The Harvard men’s basketball team headed to Vacationland on Saturday looking to take care of pressing business against Maine. The Crimson left with work unfinished, however, as Harvard failed to pick up its first road win of the season, falling to the Black Bears 79-66 at Memorial Gym in Orono.
Harvard (1-4) trailed throughout the contest, and fell several steps short in its attempt at a comeback. Maine (3-2) jumped on the Crimson early in the first half and ran out to a quick 18-6 lead, which it maintained throughout the majority of the period. Harvard was able to put together a 13-3 run just before the half to keep things interesting, though, and the Crimson found itself down just 32-29 at the intermission.
But that was as close as Harvard would get. The Black Bears opened up a convincing lead early in the second half, thanks to some deadly three-point shooting from Maine guard Kevin Reed. Reed, who scored all of his 14 points after the break, set the Black Bears’ record for career three-point field goals by hitting back-to-back treys with just less than 10 minutes to play. Overall, Reed was 4-of-7 from behind the arc, including the shot with 15:52 left that put the Bears ahead by double-digits for good. Maine as a team was a remarkable 10-of-20 from three-point range.
“Give Maine credit. They responded to our streaks,” Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said. “They got some energy from their three perimeter guys...guys who can catch and shoot the three.”
Harvard had its worst defensive game of the young season, allowing the Black Bears to shoot 48.2 percent from the floor. It was the first time that Harvard, which shot 38.6 percent, had a worse percentage than its opponent.
“We did get some open looks, especially in the first half when they put up a lead,” sophomore center Brian Cusworth said. “Our shots just weren’t falling.”
Harvard’s woes on the offensive end were exacerbated by the struggles of junior forward Matt Stehle, who was hounded by an aggressive Maine frontcourt into shooting just 2-of-7 from the field and committing four turnovers. Stehle did come up with his third double-double of the year, posting 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, and Cusworth had another solid game in the paint, scoring a team-high 16 points and grabbing six boards.
“Their frontcourt guys really muscled our guys—legally,” Sullivan said. “They have two really strong guys at the five spot in [David] Dubois and [Mark] Flavin who can push people under the rim.”
Sophomore guard Jim Goffredo also found the Maine defense unfriendly, as he hit just one of the eight treys that he launched on the afternoon.
“Maine did a good job of capitalizing on our inability to score by playing the game at a very high tempo,” Cusworth said. “[Their guards] are all used to playing that high tempo game, and you aren’t used to seeing that in the Ivy League.”
Maine was paced by guard Ernest Turner, a transfer from UNLV, who led all scorers with a career-high 22 points on 6-of-16 shooting, while point guard Chris Markwood added 11 points and six assists. The Crimson was done in by the quickness and strength of the starting Maine backcourt, as Turner, Reed and Markwood poured in 47 points and harassed Harvard into 18 turnovers, a continuing problem for the Crimson.
“I thought this was the first game this year in which we had a real inability to guard people,” Sullivan said. “You look at Turner, Reed and Markwood, and those are three tough covers. I was afraid that their three perimeter guys might have been looking for a chance to break out, and that’s exactly what happened today.”
Harvard’s loss kept Sullivan from setting the school record for most wins by a men’s basketball coach. He needs just one more victory to break the mark of 142 held by Floyd Wilson, which he tied when the Crimson notched its first win of the season, an 85-75 triumph over Northeastern.