February 5, 2007

Men's Basketball Losses Heart-Breaker Against Harvard

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As all Jack Bauer aficionados know, quite a bit can happen in 24 hours. The same can also be said for Ivy League basketball. After handing Dartmouth a 13-point loss the previous night, Cornell (11-9, 4-2) failed to make the weekend a clean sweep as Harvard (10-10, 3-3) — a team coming off a 20-point home loss — used a final second layup by sophomore Evan Harris to defeat the Red 58-57. The last second victory marred a second half in which the Red erased a 14-point deficit to take the lead midway through the half.

“I give our guys a lot of credit,” said Cornell head coach Steve Donahue. “We did a great job getting energized [for the second-half] and they gave it everything they have.”

The late-game drama was not matched by the game’s opening, as each team struggled to gain an advantage. Cornell was able to take 4-0 lead while the Crimson answered with a 6-0 run of its own that ended when freshman Ryan Wittman hit a jumper to knot the score at 6. The teams stayed within a basket of each other until midway through the half when Harvard senior Jim Goffredo hit a 3 to put the Crimson ahead 19-14. Cornell stayed within striking distance behind inside buckets from seniors Andrew Naeve and Ugo Ihekwazu. After a 3-pointer by freshman Louis Dale put the Red back within two, the Crimson built a 7-point haltime lead punctuated by a Harris tip-in as time expired in the frame.

“They came out with a lot of energy and were really hungry for the win,” Dale said. “We didn’t match that intensity in the first half.”

Harvard carried that momentum into the second half as it jumped out on a quick 7-0 run that put the Red in a 14-point hole. Cornell began the long climb out just seconds later as senior captain Graham Dow hit a layup and Tyler added a bucket on the subsequent possession to cut the deficit to 10. The Cornell run continued as sophomore Brian Kreefer came off the bench to hit a 3 and a layup on back-to-back possessions. Following a Crimson turnover — its second straight — Tyler took a pass from Dale and laid the ball in to cut the lead to three. The Red could not be stopped as Naeve hit a free throw and Dale swished a 3-pointer that gave Cornell its first lead since midway through the previous half.

“I thought we weathered the run well,” said Harvard head coach Frank Sullivan. “I give our guys a lot of credit, they hung in there and made some plays.”

The Crimson stalled the 15-0 run at the free-throw stripe and put momentum back on its side as Dale had his fast-break layup blocked by freshman Jeremy Lin and Harris converted a jumper at the other end to put Harvard ahead, 45-44. The Red wouldn’t allow the Crimson to get out of reach however, as freshman Geoff Reeves came off the bench and knocked down a 3-pointer.

“I have great confidence in all [the substitutes],” Donahue said. “Kreefer came in and gave us a lot of energy and [Reeves] is really starting to take advantage of his opportunities.”

Harris and Tyler then traded layups at opposite ends of the floor to keep the Red in front. After each team turned the ball over on its next two possessions, Harris electrified the crowd with a dunk that knotted the score at 51. Cornell would grab the reins on its following two possessions as Dale hit two from the charity stripe and Reeves poured in another 3 to give the Red its biggest lead of the night.

Harvard then took advantage of two Cornell turnovers to bring the margin down to one. Minutes later, the Crimson grabbed the lead by hitting two free throws and extended it to five points behind subsequent buckets by Harris.

Faced with a five-point deficit and two minutes on the clock, the Red rallied back again behind a jumper from Tyler, a Naeve free-throw and a runner by Dale that tied the game at 55 with less then a minute remaining.

After Harvard missed a jumper at the other end, Dale brought the ball up the court with the shot clock off and the chance to steal the victory. After driving the lane, Dale was sent to the foul line with 8 seconds left and the freshman hit one foul shot to give the Red a slight lead. Refusing to call a timeout, the Crimson rushed the ball up-court, where sophomore Drew Housman found Harris under the basket for an easy layup that fell through the net with less than a second left to stun the Red.

Cornell’s last ditch effort from freshman Ryan Wittman glanced off the rim and sent Crimson fans to their feet.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Donahue said. “They played really hungry and with a sense of urgency and unfortunately, we didn’t.”