The men's basketball team dropped both of its Christmas break contests and fell to 3-6, but as Derek Bok tells it, the Crimson won at least one new fan in University Hall.
It seems that Henry Rosovsky had never seen a game in the IAB, so Bok--a stalwart roundball partisan and former varsity player at Stanford--dragged his colleague to the December 18 contest against Texas.
For 39 minutes, the president tutored the dean on the finer points of the give-and-go and the nuances of the four-corner stall. The dean was enthralled, in his own understated way.
With 12 seconds left and Harvard down by a mere point, Bok says, Rosovsky was as close to breaking a sweat as he has been in years. "He turned to me and said, 'Derek, I'm getting concerned.' Twelve seconds left, down by one, and he's getting concerned!" The incident amused our leader verily.
At Da Buzzer
As it turned out, Rosovsky's concern was a bit premature. After the Longhorn's Jack Wornington converted the front end of a one-and-one opportunity to give Texas a 61-59 lead, Crimson point guard Calvin Dixon hit the season's most exciting 20-ft. banked jumpshot at the buzzer, and the game went into overtime.
In a capsulized version of the first 40 minutes, Harvard bounced to a quick lead on the extraordinary long-distance marksmanship of forward Joe Carrabino. The 6-ft., 8-in. sophomore had paced the Crimson to an early 12-point advantage over the heavily favored Longhorns.
But Texas had cut the difference to two, 30-28, at half-time and went all the way in the overtime period. Mike Wacker, who scored a team-high 19 points for the Longhorns, swished two free throws with 11 seconds left, and that made the difference. Final score: Texas, 71; Harvard, 70.
Coming into the game against the undefeated Longhorns, the Crimson players and coaches hadn't really expected to win, but after playing Texas dead even, the loss left everyone shaking his head in frustration.
The story didn't change much against Manhattan on December 22. Harvard again played well against a talented, physical team, and again the Crimson lost, 82-77. Interestingly, the difference in both games was at the foul line.
Harvard hit four more field goals than Manhattan, but went to the line 14 fewer times and converted 13 fewer free throws. Four Harvard starters had four fouls in the game, and substitute George White left for the showers with five.
Against Texas, the Crimson netted seven of ten from the line, but the Longhorns had 11 extra opportunities and hit 12 times. Two of those resulted from a first-half technical bestowed upon Harvard coach Frank McLaughlin for yet another of his sideline stompin'-and-screamin' fits.
"Things are just really crazy," says McLaughlin. "We're playing fine, and we just haven't been able to squeeze it out in a bunch of close games."
"With a couple of things going our way; we could be 8-1 now and everyone would be happier," adds the on-court firebrand.
But given some time to reflect, McLaughlin realizes that if his young team maintains its current level of play, the Crimson will have a better-than-even shot at all but Penn and Princeton in the Ivy League.
"We knew December would be a learning experience...I'm not going to hit the panic button yet," he says.
The season resumes this Saturday with a home game against Merrimack, and the Ivy campaign gets underway in earnest a week from Friday, when the Crimson will take on Cornell.