M. Hoops Continues Battle to Beat .500
The ever-growing list of accomplishments so far includes a triumph over Princeton, a road victory over Brown and five league wins—the most since the 2001-2002 campaign.
But heading into this weekend’s games against Yale and Brown, there are still some obtainable goals left on the table for the Harvard men’s basketball team. The Crimson (10-13, 5-5 Ivy) hasn’t had a winning Ivy season in eight years, which is also the last time Harvard finished second in the league.
With just four games remaining, the Crimson would need to go 3-1 to ensure the former, and at least that, if not 4-0, to clinch the latter.
Both a 3-1 and 4-0 finish would necessitate a gigantic step that Harvard has tried so hard, yet failed so miserably, to take thus far this season—an Ivy weekend sweep. The Crimson hasn’t won two Ivy games on back-to-back days since 2002, and since then Harvard is 0-4 when given an opportunity to pull off the sweep.
Three of those four losses have come this season in the form of a two-point loss at Columbia, a one-point defeat at Yale, and a four-point setback at home against Cornell last Saturday night.
“It’s really hard playing back-to-back Friday and Saturday nights,” said senior point guard David Giovacchini. “No other leagues do this. You kind of get used to it, and you always hope you’re not going to be too worn out on Saturday.”
With a difficult trip to Penn and Princeton to close the season on the horizon—one which Harvard hasn’t swept in 20 years—the time for the Crimson to take a back-to-back weekend is now. And with the jumbled nature of the Ivy standings, the difference between a 2-0 and 0-2 weekend could mean the difference between second place and seventh place in the league.
“Everyone’s ready to get Yale and get Brown,” junior forward Matt Stehle said. “We’re very confident we can beat both those teams, but we respect them both.”
The first hurdle on the road to a sweep comes tonight as Yale visits Lavietes Pavilion. After the Bulldogs tore the league-leading—and previously undefeated—Quakers apart last Saturday night for their fourth-straight win, it appeared that Yale had enough momentum to make a late charge at the title. But after a flat performance against Brown in a 70-64 loss Tuesday night, the Bulldogs limped back to the pack and currently sit a half-game ahead of Harvard in third place.
Just two Saturdays ago, the Crimson traveled to New Haven and fell 54-53 after coming back from an early 16-3 deficit.
With the feeling of that bitter defeat still fresh in the minds of the Harvard players, the squad will look to exact a bit of revenge tonight.
“We don’t like Yale, and we want to beat them,” Stehle said. “It’s as simple as that. We felt we should have won down there.”
The Bulldogs boast the Ivy League’s second-leading scorer in guard Edwin Draughan. But in the two teams’ last meeting, Harvard captain Jason Norman neutralized Draughan, allowing him to shoot just 3-for-10 from the floor en route to 13 points.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Norman of the matchup with Draughan. “I think I did a good job on Draughan during the second half of the last game, and I’m just looking to carry that over to this game.”
The containment on Draughan, however, allowed Yale guard Eric Flato to find some open looks. The 6’1 freshman capitalized, hitting 5-of-10 from the field and 3-of-7 from behind the arc, to match Draughan as the game’s high scorer with 13 points.
Junior center Brian Cusworth and Stehle should have their hands full with Bulldogs center Dominick Martin. Over his last four games, Martin is averaging 12.5 points and six rebounds per contest, including a 12-point, nine-board performance against the Crimson.
While Martin will pose a formidable challenge tonight, Cusworth and Stehle should have a much easier time tomorrow night against a smaller, inexperienced Brown frontcourt. In the first meeting with the Bears two weeks ago, the two Harvard big men combined for 32 points and 25 rebounds as the Crimson pulled away from Brown for a 64-53 win.
“With the exception of [Bears forward Luke] Ruscoe, they’re pretty young inside,” Stehle said. “We felt that we could go at their guys, but obviously their coach will be getting them ready telling them that they need to do a better job.”
The Bears do boast an explosive backcourt, led by reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Jason Forte. Forte, who leads the league in scoring, was held to just 10 points in the two teams’ first meeting, due to Norman’s stifling defense. Forte remains one of the most explosive players in the league, as his 36-point performance at Cornell would attest, so keeping him under wraps will be the number one priority for the Crimson.
“I’m sure he’s going to come in fired up,” Norman said. “He’s played some great games in this gym, and it’s our focus to shut him down.”
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.