As time expired on Cornell, just as it did on Columbia the night before, the age-old sports cliché proved ever so true: On any given day, any team can win.
If relevant records predicted game outcomes, then surely Columbia’s 6-4 Ivy record, good for second-place in the league, meant the Crimson men’s basketball team and their 2-7 league record didn’t stand a chance on Friday (Feb. 27). And it could have been assumed that despite Harvard’s respectable 12-13 win-loss total, the Crimson were still no match for league-leader Cornell and its 19-8 (9-2 Ivy League) record Saturday night (Feb. 28).
But, that’s apparently why they play the game.
Columbia spoiled Harvard’s upset bid on Feb. 14 in New York City when Columbia came back from a 10-point deficit, hitting a floater with 4.2 seconds left in the game to defeat the Crimson, 60-59. The Crimson buckled in the game’s waning minutes — again — for their sixth loss in the seven preceding games.
But at Lavietes Pavilion on Feb. 27, the Crimson finished strong. Only up two at halftime, Harvard went on an 11-2 second-half run to take over the game. Despite the Crimson’s burst of offense in which they scored 43 points in the final half, Harvard’s defensive play was equally important in sealing the 72-63 win. Senior guard Drew Housman recorded a career-high six steals, and forward Keith Wright ’12 tied a career-best of four blocks for Harvard. Four Crimson players finished the game in double figures, with Jeremy Lin ‘10 and Wright leading all scorers with 14 points apiece. Even though a stunned Columbia team sulked off of the court, knowing the loss jeopardized their Ivy League title hopes, the Lions would not be Harvard’s only victim of the weekend.
In Harvard’s first matchup against Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., earlier this season, the Big Red embarrassed the Crimson by the score of 96-75. The 96 points in the 21-point loss was the most Harvard had given up all year and their worst loss of the season. With a 19-8 record going into their most recent matchup against Harvard, Cornell had had many good days this season, but Saturday wasn’t one of them.
Down by three at halftime, the Crimson came out tickling the twine in the second-half, shooting 59 percent from the field and 14 for 17 from the free throw line. The Big Red, unsuccessful in containing Lin and Houseman, gave up 20 points to both members of the scoring tandem, who led Harvard to a 71-70 win.
The Big Red tried to make their push at the end — and, as Columbia had done 24 hours before — failed. With just three seconds remaining and the Big Red down by a point, Cornell’s Louis Dale drove into the lane and tried to sink the game-winner, but Wright redirected his shot and Harvard was the victor.
Housman, who was named Ivy Player of the Week for his weekend play, also added five rebounds and four assists, and shot 60 percent from the field in his last home game for the Crimson. Also contributing in their last home game were seniors Evan Harris and Andrew Pusar, with five points each.
Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker, pleased the Crimson seniors finished at home with a big win, said, “I’m really happy for these three kids because they’ve done a lot in this program. … They’ve been model guys and citizens and have worked their tails off to become solid basketball players.”
The Crimson have now won three straight. They face Brown on Friday (March 6) and Yale on Saturday (March 7).
Harvard (13-13; 5-7 Ivy League), which started Ivy League play 2-7, will now flirt with the chance for its first winning campaign since the 2001-02 season.
“We’re still on par to possibly have a winning season and it would be wonderful if we could have that opportunity for these three [seniors],” said Amaker.
Lin, a junior whose last home game will be in 12 months, felt the same way: “We want to get this for the seniors. They’ve worked so hard and they’ve put so much into this program. … [We want] to just send the seniors out the right way.”