Sloppy Offensive Play Dooms M. Basketball Against Penn

Joseph L. Abel

The ugly first possessions of the evening served as an accurate harbinger of what would prove to be a sloppy contest offensively for the Crimson against the Quakers.

Harvard won the tip, then threw the ball out of bounds when junior forward Matt Stehle drove and failed to connect with junior center Brian Cusworth underneath the basket.

Penn followed suit, with guard Eric Osmundson turning the ball right back over to the Crimson. The capacity crowd had witnessed two turnovers, and the game was just 23 seconds old.

The early nerves were an indication of the huge importance of the matchup, with the Quakers trying to put a stranglehold on the Ivy League while Harvard battled to avoid its third loss.

The Crimson finished the game with an abysmal eight assists to 22 turnovers, while Penn posted 14 of each.

“I can’t say it was their defense that did it,” said Cusworth about his team’s sloppy play, “because we had 22 turnovers to their eight steals. Fourteen of those turnovers were unforced.”

Stehle was responsible for seven of those giveaways and played just 25 minutes because of foul trouble. He still managed 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting.

He also had a key basket in Harvard’s final push midway through the second half. After the Quakers took their biggest lead of the game at 53-39, sophomore guard Jim Goffredo nailed a three. On the Crimson’s next possession, Stehle missed a jumper, then followed his shot and scored on a graceful tip-in to bring the deficit back to single digits.

Turnovers, however, would seal Harvard’s fate. Just one minute later, senior point guard David Giovacchini had the ball stolen by Penn guard Ibrahim Jaaber, who dished it upcourt to a wide-open Jan Fikiel. Fikiel slammed the ball home to increase the Quakers’ lead to 59-46 and effectively put an end to the Crimson’s hopes.

BENCH PRESS

The Crimson received positive contributions from several reserve players—one of the bright spots of the night.

“I thought our bench really did a good job,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “We had better bench scoring than Penn did tonight.”

The Crimson reserves scored 26 points overall, compared to just 12 for the Quakers.

Junior forward Zach Martin played 19 minutes and scored 10 points. He shot 3-for-5 from the field, including 2-for-3 from behind the arc. Goffredo scored 10 points in just 13 minutes, hitting two big three-pointers.

Junior guard Michael Beal, meanwhile, saw 16 minutes of action and had five rebounds to go along with three assists and four points.

Penn, on the other hand, relied little on its bench, but fatigue did not seem to be an issue.

Four of the Quakers’ five starters played 33 minutes or more. Fikiel saw 25 minutes of action off the bench. The only other Quaker reserve who played significant minutes was forward Ryan Pettinella, who scored five points in 11 minutes but went a dismal 1-for-9 from the foul line.

ALMOST FREE

There was a glaring disparity in free-throw attempts, as Harvard was outshot 29 to 12. The Crimson was whistled for 26 fouls, compared to just 17 for the Quakers.

Harvard had trouble handling the quick three-guard set that Penn used, which clearly contributed to the huge difference in free throws.

The Crimson also seemed to be affected by some questionable officiating, particularly in the second half, when every blocking or charging call seemed to go in the Quakers’ direction.

“Obviously you want every call to go your way,” Cusworth said, “but it seemed to me that there were a lot of calls that would totally be no-calls [on other nights]. For a home team, you would almost never see something like that.”

Still, Cusworth acknowledged that poor execution, rather than poor officiating, was the deciding factor in the game.

“I can’t blame the game on the officials, because offensively we just weren’t there tonight,” he said.

BEGS THE QUESTION

Penn guard Tim Begley took over the game when it mattered, leading an 11-0 run that broke the game open after Harvard tied the score early in the second half. He scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, and also had 10 rebounds.

Begley shot 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, and seemed to get stronger down the stretch despite playing a game-high 38 minutes.

Though not the most physically gifted player in the Ivy League, Begley is clearly one of most valuable. The senior is the catalyst of perhaps the best team in the league, and leads his squad in points, assists, and rebounds.

“He’s a great player,” Cusworth said. “We didn’t do a great job on help defense.”

“Certainly Tim is a legitimate candidate for player of the year in the league,” Sullivan added.

—Staff writer Stewart H. Hauser can be reached at hauser@fas.harvard.edu.

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