CHARLESTON, S.C.—It was all downhill from the opening tip.
After senior center Graham Beatty easily won the jump for the Crimson, Harvard (4-7) pushed the ball down the floor to captain Jason Norman who went up for a layup.
College of Charleston (6-3) corralled the loose ball, raced down the floor and center Josh Jackson finished an easy layup.
Three more Crimson possessions yielded zero points. Three more turns down the court for the Cougars resulted in three easy close-range finishes, including a thunderous dunk. A couple of timeouts weren’t enough to stop the bleeding, as Cougar forward Stanley Jackson brought the packed John Kreese Arena crowd to its feet with an up-and-under dunk—its sixth basket in the paint in the first three minutes.
“They were anxious to get back in front of their fans and play a good game,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “They didn’t let us get in the game...they established the line of scrimmage and it lasted for the duration of the [contest].”
By the first media timeout, the Crimson’s fate was sealed, as Charleston had jumped out to a 14-1 lead and cruised to the easy 85-62 victory.
“A lot of it was rust,” Norman said. “But it was a combination [of things], because we had two very poor practices the last couple of days.”
Sophomore center Brian Cusworth remained sidelined for the third consecutive game with a left thumb injury. While Beatty filled the hole in the middle admirably in the previous two games, foul trouble forced him to the bench early in the first half against the Cougars.
Junior Zach Martin and freshman Brad Unger saw considerable amounts of playing time, filling in for the depleted front court. Martin hit two threes and recorded a season-high eight points on the night.
But Harvard was out-muscled inside the whole match, losing the rebounding battle 48-36 and getting outscored in the paint 44-18.
“We couldn’t get the second chances on offense like we’ve been getting,” Sullivan said. “And we couldn’t get the extra possessions on defense that we’ve been getting out of our defensive rebounding.”
“As a team, we have to be tougher in the paint,” Norman added. “We just need toughness right now across the board.”
Charleston forwards Stanley and Bernard Jackson and center Josh Jackson dominated the interior, combining for 42 points, 15 boards and four blocks. The outburst came in relatively limited action, as none of the three spent more than 24 minutes on the floor, and they averaged just 21 minutes a piece.
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