The Harvard men's basketball team's game against Holy Cross last night at Briggs Cage bore remarkable similarity to its season so far. Only one phrase could describe it: "slow out of the blocks."
The Crusaders, who entered the game with only one win, a hard-fought three-point decision against long-time Ivy cellar-dweller Columbia, streaked to a 10-2 lead in the first three-and-a-half minutes. Holy Cross freshman guard David Boyle added seven quick points off the bench to help Holy Cross open up a 23-9 lead on its way to a 105-89 victory over the stumbling Crimson (1-4).
"When you get off to a quick start, it changes the game around," Harvard Coach Peter Roby said. "You put your opponent in a comfort zone, they get easier shots. And there isn't that sense of urgency that you can't make a mistake on every possession."
Five of the Crusaders' first six baskets came on layups, with Aaron Jordan and Leon Dickerson converting off the break and Jordan and Earl Weedon tipping in offensive rebounds as the Crimson slipped behind, 12-4.
"We worked the ball around a lot better today, so that we got a lot of layups," said Holy Cross senior center Jim Nairus, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
Boyle then stepped in for forward Bill Walker, who had picked up two quick fouls, and nailed a three-pointer from the right side to up the Holy Cross advantage to 15-6. Boyle's baseline jumper and two foul shots gave the Crusaders a 23-9 lead. After this initial onslaught, Harvard never got closer than four points.
"David Boyle stepped to the fore today, hitting those threes and playing solid defense on [Harvard forward] Ralph [James]," Holy Cross Coach George Blaney said.
James was limited to a marginal defensive role because of a shoulder injury suffered last Saturday. Offensively, James lost the threat of his outside shot, but did manage to score 10 points, including 6-for-6 shooting from the foul line.
And with James and sophomore Peter Condakes, also hampered by a back injury, logging heavy playing time, the Crimson wasn't able to keep up with the Crusaders in a quick-tempo game.
"After three games playing a team that is being patient, this is the kind of game we needed," Blaney said. "We needed to get into the open court. We wore them down."
Doing most of the damage in the open court was forward Leon Dickerson, whose 22-point, 10-rebound effort was highlighted by 10-for-15 shooting from the floor. This was nothing newfor the Crimson, which saw Dickerson blitz themfor 19 points in the Crusaders' win over Harvardlast year.
"Dickerson was outstanding tonight," Blaneysaid. "With the open court and the changing D's,it's his kind of game. Everytime we saw pressure,we attacked it, and he was a big part of that."
Trailing by eight, 51-43, at halftime, Harvardpulled to within four points in the early minutesof the second half behind Ron Mitchell's twolayups and sharp defense. Tyler Rullman's fallawayjumper cut the deficit to 57-53, but Nairus'turn-around jumper keyed a 17-0 run that put thegame out of reach.
With the score 61-53, a missed dunk by Harvardforward Ron Mitchell killed the Crimson'smomentum. Harvard point guard Tarik Campbell drovethe lane and dished to Mitchell, who missed theslam dunk and was called for a technical foul forholding onto the rim. The Crimson crumbled, beingoutscored, 13-0, over the next two minutes.
Nairus, shooting only 30 percent from the fieldentering the game, broke out of his shooting slumpwith a 7-for-9 shooting effort, including a pairof back-breaking three-pointers.
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