Until Saturday, the Harvard men's basketball team had opened its season by playing four good games, earning a 4-0 record.
All streaks must end.
Saturday, at Lavietes Pavilion, Holy Cross handed Harvard its first loss of the season by a 69-60 count, running away from the host team with 46 second-half points.
One only has to look at the shooting percentages to figure out how the Crusaders (2-4) scored the upset. After a first half in which both teams shot under 30 percent from the floor, Holy Cross dominated the second, hitting on 61.5 percent of its shots. Harvard, meanwhile, stayed cold at 34.5 percent.
"I'm just really proud," Crusader coach Bill Raynor said. "When you've got an undefeated team at home, they [usually] control the game. We had to play well and prove to ourselves that we could win."
Holy Cross was paced by forward Chris Rojik (21 points) and point guard John Hightower's 20 on 9-for-18 shooting. The Crimson, on the other hand, missed its first 16 three-point attempts, and senior forward Kyle Snowden was the only player to make more than three shots.
It was Snowden (19 points, 12 rebounds) that kept Harvard close at all. His three lay-ins off the glass were the Crimson's only points over the first 7:53 of the second half, and over that period Holy Cross turned a 26-23 Harvard halftime lead into a tie game.
Nevertheless, when the Crusaders took a 38-36 lead on a layup by Patrick Tutwiler, the Crimson became noticeably flatter. That basket was the first of a 12-4 Holy Cross run, after which Harvard never got closer than six points from the lead.
"I think that we were a little frustrated out there," Snowden said. "We have to mature and not let [our shooting problems] affect us on the defensive end."
Harvard was also stymied on the boards, losing the rebounding battle by a 47-42 margin. Contributing to that was the Crimson's insistence on attempting three-pointers and its inability to hit them, which created long rebounds. Tutwiler led all players with 13 boards, but no other Crusader had more than six.
The first half was marked by almost complete sloppiness. Neither team could shoot or score, but Holy Cross was worse at it, making only one basket over the last 6:51 of the half. Cold spells such as that allowed Harvard to come back from deficits of 12-17 and 16-20 to take a three-point lead at halftime.
But in the second half, both Hightower and Rojik scored 15 points, bursting apart a Harvard defense that had been allowing teams to make less than 40 percent of their shots.
Part of the reason was the illness of junior Mike Scott. The two-guard started the game but only played for eight minutes, still hampered by the flu. Last season, he and then-junior Dave Demian would trade off guarding the opposing team's best guard, which on Saturday was unquestionably Hightower.
However, Demian was only in for 23 minutes, scoring two points and fouling out while trying to stop the clock late in the game. Sophomore Mike Beam saw 20 minutes of playing time at off guard, and senior swingman Dave Weaver rotated there a few times as well.
So instead of using the guarding-by-committee on Hightower, Harvard opted to put sophomore point guard Tim Hill on him. Hill is quick, speedy but under six feet, and the 6'1" Hightower was able to shoot over him. And on the other end as well, Hightower was able to hold Hill to 3-of-13 shooting and 10 points.
Harvard's next game is at home against Boston University, a team that many are picking to win the America East Conference and go to the NCAA's.... Weaver broke the 0-16 three-point drought with 4:40 to go in the game and then hit another with 2:49 left. HOLY CROSS: Hightower 9-18 1-5 20, Dombroski 1-1 0-0 3, Rojik 6-17 8-9 21, Driscoll 1-3 2-3 4, Clark 3-3 0-0 6, Kerr 2-5 0-0 4, Shea 1-5 4-4 7, Tutwiler 1-5 0-0 2, Hopkins 0-0 0-0 0, Stowers 1-2 0-0 2, Ezell 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS 25-61 15-21 69. HARVARD: Hill 3-13 4-4 10, Demian 1-8 0-0 2, Scott 0-3 0-0 0, Snowden 7-11 5-7 19, Grancio 3-8 4-4 10, Weaver 3-12 2-2 10, Beam 3-10 0-0 7, Ewing 1-4 0-0 2. TOTALS: 21-69 15-17 60.
HOLY CROSS: Hightower 9-18 1-5 20, Dombroski 1-1 0-0 3, Rojik 6-17 8-9 21, Driscoll 1-3 2-3 4, Clark 3-3 0-0 6, Kerr 2-5 0-0 4, Shea 1-5 4-4 7, Tutwiler 1-5 0-0 2, Hopkins 0-0 0-0 0, Stowers 1-2 0-0 2, Ezell 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS 25-61 15-21 69.
HARVARD: Hill 3-13 4-4 10, Demian 1-8 0-0 2, Scott 0-3 0-0 0, Snowden 7-11 5-7 19, Grancio 3-8 4-4 10, Weaver 3-12 2-2 10, Beam 3-10 0-0 7, Ewing 1-4 0-0 2. TOTALS: 21-69 15-17 60.
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