After an auspicious beginning, fortune has chased down the Harvard men's basketball team.
Two straight losses for the Crimson (5-2) coupled with the fractured left hand of junior center Brian Cusworth have set the stage for Saturday's long ride to Pennsylvania to play Lehigh (3-6). After missing Tuesday's defeat at BU, Cusworth is unsure of whether he will be able to help his teammates end the slide, as his status is a game-time decision.
Despite the uncertainty in the frontcourt, the game with the Mountain Hawks might prove to be exactly what Harvard needs to break the initial string of adversity it has faced in the 2005-06 season. The Crimson is winners of five of the last six against Lehigh, with the sole defeat in that stretch coming in the 23-loss 2003-04 campaign. Last season, Harvard knocked off the Hawks 67-56 while Cusworth sat with a fractured thumb.
"We beat them last year without Cusworth, so we're pretty confident we can do that again," captain Matt Stehle said.
If the big center is not able to go, his replacement in the starting lineup will be junior forward Brian Darcy, who scored three points on Tuesday. Freshman forward Evan Harris will also be bumped up in the rotation. Against BU, Harris played significant minutes for the first time in his collegiate career and grabbed seven rebounds to go along with eight points.
"He's super athletic, so he can really rebound out in space," Stehle said of Harris. "It helps being left-handed, too, because it's definitely awkward guarding a guy who's left-handed and super athletic."
On defense, the Crimson will have to slow what is shaping up to be the team's nemesis-sharp shooting guards. Jose Olivero is far and away the best player on Lehigh's roster, a 6'2 junior shooting guard averaging 16.6 points a game. Olivero is coming off a career night in the team's loss to Sacred Heart, when he scored 30 of the Mountain Hawks' 55 points and sank eight three pointers.
"We have to do something, whoever's guarding [him]," coach Frank Sullivan said. "We've been victimized in these two losses by solid backcourt play, specifically three-point shooting. [Defending the three] is a huge priority."