Tuesday night at Briggs Cage may have been the opening of the Ralph James show.
The exciting Crimson freshman who leads the squad in scoring and rebounding had given Briggs fans a sneak preview of greatness. But they were still waiting for the complete play.
Finally, James' one-man show nearly upset Ivy League frontrunner Dartmouth. Tuesday, the Crimson extended the Big Green into double overtime before finally succumbing, 91-89.
"He's a great player," Harvard Coach Pete Roby said. "[Tuesday], he showed what he can do."
James set a Harvard freshman record by pouring in a career-high 34 points and tying his career high of 11 rebounds. The West Hempstead, N.Y., native fired in 11 consecutive points in the final 1:06 of the first overtime to rally the Crimson from an 81-73 deficit and force a second overtime.
James, who averages 15.4 points per game, is on pace to break the freshman scoring record set by Harvard's all-time leading scorer, Joe Carrabino.
Carrabino, who scored 1880 career points, averaged 14.6 p.p.g. during his freshman season.
On the night, James set or tied six individual highs for the season. In addition to his 34-point outburst, James set a team high for field goal attempts (26) and free throws made and attempted (11-for-11) in a game this season.
He also tied his own record for most field goals made in a game (10) and most three points shots made (3) and attempted (8).
James, who has already captured the Ivy Rookie of the Week award twice, led the team in scoring for the 10th time in 16 outings. He has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in five games this season.
Not to mention the four assists and two steals he had while playing in 47 of the game's 50 minutes.
While it may be hasty to assume that James is headed for some kind of All-Ivy honor just yet, it does look like James is a sure-fire bet for the Ivy League Rookie-of-the-Year award. The last Crimson player to claim that honor was Harvard's third all-time leading scorer, Bob Ferry, in the 1981-82 season.
James' feats have not gone unnoticed. He is scheduled to appear in upcoming issues of Sports Illustrated and USA Today.
Double Trouble: Tuesday's loss was the first double overtime game that Harvard has participated in since February 17, 1984, when the Crimson fell, 74-73, to Penn at the Palestra.
In that contest, Quaker Rick Maloney grabbed an offensive rebound with five seconds left and sank a 5-ft. jumper to drop the Crimson.
"Nothing will ever hurt as much as this," said Carrabino after that loss, foreshadowing the feeling that many cagers had after Tuesday's heartbreaker.
Harvard hasn't won a game that has gone into double overtime since February 5, 1980, when the Crimson toppled Dartmouth, 77-75.
That game was especially amazing, because Harvard finally conquered the Big Green in not single, not double, but triple overtime.
Robert Taylor scored baskets at the end of regulation, the first overtime, the second overtime, and had the game winner at the end of the third overtime.
A Farewell to Arms: One reason that Harvard was able to make such tremendous comeback efforts in overtime, despite losing Tri-Captains Mike Gielen and Kyle Dodson to fouls, was the absence of Dartmouth center Walter Palmer, who also fouled out with less than two minutes to go in regulation.
Palmer is 7 ft. and his arms are longer than a commencement address. Palmer used those arms in Hanover earlier this season to block an Ivy record 12 shots and grab 11 rebounds, while helping the Big Green edge the Crimson, 66-58.
To stifle Palmer and his arms, Harvard Coach Pete Roby told his men to work the ball inside and drive into the lane in hopes of drawing a few fouls. The strategy worked.
"We wanted to take it to him," James said. "He didn't play much."
Palmer got called for two quick fouls to start the game.