DURHAM, N.H.—The Harvard men’s basketball team may have been gifted two consecutive free throw opportunities to put the game out of reach, but New Hampshire needed just one off-balance three-pointer to kill the Crimson’s hopes last night, in the Wildcats’ 67-60 overtime win.
Up 53-50 with less than a minute to go in regulation, junior forward Matt Stehle and junior guard Michael Beal each missed bonus free-throw opportunities, giving UNH (4-1) one last chance to tie the game and send it into overtime after it got the ball back with 12 seconds remaining in the game.
Freshman guard Chris Vetrano took advantage of the golden opportunity, banking home a three-pointer after coming off a high-screen to knot the game at 53 with just two seconds remaining as the crowd erupted in celebration.
“I’ll keep it in the trophy case, and I didn’t even shoot it,” said Wildcat captain Ben Sturgill, whose team is now off to its best start since the 1963-64 season.
In the extra period, UNH struck first, and never found itself trailing again, as Harvard (1-3) managed to tie the game just once at 57-57 with 1:28 remaining. Though the Wildcats went up 63-57, the Crimson had one last slim chance to win the game after senior guard Kevin Rogus nailed a three-pointer—his fifth trey and field goal of the night—from NBA range to put the game at 63-60.
But UNH’s newest sensation and leading scorer, Vetrano, drove the final nail in the coffin as he sunk both free throws to put his team ahead, 65-60. Sophomore guard Jason Anderson struck two more for insurance to put the Wildcats up 67-60 with just eight seconds to go.
“I think what you’re seeing is the maturity of the younger guys blending in with the older guys,” UNH coach Phil Rowe said.
Harvard may have struggled on the offensive end of things—coughing up 24 turnovers while only providing four assists and recording three shot clock violations—but it held strong on defense, limiting the Wildcats to just 24 percent shooting in the second half.
“I might as well cut this left hand off because I’m not even using it,” said Sturgill, who finished the night just 4-15.
Sophomore center Brian Cusworth (eight rebounds, 18 points) anchored the center of the court, recording five of the Crimson’s six blocked shots, compared to just three combined for UNH. Before fouling out with 25 seconds to go, Cusworth racked up eight rebounds and 18 points on 7-10 from the field and went 4-4 from the free-throw line. The rest of the Harvard squad hit just 16 field goals in 43 attempts and sank just two of seven from the charity stripe.
Fellow frontcourt man Stehle recorded his second straight double-double of the season, pulling down 12 boards and racking up 15 points.
Meanwhile, the point guard situation remained shaky for the Crimson, as starter senior David Giovacchini recorded two points, four assists, five turnovers in 28 minutes, while Beal had zero points, four assists, two turnovers in 24 minutes.
“Both of us are truly in the stage of reinventing ourselves right now,” Crimson coach Frank Sullivan said. “We’re still trying to find some semblance of continuity at our point guard...I think that showed in sloppy play for both teams.”
The Wildcats seemed to have found their own backcourt solution in Vetrano and sophomore Jermaine Anderson, who scored seven of the Wildcats’ 14 total overtime points. Anderson and Vetrano also finished first and second in scoring, respectively.
“These are the guys that really spark the team,” Sturgill said.
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.