Ask coach Frank McLaughlin about the technical foul straw that broke the Crimson camel's back last night before 8759 screaming South Carolinians, and you'll probably hear a very hoarse explanation for Harvard's 85-71 loss to the unbeaten (4-0) Gamecocks.
A tenacious second-half press by the gusty, undersized Crimson quintet whittled a 37-28 S.C. halftime lead to 49-46 with 13:16 left. A pair of jumpers by co-captain Glenn Fine and buckets by Bob Allen and David Coatsworth (who finally overcame rookie rigormortis to score 12 points and haul in eight rebounds) brought the Crimson back into the mainstream.
Harvard then had a shot at cutting the lead to a marker when Jimmy Graziano, the 6t., 9-in. Gamecock center, missed both ends of a charity stripe situation.
But on the rebound, the Gamecocks pushed their weight around underneath, knocking Harvard hoopsters about like bowling pins. Before you could say Johnny Petraglia, there was McLaughlin, crimson with rage, busting a gut at refs Bobby Godwin, Dan Woolridge, and Charlie Diehl, all of whom failed to call a loose-ball foul on the Gamecocks.
McLaughlin's theatrics earned him a devastating 'T from the zebras. Jimmy Reynolds connected on one of two technical tosses, and S.C. kept possession of the spheroid. Graziano, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, was fouled again. This time he hit both free throws, and Frank McGuire's squad was in the catbird seat with a 52-46 lead.
And that was that. Their spirit broken, their tongues lagging from fatigue, the lid was sealed on Harvard's hopes of a major upset. South Carolina churned into second gear with a 28-11 spurt over the next ten minutes that made the score 80-57 with 3:31 left.
At that point, McGuire emptied his bench, pleased with the lead but disgruntled over 22 Gamecock turnovers. Harvard's young, gung-ho squad forced many of the miscues, but it was senior co-captain Bob Hooft who led the steal brigade with four.
Harvard, (now 1-2), outscored South Carolina, 10-2, down the final 2:20, the garba ge time points closing the gap to respectability. But on the plane ride back home this morning. McLaughlin will no doubt still be muttering over the disputed call. He won't be whistling Dixie, but he just may be humming 'Three Blind Mice.'
HOOP NOTES: Harvard grabbed 4-0, 6-2 leads before Graziano went on tear, scoring nine of S.C.'s first 11 points. His three point play gave hosts 11-10 lead they never relinquished...Carolina outrebounded Harvard, 28-12, in the first half, 50-32 overall.