Stuck on 141 wins for the past five games now, Harvard men’s basketball coach Frank Sullivan will have to wait at least one more in order to make history. The Crimson dropped a 60-52 decision last night to Holy Cross in its home opener, missing another chance for Sullivan to tie the all-time wins record for a Harvard men’s basketball coach.
The Crimson (0-2, 0-0 Ivy) dropped its second straight game to start the season in frustrating fashion. Just as in its opening night loss to Notre Dame last Friday, Harvard had a higher shooting percentage than the opposition, only to be undone by a bushel of turnovers. The Crimson had 26 in all, and 13 in each half.
“We were guarding real well, and I thought we played good defense,” Sullivan said. “We were just really bad on offense.”
Trailing throughout the early going, the solid Harvard defense kept the Crimson in the game. After a basket by Holy Cross (2-0, 0-0 Patriot) junior Kevin Hamilton to start the second half, Harvard reeled off six straight points, highlighted by a breakaway dunk by captain Jason Norman. With 16:16 left in the game, sophomore center Brian Cusworth nailed a jumper off a feed from senior guard David Giovacchini, to tie the game at 36.
The Crusaders’ defense, however, stepped up and shut down the Crimson over the next 15:24, forcing eleven turnovers and going on a 20-6 run that put Holy Cross up by fourteen.
Eight of those twenty points were scored by Hamilton, including a comeback-deflating three pointer with 5:21 left that gave the Crusaders their first double-digit lead of the game. By the time senior guard Kevin Rogus hit a jumper to make the score 56-44 with 52 seconds to play, the game was effectively over.
“It was as good a defensive half as we’ve played in a couple of years,” said Crusader coach Ralph Willard of his team’s closing effort. “With a minute and a half to go, [Harvard] was at 12 points for the whole second half. I was really pleased with the way we defended.”
That defense centered on John Hurley, who had six of Holy Cross’ 20 total steals. Hamilton had five take-aways himself to complement his game-high 18 points on 6-12 shooting. That stifling defense, which also produced 51 pass deflections, led to 17 more shots the Crusaders 64-47, allowing Holy Cross to overcome its poor 35.9 field goal percentage.
“I told the guys, ‘you’re going to have to win it on the defensive end,’” Willard said.
Norman and Rogus could not find their offensive rhythm all night.
“Guys aren’t quite sure whether to zig or zag,” said Giovacchini, who ran the point well in the first half and finished with a game high six assists. “We had a few back cuts [passes] that didn’t get through, and a few overplays where they ended up stealing the ball.”
Norman and Rogus combined for just four points on 2-5 shooting, as the Harvard offense struggled to incorporate the play of the guards into the low-post games of Cusworth and junior forward Matt Stehle, who added 13 points and 8 rebounds on the night.
“In the first half, [Holy Cross] was slow to double-team, so I took advantage,” said Cusworth, who had 11 points and five boards in the initial frame, but just two points and two rebounds after the break. “The second half, it seemed like they were quicker to the double-teams. I definitely wasn’t as assertive in the second half.”
“They’re traditionally in the top ten in the country in steals,” Sullivan said of Holy Cross. “We had talked about that so much going in...Holy Cross guards well every year.”
The Crusaders also seem to beat the Crimson every year. The win was the fifth straight for Holy Cross against Harvard, extending its all-time mark against the Crimson to 39-19.