If you believe in omens, then things might look a little brighter than anyone thought for Harvard basketball. It took the Crimson exactly one game to equal its highest point total of last season, with an 87-71 triumph over Catholic University last night at the IAB.
After falling behind early, Harvard exploded for 13 straight points and a ten-point lead in the middle of the first half, a margin that expanded to 28 by the time both benches cleared in the fourth quarter.
The Big Guns
"They did what teams are going to do to us all year," coach Frank McLaughlin said afterwards. "They go with the big guys against us." But the Crimson--with no player over 6-ft. 5-in.--boxed out underneath, and out-rebounded the pondersome Cardinals, 46-29.
What Harvard did best, however, was shoot. Accurately. Deadly. The team opened the second half by nailing its first nine field goal attempts, an assault that left the Crimson with a comfortable 1-point advantage.
Poised sophomore guard-forward Don Fleming, Harvard's top scorer last year, led the attack in the first half with 13 points, including seven in a row. He finished tied for the game's scoring lead with 21--despite fouling out with more than a quarter remaining.
History will note that 5-ft. 9-in. freshman Calvin Dixon scored his first points in a Harvard uniform on a high arching 18-footer with 3:10 left in the first half. They will not be his last.
Despite some predictable first game sloppiness--traveling, offensive fouls, bad shots--the Philadelphia native delighted the crowd of 1000 with some backcourt wizardry. A twisting drive to a left-handed reverse lay-up in the course of his seven-straight second half points brought many to their feet; Dixon may be bringing them to their feet for a long time.
Less flashy, but just as important, was the way Harvard cleared the boards against a team that had a front line measuring 6-ft, 11-ins., 6 ft. 8 ins., and 6-ft. 5-ins. Captain Bob Allen, the squad's only senior, tied forward Tom Mannix with six rebounds, and Allen also hit five for five from the floor.
Allen and Mannix exemplified what McLaughlin meant when he said, "I think the guys that came back from last year are different players." They played that way, waiting for the good shot, moving easily from a 3-2 zone to a collapsing man-to-man defense, designed to contain the Cardinal's 6-fit. 8-ins. star, Mike Neville.
The effort was partially successful, as Neville pumped for 21, tied with Fleming for game-high laurels. But the scrappy (McLauglin's favorite word for his team) defense forced him to miss more than half of his shots before he fouled out in the fourth quarter.
McLaughlin not only liked seeing those 1000 people enjoying themselves in the bleachers--he viewed them as a potential weapon. "If we fill this place up when Penn and Princeton come in here, this will be a real pit." At least someone sees a silver-lining in Harvard's most embarrasing facility.
If the enthusiastic crowd continues to come, they'll see one of the youngest varsity teams in Harvard history. One senior, two juniors and five sophomores and freshmen look like a strange varsity roster; at one point four freshmen and a sophomore were the only Crimson players on the court.
The cagers next take their act to the Boston Garden on Tuesday for an 8:30 confrontation with the nationally ranked Texas Longhorns. Boston College and Fairfield battle in a prelim starting at 6:30.
FREE THROWS: The refs called a technical foul on Harvard in the early going when they discovered in the early going when they discovered Robert Taylor was wearing a different number than the program listed...Mannix was particularly impressive in the debut, tied for the team lead in rebounds and a game-high nine assists. For the record, he scored the first points of the Harvard season.
HARVARD 87, CATHOLIC U. 71 at the IAB
H-Mannix 4 0-0 8; Kohn 1 1-2 3; Allen 5 2-2 12; Harris 5 4-4 14; Anderson 0 0-1 0; Durham 0 0-0 0; Taylor 2 2-2 6; Dixon 5 1-1 11; Clarke 0 0-1 0; Carona 0 2-3 2; Fleming 9 3-3 21; white 0 0-0 0; Coatsworth 2 0-1 4; Flatt 2 2-2 6. Totals: 35 17-22 87.
C-Farrell 3 1-2 7; Gurney 2 0-0 4; Colletta 7 2-2 16; Dooley 2 3-4 7; Haigler 0 4-5 4; Dankos 2 2-3 6; Murray 1 0-0 2; Neville 5 11-51 21; Rogers 1 2-2 4. Totals 23 25-33 71.
Halftime: Harvard 41, Catholic U 34
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