Team preview: Harvard

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Did you hear about the Boston Strangler?

He struck in Cambridge in mid-January, only this time his victim was a once-promising season for Harvard's basketball team.

After sweeping Dartmouth in a home-and-home set, the Crimson were cruising at 10-5, on pace to challenge the program's all-time record for wins in a season (19, set 60 years earlier).

But Frank Sullivan's team broke for two weeks around finals, and some mysterious malaise choked off the momentum. After splitting the road excursion to Yale and Brown and smacking Columbia in New York City, Harvard was clipped at the buzzer by Cornell and Princeton, the latter at home.

Those two kidney shots sent the Crimson on a downward spiral -- an eight-game losing streak, five of the defeats coming in Lavietes Pavilion. Instead of a landmark campaign, Harvard sank to its fourth straight losing record overall.

"The buzzer-beaters back-to-back put a jolt into our confidence," Sullivan said. "As much as we tried to talk around it -- we were still on track to set a school record for wins -- our confidence just took the biggest dip of the season.

"If you're injured or your confidence is down, this league is very unforgiving. You have to do it in 48 hours."

Simply put, Harvard's shooters never completely found their way back from the finals hiatus. After draining 51 percent of its field goals in a defeat of Brown on Jan. 28, the Crimson didn't shoot better than 40 percent in its next four games -- three of them losses.

For the season, Harvard ranked last in the Ivy in field goal percentage (.411), despite ranking second in scoring offense (66.9 points per game). That lousy shooting, coupled with a league-low 0.68 assisst-to-turnover ratio, crippled the Crimson.

"We have to shoot the ball better," Sullivan said. 'There's no question that hurt us last year. It took a big toll on the guys when they couldn't hit shots.

"We're in a guard-oriented league, we're in a three-point league in the Ivy, and if you're not going to shoot the ball well behind the line, then you'd better be guarding the ball better."