With veteran guidance keeping the team on an even keel, the Crimson (4-3) pulled through the first three tumultuous minutes of the second half, overcoming a one-point halftime lead by the Raiders (3-3) and managing to hold a nearly steady ten-point lead for the last nine minutes of the game.
“The gym was pretty quiet,” said sophomore forward Evan Harris, “so we came out flat.”
He added that Colgate’s Cottrell Court has always been a challenging venue for Harvard. “We really tried to execute in the second half,” he said. “We had to bring our own energy.”
Cusworth provided the spark that Harvard needed to break out of five successive lead changes early in the second half, scoring six points in fewer than two minutes beginning at the 17:52 mark. After scoring a layup and converting on two free throws, Harvard’s fifth-year center rebounded his own jumper and slammed it home, putting an exclamation point on a 12-4 run by the Crimson that opened the second period and put the team ahead 40-33.
“We knew from that point forward that we could bully [Colgate] under the rim,” Harris said of Cusworth’s instrumental dunk.
The early spurt helped Cusworth score 17 of his game-leading 23 in the second half. He added a game-high nine rebounds and shot an efficient 9-of-12 from the floor, posting impressive totals for the second game and proving emphatically that he has broken out of an early-season slump.
“It makes a world of difference [to have Cusworth back in form],” Harris said. “For our perimeter players, it opens things up—you have to double team him, and even if you don’t double team him, you have to be aware of him, which is all a good shooter like Jimmy [Goffredo] needs.”
Indeed, while Cusworth lit the Crimson’s fire early in the second half, Goffredo kept it burning steadily for the remainder of the game. With the Raiders threatening, having cut the lead to three with around 13 minutes remaining, Goffredo knocked down three-pointers on consecutive possessions, giving Colgate the message that a comeback was not going to happen.
Harvard’s captain knocked down all four of his threes (out of five second-half attempts and eight overall) in the final 13 minutes, and scored 18 of his 23 points after the break. Goffredo shot 7-of-14 from the floor for the game, breaking out of a 4-of-22 slump in the team’s previous two games.
Harvard started feebly, shooting 35 percent (8-of-23) in the first half compared to Colgate’s 48 percent (12-of-25), but managed to lead for much of the half because of its 10-of-11 free-throw shooting. The Crimson entered halftime trailing 29-28.
“It’s not that we weren’t playing hard,” Goffredo said of the team’s relatively sloppy first-half play. “We were shooting too quickly, but once we figured out that they didn’t have an answer for our big guy we were able to get better shots.”
After the half, Harvard’s nerves smoothed and its offense clicked, producing impressive totals that a relatively weak defensive effort by the Crimson could negate.
By utilizing Cusworth’s strong inside-out passing, Harvard created easier shots, boosting its second-half shooting percentage to 64 percent (16-of-25).
Colgate’s shooting remained fairly constant at 51 percent (50 percent for the game). Players agreed that the Crimson will need to clamp down before facing more challenging Ivy League competition after the break.
“We’ll probably be working on various defensive concepts in practice this week,” Goffredo said. “We still need to do a better job of guarding the three point line.”
“It’s still really early,” he continued. “You can’t be too excited. We have to keep looking toward the future and the Ivy League, which is the ultimate goal.”