BRONX, N.Y.—Jon Severe hobbled through the hallways from Fordham’s locker room toward the Rose Hill court, wearing street clothes and carrying a large plastic bag of ice.
“I felt like both my knees were going to break,” he said in a calm but confounded tone.
Those knees hampered Severe in the first half of Fordham’s 94-86 loss to Harvard on Saturday afternoon, as the Atlantic 10’s leading scorer netted just two points on 1-of-5 shooting. Not even a few minutes of stretching on the trainer’s table behind the bleachers or some time on the stationary bike could loosen him up.
The pain hampered Severe’s aggressiveness, an unmistakable trait of the scorer who usually calls for the ball from well beyond NBA range with his feet already set to attack.
“He’s got to come out of the gate that aggressive,” Fordham head coach Tom Pecora said. “It’s important for him to find shots, to chase shots because he’s that good of an offensive player.”
Severe looked spry as ever in the second half. He couldn’t put his finger on what enabled him to overcome his knee pain, but he did not care.
Harvard had extended its halftime lead to 15 at the 14:55 mark. A few more empty possessions for the hosting Rams, and the Crimson could run back to Cambridge with an easy victory.
Severe had different plans.
In the span of five possessions, Severe buried three treys, the last of which he launched over the 6-foot-8 Agunwa Okolie from NBA range. Moments later, another Severe 3-pointer cut Harvard’s lead to six with 10:30 left in the game.
“He’s as good of a scorer that we’ve played all season. He’s so explosive,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker, whose Crimson have faced talented scorers in Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie, Bryant’s Dyami Starks and Boston University’s D.J. Irving this season. “You see how streaky he could become, in terms of once he sees the ball go in the basket one or two times it’s like an ocean out there for him.”
Harvard pushed its lead back to 15 with a Wesley Saunders and-one at the 7:01 mark, but after a Mandell Thomas jumper, Severe crossed up Laurent Rivard on the right wing for an easy lay-in and followed with a nifty stepback jumper from the left side on Fordham’s ensuing possession.
“He’s a scorer, in my opinion, watching him getting prepared,” Amaker said. “He’s not just a shooter. You can see him put it down, get to the rim.”
Severe finished with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including 5-of-9 from deep. But not even his performance in conjunction with Branden Frazier’s 31 points and seven assists could rally Fordham past Harvard.
“Obviously, if [Severe] has a first half like the second half, it’s a different night for us,” Pecora said.
Inconsistency on a half-by-half basis has been a theme for Severe early in his collegiate career. On Monday, he scored three first-half points against Loyola-Illinois before erupting for 20 second-half points. Just two days prior, he had posted 25 first-half points at Monmouth but finished with 32 points as Fordham relinquished a double-digit lead.
“He’s got to get old,” Pecora said of the freshman who has just 12 Division I games under his belt. “There’s very few freshmen that are playing, the term we like to use is championship possessions, where every possession is at a high level, your intensity is through the roof. Veterans play that way, and it’s very, very rare to find a freshman that can do that.”
But Pecora shouldn’t be so quick to wish age upon his burgeoning but ailing star. For Fordham’s sake, hopefully Severe’s knee pain will subside in time for Monday’s game at Siena.