The Crimson hoopsters survived a late rally by the surprisingly hapless Fordham Rams to win their home opener at the IAB last night, 87-82. The win evened their record at 2-2.
After Don Fleming sank a jump shot from the corner with 10:37 left to play to give Harvard a 19-point lead, the cagers seemed to hold an unsurmountable edge. Some scrappy play by the New Yorkers, coupled with some careless mistakes by the inexperienced Crimson quintet, allowed Fordham to gradually cut the margin.
With 34 seconds remaining on the clock and the visitors behind by five at 83-78, coach Frank McLaughin was forced to bring back his starting line-up to sew up the victory over his alma mater.
On top from Bobby Allen's opening jumper, Harvard substituted freely throughout the contest, emptying the bench in the last two minutes. McLaughlin even inserted a line-up of two sophomores and three Yardlings at the end of each half.
The scoring was evenly distributed with five Harvard players in double figures: Mark Harris, Bob Hooft, Allen, Tom Mannix, and Fleming. Freshman Fleming led all scorers with 16, many of which were lay-ups set up by crisp passes from co-captain Glenn Fine.
The Crimson set the tempo from the outset, pressing the Rams at both ends of the court. Harvard's swarming press paid off, forcing the Rams into repeated turnovers in their own backcourt.
A few short shots by Allen and a couple of corner bombs from Tom Mannix later, and the Crimson sported an early 19-10 bulge.
At 7:59 in the first period Fordham pulled to within five, aided by a technical on the Harvard bench and the offensive rebounding of Dud (pronounced "Dude") Tongal, a 7-ft, reserve center from Sudan who spells T. K. Tripucka (the older brother of Notre Dame's Kelly Tripucka).
But as Fine has done numberous times before in his career at Harvard, he nipped the potential comeback, twirling into the lane to sink a seemingly impossible layup and then tossing a 20-footer through the basket on the Crimson's next possession. Once again, the cagers had breathing room and when the teams broke for the intermission Harvard led, 43-34.
"It wasn't artistic, but it was a good win just the same," said Fine, whose eight points and nine assists (the entire Fordham team only amassed eight) earned him player-of-the-game honors.
McLaughlin, however, was not impressed. "I'm really disappointed with our overall performance--we missed lots of free throws and didn't box out well at all."
"We looked good at moments, but we will have to play well for 40 minutes to beat Dartmouth next Tuesday," he added.