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With the score of Saturday night's Harvard-Brown men's basketball game 42-32 at halftime, Harvard Coach Roby was in trouble. In football, a lost headset or clipboard can spell disaster for a coach. In baseball, stolen chewing tobacco always spells doom. But Harvard had lost this season's secret weapon: the second half run.
The second half has been owned by Harvard for most of the season. Against Cornell, the Crimson trailed by 11 at the half but exploded for a 24-3 run early in the second period to leave the Big Red in the dust. A quick 12-4 burst at the start of the second half of the Columbia match dashed all Lion hopes of coming back from 16 points down at the half. And even in a losing effort at home against Dartmouth, Harvard erased a seven-point halftime deficit before succumbing to the Big Green.
After Mssrs. Holmes and Mason declined the case, I was summoned to investigate. As I watched the action unfold after the intermission, I eliminated suspects one by one.
Ralph James was completely innocent. Normally the Crimson's offensive spark, his 5-for-14 second half shooting clearly revealed that he had no idea where the second-half run was this time around. Nor did Ron Mitchell (2-for-9 in the second half).
The wily veterans, Co-Captains Scott Gilly and Fred Schernecker, were quite suspicious. Gilly hit two three-pointers early in the second half, but was silent the rest of the way. Schernecker poured in four three-pointers, including a four-point play, but he sent the crowd to the fallout shelters with his unmistakable misses.
"Hey, we don't know any more than you do," they seemed to say. "We're trying to find that run, too, but someone must be holding it hostage."
The someone was Brown forward Arthur Jackson.
Whenever Harvard started its long-awaited run, son fired warning shots as if to "Don't comeany closer." But the warning shots hit Harvardeach time. For three points.
At the start the second half, Jackson answered Brown'sfirst seven points, adding a three-pointer and alayup a three-point play. When Ron Mitchellfollowed up a Dana Smith jumper to close the gap to60-54 with 15 left, Jackson hit a three to start a9-2 Brown run. Harvard never got closer.
After Schernecker's four-point play and a stealand layup by James cut a point lead to seven with3:06 left, Jackson banged home another three. Ihad my man.
But after the damage was done, Harvard wasreluctant to press charges. After all, there wereother factors besides Jackson and his teammates.With Harvard playing its third game this week,fatigue was one.
"I think we felt the effects of Tuesday,Friday, Saturday," Roby said. "Tonight we ran intoa team that was ready."
The press was also less tenacious. Normallyusing depth to its advantage, the Crimson hadthree players on the court for more than 34minutes, including Dana Smith who was forced toplay most of the game with fellow point guardTarik Camp-bell plagued by fouls.
"One of the things we like to do is use the twoguards to wear people out and keep the ballmoving," Roby said, "but we had to play Dana alotmore and he might have gotten tired and we justcouldn't keep the kind of pressure on that we'dlike to."
"You can't expect to come back from 11 pointsat the half every game," Mitchell said. "It's atough league."
So this case will probably never get to court.But if there's one thing I've learnedinvestigating basketball cases, it's that theyshould be decided on the court, not in court
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