Crimson fought against a deficit almost all night, but BU’s hot hand from both the field and the arc—coupled with Harvard’s second half shooting woes—made it too steep of an uphill battle for the visitors.
BU led most of the way, establishing its largest lead early in the second half. A 39-32 Terrier advantage swelled to 48-36 four minutes into the second frame, and it proved too much for the Crimson to overcome. It didn’t help that BU shot 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from three-point range, compared to just 21.7 percent (5-of-23) for Harvard.
“The Achilles to the whole thing for us was the three-point shooting,” said Harvard coach Frank Sullivan. “Too much in the first half, timely ones in the second half, and I think that just buried us.”
The Terriers not only dominated from beyond the arc but from inside it too, hitting 53.1 percent of its shots, while Harvard connected on just 34.4 percent of its attempts from the field. In fact, it was the only category in which the Terriers held a substantial advantage over the Crimson.
Harvard attempted 15 more field goals, shot seven more free throws, and committed seven fewer turnovers—but BU scored a crucial nine more points over 40 minutes. Harvard also out-rebounded BU 39-38, with nearly half (19) of those rebounds coming on the offensive glass.
“I think any time a team shoots 61 percent from the three-point line, it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Sullivan said. “I’m really proud of how some guys who had not been playing at the five-spot responded, and they did an excellent job for it.”
One of those standouts was freshman center Evan Harris, who scored eight points and pulled down seven rebounds—five offensive—in his first substantial outing for the Crimson.
He played 14 minutes, mostly because of an injury to junior center Brian Cusworth that kept him out of the game.
“It was good to get energy off the bench,” captain Matt Stehle said. “He’s definitely going to be a good player some day.”
Yesterday, though, Stehle led the way for Harvard, scoring 19 points—15 in the first half—and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the Crimson in both categories.
Still, Stehle’s effort didn’t prove to be enough—especially in the second half.
“I had an awful second half,” Stehle said. “I clearly didn’t do enough to pick it up for us to win. I’m not pleased at all about how I played.”
After giving up a pair of three-pointers to begin the game, the Crimson finally got on the board with a Stehle layup during Harvard’s sixth possession of the contest. That would continue to be a trend for the Crimson throughout much of the first half: Stehle’s points and Crimson layups generated much of Harvard’s offense in the opening frame.
The Crimson’s first field goal that wasn’t a layup did not come until just more than eight minutes remained in the half, with the Terriers hanging on to a 20-16 lead.
The teams traded baskets for much of the opening frame, with the BU lead swelling to nine twice—at 14-5 and 18-9—before the Crimson began to chip away.
Then, trailing 28-22, Harvard used an 8-0 run to grab its first lead of the game with 2:25 remaining in the half, going ahead 30-28 on a free throw by Stehle.
Both Stehle and freshman guard Drew Housman, who finished with 12 points and five steals, sparked the Crimson during the two-minute tear.
The Terriers countered with a 9-2 run of their own to end the half, and the score stood 37-32 at the intermission.
BU shot a scorching 61.9 percent from the field in the first half, and Harvard shot a 42.3 clip—but the Crimson trailed by just five points at the intermission.
Perhaps Harvard could have battled back yet again the second half, but the Terriers picked up where they left off in the first half with more hot shooting after the break. The Crimson, meanwhile, only got colder.
Still, despite the inability to hit from the field, Harvard was never out of the game.
Though Kevin Gardner’s bucket with 14:24 remaining gave BU a 50-38 advantage, the Crimson stayed within 10 points for much of the second half. Harvard pulled within five twice in the game’s final five minutes, but the Crimson could never put together an established run like the one from the first half. Instead, BU held Harvard to just two baskets in the last four minutes to seal the home victory.
“We took a couple punches throughout this game and we got up each time,” Sullivan said. “There were a lot of times we could have gone down for the count and the players didn’t do that.”
Next up for the Crimson is a trip to Lehigh on Saturday, and the difference between a 6-2 record and a 5-3 one is something that the players will recognize.
“We need a win,” Stehle said. “It’s as simple as that.”