March 12, 2008

Late Run Earns Red a Win

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The men’s basketball team’s historic sweep of Ivy League play almost didn’t happen. After dominating double-digit victories against Yale and Brown the weekend before, the Red traveled to Cambridge, Mass., in hopes of earning its ninth consecutive win. Cornell fell well short of dominating Harvard as it trailed from the 16:34 mark in the final stanza, down by as much as 11 with 9:55 on the clock.
Despite 16 turnovers, 2-of-13 shooting from the 3-point line and 7-for-18 long distance shooting for the Crimson, the Red was within striking distance. With 31 seconds left in the road contest, Cornell was down 71-66 and seemed on its way to returning to the “pack” with its first conference loss of the season.
“Honestly, I was saying to myself not to give up, but the odds were not in our favor,” said junior forward Jason Battle. “I think the whole team was worried about losing but still knew there was a chance.”
Sophomore Alex Tyler helped the Red achieve the improbable as he grabbed an offensive rebound off a miss from sophomore Louis Dale and scored on a layup. With the lead trimmed to three, Harvard threw a long inbounds pass to sophomore Jeremy Lin, who was pressured and proceeded to stumble with the ball until he lost it out of bounds. The Red regained possession wtih 20 seconds on the clock, but still trailed by three. Dale passed on taking a 3 and found Tyler on the inside again. This time, Harvard’s Evan Harris was called for goaltending as Tyler aimed to score. At this point, the Red was still down one with nine seconds left and did not have possession of the ball. The most likely scenario would have a member of the Red foul immediately and hope for Harvard to miss at the free throw line. With the long arms of junior Jeff Foote and a mistake from Harris again, the squad earned an even better result, it forced a five second violation.
“That was a great feeling,” Foote said. “I remember Harris’ face when I heard the referee call a whistle. I thought it was a foul, but when I realized that he ran out of time, it was a great feeling.”
With nine seconds still on the clock, Cornell had the chance to sneak out of Cambridge with a win. It still needed one shot, though, and all eyes were on sharp-shooting combination of junior Adam Gore and sophomore Ryan Wittman.
“A lot of attention was on Witt[man],” Foote said. “We ran it before, but with so much attention on Gore and Witt we caught them off guard. Witt set a screen for Alex and rolled off and they wanted to make sure he didn’t get the ball.”
Tyler’s defender hugged on Wittman, while Tyler continued to make himself available, cutting to the basket and scoring the game-winning layup. Tyler outscored Harvard 6-0 in the final 30 seconds.
“It was crazy,” Dale said after the game.