NEW HAVEN, Conn--The Harvard men's basketball team deserved better.
In its greatest offensive performance of the year, the Crimson put 98 points on the scoreboard, only to see Yale tally live more and hand the cagers their final frustration of a frustrating season before 1800 at Payne Whitney Gym.
The 103-98 setback marked Harvard's fourth straight narrow defeat and brought the squad's final record to 12-14 overall, 4-10 in the Ivy League. A season of near misses--eight losses by six points or fewer--ended with one of the nearest misses of all.
"We never could get away [to a big lead]," Eli Coach Tom Brennan said after the game. "I was on the edge of my seat constantly."
Yale raced out to a 28-14 lead midway through the first half, but the Crimson mounted an 11-2 rally to pull back into the contest. Harvard dogged the Bulldogs the rest of the way.
When the Elis built a 10-point buffer with just 2:38 remaining, it looked as if they had weathered the Crimson storm. But two Greg Wildes free throws with 54 seconds left brought Harvard to within three. Eleven seconds later, the cagers got the ball and a chance to narrow the difference to one. But, just as at similar points throughout the year, the ball refused to fall for the Crimson, and Yale hit the free throws that put the game away.
Playing his final college game, forward Steve Leondis netted 39 points to move into the second spot on the Elis' all-time career scoring list. Joining Leondis in the history books was Butch Graves, whose 39 points on 15-for-22 shooting rounded out the third-highest Yale single-season point total ever.
To keep pace with the Eli superstars, Harvard needed outstanding performances from its sharpshooters. Sophomore guard Bob Ferry and freshman forward Wildes did the trick, nabbing career highs of 28 and 23 points respectively. Forward Ken Plutnicki turned in a solid 18 points.
"We probably played as well as we can play," Crimson Coach Frank McLaughlin said after the game. "I've said that a lot about the season. You can't ask more from these guys. They're a real credit to the school," McLaughlin added.
Harvard played Saturday without Honorable Mention Academic All-American Monroe Trout, whose foot has caused him considerable and increasing pain during the season's final games.
Even without their highest percentage shooter, the cagers shot well enough to win most games. But Harvard's 55 percent from the floor couldn't compare with Yale's phenomenal 64 percent, by far the best night an opponent has had against the Crimson all season.
No matter how well the cagers did, whether last night or earlier in the year, it seemed the opponent usually managed to do slightly better.
"We played hard," Crimson Co-Captain Calvin Dixon said. "I guess you couldn't ask for any more."
THE NOTEBOOK: The cagers wound up seventh in the Ivies.
Dixon 3-6 3-4 9. Ferry 14-20 0-0 28. Plutnicki 7-14 4-4 18. White 3-4 2-7 8. Wildes 7-12 9-9 23. Smith 1-2 0-0 2. Boyle 0-0 0-0 0. Bernard 2-9 6-7 10. Totals 37-67 24-31 98.
Graves 15-22 9-13 39. Williams 2-2 0-1 4. Kelly 4-6 2-2 10. Leondis 14-20 6-6 34. Parker 4-6 2-2 10. Hill 0-0 0-1 0. Hyacinthe 0-1 0-1 0. Jacob 0-1 0-0 0. Foley 2-6 2-2 6. Totals 41-64 21-28 103.
Fouled out--Semard, Plutnicki, Hyacinthe, Parker. Total fouls--Yale 26, Harvard 23, Rebounds--Harvard 34 (Ferry, Plutnicki 8). Yale 30 (Kelly 7). Assists--Harvard 15 (Dixon 6). Yale 18 (Graves 17). A--1800.