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Amidst the pano ly of band music, megaphones and college basketball regalia, a gung-ho Crimson quintet was outlasted by UMass last night 73-66 before a euphoric SRO crowd at the IAB in the season opener for both teams.
Rookie coach Frank McLaughlin, who refers to the Harvard basketball program as "a sleeping giant," watched his aroused cagers strafe highly-touted UMass with a closing scoring fusillade, but the Minutemen hung on to succesfully nurse their four point lead in the closing minutes.
Crimson guard Glenn Fine, suiting up after a year's leave, was a gadfly all night long to burly UMass forwards Mike Pyatt and Mark Haymore, as he scored six of the Crimson's first eight points.
After Fine squirmed down the lane for the opening bucket of the game, the Minutemen pulled ahead 12-4, and were to maintain their lead for the rest of the game.
Rich Bengel, Fine's eminence grise in the backcourt, streamed the length of the court for an easy pair after McLaughlin called a time out. His first field goal of the night made it 18-12, as he finished the game with 17 points. The only other Crimson player in double figures was 6-ft., 9-in. center Brian Banks, who topped all scorers with 21 points, 15 of which came in the second half.
Bob Hooft brought the cagers to within three when he swiped the ball and was fouled on the layup, as the score stood at 18-15 midway through the half. Banks hit a pair of free throws to whittle the UMass margin down to 24-21 but it was the closest the Crimson managed to come in the half.
Alex Eldrige barreled down the lane to open the gap to 30-21 for the Minutemen and fellow New Yorker Mike Pyatt discharged a volley of his own to make it 33-21. The half ended with UMass ahead 39-31.
Harvard shot only .315 from the floor in the first half to UMass's .468, but the figures were nearly the reverse in the second stanza. What hurt the cagers the most was the 30 turnovers they handed over.
Bengel came out hot in the second half as he banged home a feed from Banks to make it 41-37, and Banks followed with a baseline jumper. Fine hit a reverse lay up in traffic with UMass out ahead 48-41 before the Minutemen began to pull away. Haymore's tap-in gave UMass a 60-47 cushion before he fouled out with a little over five minutes left to play.
Bengel caught fire again, scoring off a Bobby Allen feed, pulling up for a 20-foot jumper after Banks was called for traveling, and arching home a pair from the corner to draw the cagers to within 67-63.
With under a minute left it looked like UMass would be clinging to a three point lead. After Banks sunk one more free throw to make it 71-66, Allen came up with a loose ball wnd raced the length of the court only to have his shot stuffed from behind by Pyatt.
So a giddy evening filled with the fanfare of a collegiate basketball band and McLaughlin's refreshing sideline histrionics ended with a whimper instead of a bang.
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