HANOVER, N.H.--There's not a lot going on in Hanover this time of year, what with Dartmouth on winter break and no snow falling.
But for two hours last night, the Harvard men's basketball team showed 649 curious Big Green hoop fans just what excitement looks like.
It looks like a 71-56 Crimson victory.
For while the home team did liven things up a bit, taking a 31-29 halftime lead and substituting freely--11 players saw at least 11 minutes--the visitors turned in the type of performance that's bound to light up the Ivy League as the season wears on.
Most of the fireworks came from the free-throw line, where the Crimson hit 35 of 40 for a 29-point foul-shot scoring advantage.
"The final score is very deceiving," Harvard Coach Frank McLaughlin said after 30 Big Green personal fouls. "But that's what happens when you're the best foul-shooting team in the country."
And it's a good thing the visitors were as hot as they were from the stripe, because Alumni Gym was so chilly that McLaughlin uncharacteristically kept his jacket on the whole game, while his charges were enjoying one of the worst playing surfaces in all of college basketball.
At the other end of the court, though, the pyrotechnics display took the form of the Crimson's best defensive performance since last February, when Harvard kept Princeton to 50 points while scoring 55.
The visitors' ruthlessly aggressive D intensified nine minutes into the first half, when McLaughlin, satisfied with the breakdown of the Dartmouth press offense, replaced sophomore guard Keith Webster with Greg. Wildes for most of the rest of the contest.
"He deserves a tremendous amount of credit," the coach said of Wildes, whose four-point, seven-rebound performance left several Hanoverians looking for the guy who mugged them.
With the Crimson lineup suddenly six inches taller and 25 pounds heavier, the Big Green offense, up against a virtual wall of bodies, fell back on the outside shot.
And in the second half, when that shot stopped falling--Dartmouth sunk a miserable 28 percent from the field--the Green fell back on the egregious foul.
But to no avail, at either end of the court. "I think we boxed out well and we didn't let them penetrate in the lane," an elated senior Co-Captain Joe Carrabino said later.
Just then, Harvard Assistant Coach Peter Roby solemnly shook McLaughlin's hand and said, "They don't come any better than that."
At least not in Hanover.