After the Harvard men's basketball team subdued his Brandeis squad, 63-40, last night at Briggs Cage, Coach Kevin O'Brien attempted to make this one sound a little more thrilling than it actually was.
"It was like Princeton versus Arkansas," O'Brien said.
Only it lacked the national television audience, the March Madness aura and just about everything that makes a ballgame between a slowdown team and an up-tempo one any fun.
Princeton versus Arkansas it was not. It was, however, the Crimson's (1-3) first win of the young season--something, anything, for the Crimson to build on heading into its next two contests, at Briggs tomorrow against Holy Cross and Saturday at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill against Boston College.
By that time, Harvard Co-Captain Ralph James, who was a last-minute scratch last night due to a shoulder injury sustained Saturday against Vermont, might be ready for action.
It was evident from the beginning that this game was not going to be a barnburner. "Frustrating" was the word Harvard Coach Pete Roby used to describe the first-half of the game, one that saw Harvard jump out to an early 7-2 lead before letting Brandeis' slow-down tactics dictate the pace of the game.
"It was good practice for us, playing a team like this," Roby said. "As you know, they'll be another team or two that may play that way." A team like Princeton, perhaps?
"We don't usually play like that," O'Brien said, speaking of his team's attempt to neutralize the fast-paced Harvard attack.
He might also have been referring to his team's paltry 32 percent first-half shooting percentage--not impressive for a team that took only 19 shots in the first 20 minutes.
The Crimson's 42 percent first-half shooting percentage was not much more impressive. For Harvard, things got better. The team connected on 11 of its 20 second-period shots.
It was up to the two guards--Tarik Campbell and sophomore Matt McLain, who replaced James in the starting lineup--to assume the scoring burden. Campbell pumped in 15 points and McClain responded with 14 points, 10 in the decisive second half. Co-Captain Ron Mitchell aided the effort with 13 points, and Tyler Rullman added 10.
Brandeis cut the Crimson's 26-18 halftime lead to six points one minute into the second half on a Steve Harrington layup. But the Judges would get no closer, largely because of its embarrassing 20 percent (7-for-35) second-half shooting percentage.
The Crimson could not put the game away, even after Brandeis went cold from the field and the Judges' main scoring threat, center David Brooks, took a seat on the bench after a cut above his left eye refused to stop bleeding. Harrington's 10 points, and eight each from starting forwards Andre James and Everardo Greenaway kept Brandeis close.
"One of the things we said we had to do was make the plays to win the game. We hadn't been doing that," Roby said. "Tonight we made the plays to win the game."