Sophomore Evan Harris scored a career-high 20 points to help the Crimson overcome an 18-point deficit in a 72-65 win over Central Connecticut State last night. Sophomore Drew Housman added 16 points.
NEW BRITAIN, Conn.—The Crimson found its way out of the inferno last night against the Blue Devils, coming back from an 18-point first half deficit to beat Central Connecticut State (CCSU) 72-65 at Detrick Gym.
After falling behind 29-11 midway through the first half, the Crimson rebounded with its best performance of the year, recording its largest comeback victory since at least the 2002-03 season. Harvard (6-4) also won its fourth straight game on the road for the first time in five seasons, running its road record on the year to a surprising 4-1. In a game that showcased a number of huge performances in an exhilarating second half featuring five late ties, the Crimson received huge plays from its sophomore standouts down the stretch to finish off the Blue Devils (3-7) and complete the comeback.
Evan Harris scored a career-high 20 points on a number of critical buckets, including the shot that put Harvard ahead for good with 6:29 remaining in the game. After senior center Brian Cusworth misfired on an attempted bank, Harris leaped for the rebound and, despite heavy contact from CCSU guard Javier Mojica, tipped the ball back up and into the basket. Harris then added the free throw, and on the defensive end deflected and stole an entry pass.
The 6’8 forward found himself with the ball down low again on the ensuing possession. Despite having three CCSU defenders swarming around him, Harris turned left to his favored hand and muscled up a short jump shot that fell through the hoop to give Harvard its biggest lead to that point, 61-56
“It was a horrible shot, I’m not going to lie,” Harris said. “If I wasn’t on a roll, I wouldn’t have put it up.”
Harris would add two more points and steals in the closing minutes, but it was his classmate, point guard Drew Housman, that put the dagger into the Blue Devils. With Harvard up four and in possession of the ball with a little over a minute to play, Housman milked the clock for 10 seconds beyond the three-point line before starting his move on guard Dannie Powell. Staring down his opponent, Housman dribbled in with the right hand, gave several quick stutter-steps and pulled up from behind the arc. After the long jumper found the bottom of the net, the 1,298 fans in attendance started filing for the exits.
“I was looking to drive the whole time,” Housman said. “But he [Powell] kept backing away, because his coaches must have told him ‘don’t let him drive,’ don’t let him drive,’ so I put up the shot.”
Housman’s 16 points on the game, a number of which came on strong drives to the hoop, helped pull the Crimson out of the early hole, which was the result of a stunning 23-2 CCSU run after the score hit 9-6 Harvard. The Blue Devils were ignited by first-year guard Joe Seymore’s five straight three-pointers to open the game, but the Crimson regrouped to pull off a 19-7 run of its own, getting seven straight points from Cusworth late in the period to help cut the halftime deficit to 36-30.
CCSU came out strong again in the second half, extending the lead to 44-33 with 15:33 to play on Mojica’s jumper, but the pattern from the first half held true again. Harvard began to close once more, and this time the Blue Devils did not have their nearly 20-point cushion to blunt the attack. A 15-4 Harvard run, begun by captain Jim Goffredo’s first field goal of the game, on a back door cut to the hoop, and ended by his first and last three-point field goal, tied the score at 48 and let the Blue Devils know that they were no longer in control of the contest.
Harvard held CCSU to 11-of-30 shooting from the floor in the second half, including 0-of-8 from three-point range. Guard Tristan Blackwood, the Blue Devils’ second-leading scorer entering last night with 15.2 points per game, was limited to four points on 2-of-13 shooting, thanks to the efforts of Goffredo and strong help defense from the entire team.
“We did a great job on [Blackwood],” Housman said. “Everyone was conscious of where he was the whole time. We made it a focus the second half--as long as you know where he is the whole time, you’re able to get a hand up, it’s going to be harder for him to score.”
Cusworth was a large part of that collective defensive effort on the part of the Crimson, as the big man thorougly dominated the paint, finishing with a career-high six blocks. His emphatic rejection of an attempted layup by Seymore late in the first half helped key Harvard’s tide-turning stretch of play, the sequence which brought them back within second-half striking distance.
The Crimson will look to continue its outstanding road play on Sunday, when Harvard travels to Burlington, VT to take on the Catamounts. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.
—Staff writer Caleb W. Peiffer can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.