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With the conference schedule just now getting underway, it’s time for a look back in The Crimson’s midseason report card on how the Harvard men’s basketball team has fared thus far through the non-conference schedule.
The interior game has been a model of consistency.
Junior forward Matt Stehle has scored at least 11 points in every game this season and has pulled down at least seven boards in all but one. Stehle has been able to stay on the court by avoiding foul trouble, averaging just three a contest—nearly a foul per game less than last season.
Sophomore Brian Cusworth has recorded at least 13 points in each of the eight games he’s played, and he currently leads the Crimson in scoring. Like Stehle, Cusworth pulled down at least seven rebounds in all but one contest. The 7’0 center missed four games with an injury to his left thumb, but returned against the Big Green yesterday.
The difficulty for the Crimson has been feeding Stehle and Cusworth inside. The two big men have generated most of their own scoring opportunities off of offensive rebounds and a nifty high-low game, which has helped Stehle rack up 25 assists—second best on the team.
Coming into the season, the biggest question mark centered on who would play point guard. With the emergence of senior David Giovacchini, who has recorded a 1.22 assist-to-turnover ratio—the only Harvard player to have more helpers than giveaways—in the team’s first 12 games, the point has been relatively stabilized. Giovacchini has recorded games of six, seven and nine assists and has eclipsed double-digits in scoring five times this season, including a 20-point performance in the overtime win over Colgate.
But the strengthening point guard position has been met with a decline from the two- and three-guard spots. Senior Kevin Rogus, Harvard’s single-season three-point record holder, has had serious trouble springing free on the perimeter for open looks. Rogus averaged 2.74 trifectas per game last season, but had hit more than two in only three games this year, before breaking out with seven in the overtime loss to Tennessee Tech.
Captain Jason Norman has shown flashes of the slashing guard that the Crimson so badly needs. But Norman’s sore knee—a chronic injury that has hampered him throughout his Harvard career—has kept him from developing into a consistent force. He has also had trouble drawing fouls and getting to the line, earning just 10 tries from the stripe and hitting just five.
With Rogus unable to find room to shoot and Norman having a tough time getting to the basket, the Crimson has been consistently outplayed at the guard position, something which will need to be turned around for Harvard to be successful in the Ivy season.
With Cusworth’s four-game hiatus, senior Graham Beatty jumped from the bench to the starting lineup, as he did in Cusworth’s absence all of last season. Beatty responded well scoring a career-high 12 points against Long Island, and pulling down 6.25 boards a contest over that four game span.
Junior Zach Martin joined Beatty in the frontcourt rotation and scored eight points against Long Island and College of Charleston. The 6’4 forward has been forced to play out of position throughout his Harvard career, but continues to provide quality minutes at the four spot.
Sophomore guard Jim Goffredo has struggled to find his shooting touch off the bench this season, connecting on just 25 percent of his three-point opportunities. Goffredo hasn’t been much better inside the arc, hitting just 8-of-24 attempts from short range.
Despite losing the starting point guard position to Giovacchini, junior guard Michael Beal has found his niche in the rebounding department. Beal has come off the bench to average just under four boards per game—third best on the team behind Stehle and Cusworth.
The other player jockeying for the starting point guard position at the beginning of the season was freshman Tyler Klunick. While Klunick hasn’t quite met the lofty expectations that were placed on him from the moment he stepped foot on the Lavietes floor, he has proven to be a tenacious defender off the bench and a spark plug that could help Harvard down the stretch in some close Ivy contests.
As a team, the Crimson has struggled with turnovers averaging just over 20 per game and consequently has continued to carry an assist-to-turnover ratio of well under one. Harvard has also struggled in getting to the line and has had even more difficulty converting when it has the opportunity, hitting just over 70 percent on the season.
The Crimson dominated the glass all season, outrebounding opponents by 3.4 boards a game to this point.
Harvard’s most impressive performance of the season came in a losing effort as the squad rallied from a 43-27 halftime deficit at Notre Dame to pull even at 57, before falling 66-59. The Crimson followed up with another strong effort just eight days later, as it earned its first win of the season with an 85-75 win over Northeastern.
But a difficult overtime loss at New Hampshire sent Harvard into a tailspin, and the Crimson dropped three straight.
Sitting at 1-5, Harvard more closely resembled the 4-23 team of a year ago than the squad that many thought could return to the upper division of the Ivy League this season. The Crimson snapped out of the slump on the road with a determined overtime victory over Colgate and notched two more wins in the next twelve days over Lehigh and Long Island. The Saturn Shootout holiday tournament in Charleston, Harvard’s seventh and eighth games away from the friendly confines of Lavietes Pavilion, proved unkind to the Crimson. The squad was embarrassed by host College of Charleston in the opener before dropping another tough overtime game to Tennessee Tech, leaving Harvard 4-8 heading into Ivy play.
The four early wins matched the Crimson’s total from all of last season, but fell a few games short of expectations. The last-second defeat at New Hampshire and the loss of Cusworth for the last half of December were the two biggest blows to Harvard’s bid for a .500 or better mark after 12 games.
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