CHARLESTON, S.C.—For the Harvard men’s basketball team, it’s time to make New Year's resolutions.
Because after an 85-62 loss, the Harvard men's basketball has plenty of room for self-improvement, as the College of Charleston (6-3) pummeled the Crimson (4-7) in the first round of the 2004 Saturn Shootout at the John Kresse Arena last night.
The game was Harvard's first since Dec. 22, and during the opening minutes of the game, the Crimson seemed like it was still on vacation.
"A lot of it was rust," captain Jason Norman said. "But when the crowd gets involved like that, it's tough—they gain a lot of momentum."
After bellicose griping about foul calls, spectators chanted "we want wings" as the last seconds ticked off the clock—a local grill gives the tasty chicken treats away if the Cougars win and score 88 points or more. But a trio of missed three-pointers from Charleston ensured that the rowdy fans would go home hungry while Harvard went back to its hotel with a humbling loss.
"For the crowd to be screaming like that, it's kind of embarrassing," Norman said.
With sophomore Brian Cusworth still injured, the Crimson couldn't get its offense off the ground. Harvard’s shooting from the field improved once the game was beyond its reach, but its shooting woes started early as it sunk 8-of-27 (29.6 field goal percentage) in the first half.
At halftime, Harvard found itself down 47-30, the Crimson’s second-worst halftime deficit this season.
"On offense, most of our guys really had trouble finding their natural game tonight at all positions," Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said.
Junior forward Matt Stehle led Harvard with 12 points.
"Tonight was a very challenging defensive game for him," Sullivan said. "It took a lot out of him, but he still came up with credible numbers."
The rough opening minutes of the game doomed the Crimson, as the Cougars buried Harvard well before the first media timeout. In those defining minutes, Charleston picked up a double-digit lead, while the Crimson struggled to find its shooting game.
In addition to the game score, the Cougars also went ahead in the foul category during the first half, but Harvard couldn’t capitalize on the free throw opportunities. The Crimson shot 66.7 percent from the free-throw line, picking up 18-of-27 to the Cougars' even worse 12-of-21 (57.1 percent). Sophomore Jim Goffredo shot a perfect 4-for-4, although he lacked accuracy from the field, making just two of seven three-point attempts.
As Harvard's offense struggled to put points on the board, its defense struggled to keep up with the Cougars at the other end of the court.
Charleston freshman center Josh Jackson (6'7, 250 lbs.) proved the hardest for the Crimson to control under the net, leading all scorers with 22 points. A Jackson trio crippled Harvard, as Josh Jackson combined with senior guard Stanley Jackson and senior forward Bernard Jackson to put up 42 points. Stanley Jackson led rebounding for the Cougars, with seven, while Bernard Jackson posted eight points and five rebounds.
Harvard also came up short on rebounding, its demonstrated strength this season. Charleston posted 48 to the Crimson's 36, with a 34-19 disparity in the first half. Stehle and junior Michael Beal led Harvard, crashing the boards and grabbing seven each.
"I think their quickness to the rim was something different from what we've really seen," Sullivan said. "We don't get to the ball with that kind of elevation."
The Crimson found few weak spots in the Cougars’ prickly defense that melded fluidly into half- and full-court presses. Led by Stanley Jackson, the Charleston defensive wall forced Harvard into turnovers, enabling the fast breaks that stretched out the Cougars’ lead. The Crimson would struggle with turnovers throughout the game, surrendering possession 22 times to Charleston’s 16. Senior forward Graham Beatty accounted for four of those, as well as seven points and four rebounds.
"They did a nice job getting it to passing lanes and putting a lot of pressure on our point guards to make plays," Sullivan said. "I think their pressure really created some turnovers that were instrumental in getting them running, getting their fans into the game."
—Staff writer Samuel C. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.