ITHACA, N.Y.--The Harvard men's basketball team was striving for 50 percent Saturday night.
Not a 50 percent winning percentage or a 50 percent shooting mark--the cagers didn't achieve these either, incidentally--but 50 percent of the opponents' score.
No such luck.
A pumped-up Cornell squad embarrassed the cagers, 71-35, here at Barton Hall in front of 5000 rabid fans as Harvard (now 6-18 overall, 2-10 Ivy) shot just 30.2 percent from the floor for the game.
For Harvard, which earlier this season dropped a 77-44 decision to Princeton, the 35-point output was the squad's worst in the league since a 60-35 loss to Dartmouth in the 1948-'49 season, and the 36-point deficit its most lopsided league defeat since a 59-point loss to Columbia (115-56) in 1967-'68.
For Cornell (now 14-10 overall, 9-3 Ivy), the victory margin was its greatest since a 110-72 blowout of Pittsburgh in 1966-'67. With Saturday's victory, the hosts also ensured themselves of a winning season, their third straight after 15 consecutive losing campaigns.
But history was the farthest thing from the minds of the faithful gathered to bid farewell to the Big Red's four graduating seniors in their last home game.
Because, unlike Harvard, which can only bide time until the end of the season, Cornell is embroiled in a title race.
The Big Red enters the final weekend of league competition in sole possession of first place because of Penn's Saturday night upset of second-place Brown (now 8-4).
All the pennant-fever hoopla--culminating in "N-C-double-A" cheers from the stands--did little more than consign Harvard to playing an especially inept Punch to Cornell's overly-enthusiastic Judy.
"That just shows our lack of experience," Crimson Coach Pete Roby said after the disheartening game. "We just talked about how much we have to work."
For the first eight minutes of the contest, however, Harvard worked hard enough to stick close to the hosts. Freshman forward Neil Phillips drove for a lay-up and followed that with a 10-footer to pull the cagers within one, 11-10.
And although the Big Red responded with five straight points, first-half star Phillips then sank a 16-ft. jumper from the left side with 10:27 remaining.
Then disaster--or reality--struck.
Over a span of six minutes and 21 seconds, Cornell ran off a string of 10 unanswered points.