Sporting a patient offense and an aggressive, hustling, man-to-man defense, the Harvard basketball team last night manhandled previously unbeaten Dartmouth, 87-81, winning the year's Ivy League debut in front of 1000 spectators in the IAB.
"Defense was the key," guard Bob Allen said after the victory. "We kept pressuring them all game and gradually wore them down, until they made a bunch of turnovers," he added.
Dartmouth, which was ranked seventh in New England before the contest and which even brags a win over Holy Cross, showed little to boast of last night, falling behind by as much as 19 points in the second half. Only some late gymnastics against Crimson rookies allowed the Big Green to narrow the final margin within the bounds of respectability.
The men from Hanover took a 4-0 lead as the game began, but the Crimson made up the deficit quickly. Co-captains Bob Hooft and Glenn Fine each made a steal to set up short jumpers that put the Crimson on top 6-4 with 16 minutes left in the opening stanza.
The score was knotted five times in the next 12 minutes, although the Crimson never fell behind as both teams suffered cool hands from the field. With 2:20 remaining in the half, a closely-guarded and highly-contorted Fine threw up a behind-the-back shot that somehow found its way into the net. Harvard went up 24-22 and Dartmouth never seriously threatened again.
At the first-half buzzer, Mark Harris converted an Allen air-ball, drawing a foul in the process. Successfully completing the three-point play after both teams had retreated to the lockers, Harris lengthened the Crimson margin to seven at 31-24.
After the tap Dartmouth drew first blood, but veterans Allen and Hooft quickly sparked the Crimson, which gradually built a 19-point bulge.
Allen, who missed his lone field goal attempt of the first half, connected on six out of six in the second, and set up four more tallies with crisp passing. Meanwhile, Hooft poured in ten points (16 for the game) and the Harvard campaign was all but won.
With 3:24 left to play and the Crimson up 70-53, coach Frank McLaughlin pulled his last starter and left the contest in the hands of five first-year varsity players.
The Big Green did make a run at the inexperienced quintet, but it was too little, too late, and the Crimson prevailed for its third victory of the season out of five starts.
McLaughlin said he preferred giving his underclassmen playing time to beating Dartmouth and Fordham by larger margins. "After all, a win is a win whether by 25 or 7, and in some close game in the future we'll be glad that those guys have seen some action," he added.
Tuesday the Crimson faces Wagner of Staten Island fame in the IAB and Boston College is on tap in the Garden on Saturday. A couple of wins this week and Harvard could establish itself as a New England power and silence McLaughlin's Rodney Dangerfieldsque complaints that the Crimson don't get no respect.