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CHARLESTON, S.C.—Senior guard Kevin Rogus just couldn’t make number eight fall.
Trailing 96-93 with 23 seconds left to go, the Harvard men’s basketball team raced up the floor and spent a 30-second timeout. The Crimson (4-8) worked the ball around to Rogus, who was 7-for-13 from behind the arc to that point, but he failed to connect with 11 seconds remaining, and Tennessee Tech (5-6) held on for the 98-93 victory in the consolation game of the Saturn Shootout at John Kresse Arena.
Rogus finished with a season-high 27 points on the evening, just two points short of his career high, and tied a career high with four steals.
“He played great,” captain Jason Norman said. “Everybody got him open looks. We were swinging the ball real well and he was knocking down shots.”
Harvard trailed by four with 2:14 remaining in the extra session, when sophomore guard Jim Goffredo connected for his second trifecta on the evening. On the subsequent possession, Rogus worked his way to the top of the arc and nailed his seventh three of the contest to knot the score at 93 before being bowled over by a Golden Eagle defender.
Senior point guard David Giovacchini scored the first five points of the overtime for Harvard and finished with 12 on the game.
The Crimson dodged two bullets late in regulation while trailing by three, as Tennessee Tech corralled a loose ball, but Harvard tied it up and the Crimson ran down a blocked shot to retain possession. Harvard launched two threes, missing both, but junior forward Matt Stehle tipped the second in to pull the Crimson within one, 81-80. Golden Eagles forward Willie Jenkins hit one of his two free throws, giving Harvard one last chance with 4.8 seconds remaining, trailing 82-80.
Goffredo drove the lane and missed a runner long, but Stehle tipped the ball and it banked in with just 0.2 left in regulation.
“I actually thought time had already expired,” Stehle said. “So I was just tipping it up, and I was really lucky. I got a good roll on the rim, and it fell perfectly.”
The desperation tip in gave Stehle 22 points on the evening—a season high and tied for his career best. He also tied career highs in assists (five), blocks (four) and steals (four) and finished one rebound shy of a double-double.
Stehle’s nine boards weren’t enough to keep the Crimson from being outrebounded for the third-consecutive game, partially due to sophomore center Brian Cusworth’s absence from the lineup with a left thumb injury.
“It will be nice to get Brian back,” Stehle said. “But [freshman forward] Brad [Unger] and [sophomore forward] Brian [Darcy] both have done a very good job for only having seen limited time before.”
With Harvard leading 68-66, Rogus nailed a jumper from the deep corner to cap off an 11-0 run and give the Crimson a four-point lead. Harvard would hold the lead until Anthony Fisher and Kenyon Boyd hit back-to-back threes for the Golden Eagles to put their team ahead 77-76 with 1:57 remaining. The Crimson would take the lead one last time on a Beatty put back of a Norman miss, but Fisher would hit two free throws and Derek Stribling added a finger roll to put the Golden Eagles back on top by three, 81-78.
The Crimson caught fire from behind the arc in the second half, as Rogus nailed three consecutive trifectas and sophomore guard Jim Goffredo added one and sunk all three free throws after being fouled on another. Despite the three-point outburst, Tennessee Tech maintained a seven point lead, 66-59, with 7:37 to go, as the squad kept breaking down the Harvard defense for easy layups.
Harvard stormed out of the halftime break on a 15-6 run, pulling even with the Golden Eagles for the first time since the two sides were knotted at four. Stehle hit four free throws and Giovacchini sunk two during the run.
“We played awful in the first half,” Stehle said. “I didn’t do what I was supposed to. I just wanted to go out and...play a lot tougher. I realized that [the Tennessee Tech forwards] were real athletic, so they would jump and I got to the line and slowed things down a bit.”
The Golden Eagles maintained a comfortable lead throughout the early portion of the contest until junior forward Zach Martin nailed a three and Stehle followed with a layup to pull the Crimson back within three, 26-23. Tennessee Tech responded with four straight baskets from within two feet, including a thunderous two-handed dunk to push its lead to 11. Harvard clamped down and stopped the run, but went into the intermission down 36-27.
“Coach [Sullivan] put three things on the board at halftime,” Norman said. “‘Defend,’ ‘Rebound’ and ‘Willingness to Win.’ And we just wanted to execute those three things and come out stronger than we did in the first half.”
The two squads may have combined for 191 points on the evening, but neither side could find the bucket at the outset, as the game remained scoreless until Fisher hit two free throws with 17:04 left in the first half.
The Crimson’s offense continued to struggle after the first media timeout, as Harvard recorded two straight 35-second violations.
Tennessee Tech took advantage, jumping out to a 16-8 lead, including seven straight points by forward Willie Jenkins. Jenkins had 21 points in the Golden Eagles’ opening round loss to St. Peter’s and finished with 15 against Harvard.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at email@example.com.
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