There ain't no justice, as far as that's concerned.
Justice, for the Harvard men's basketball team last night, would have meant a win over Colgate.
Justice would have meant a story book finish to the Crimson's furious second-half rally, a struggle that saw Harvard (1-1 overall, 0-0 Ivy) nearly overcome a 14-point halftime deficit and an abominable 17 missed free throws.
As it was, the Crimson fell in over time, 75-70, and left its fans muttering about the proverbial coulda, shoulda, wouldas.
"It was a tough one," Coach Frank Sullivan said. "All you can ask for is to put yourself in a position to win with two minutes left, and we did that. We put ourselves in a position to win with 16 seconds left."
Indeed, after sophomore Darren Rankin's free throw with 2:13 to go in regulation, Harvard led 61-58 and stood poised to upset heavily-favored Colgate (2-0), the preseason favorite in the Patriot League.
After the two teams traded baskets, however, Colgate center Jason Whatley sent the game into overtime with a stunning three-point play.
After being quiet all game, the 6'10" Whatley swooped in the lane and dunked with just 16 seconds left in regulation. A foul by junior Fred Scott sent him to the line, and Whatley nailed the free throw to knot the score at 63-all.
Scott had a chance to redeem himself with an off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer--"I thought it was in," noted Harvard captain Tarik Campbell--but the shot just missed.
Little Suspense in OT
The overtime period held little suspense except for a last-gasp three-point attempt by junior James White, as Colgate sprinted out to a quick lead and held off the crestfallen Crimson.
"We all know it was our game to win, but we didn't get the job done tonight," said Campbell, who led Harvard with 18 points while grabbing six rebounds and passing out three assists.
The ever-energetic senior apparently never lost faith in his team's ability to win. After a miserable first half capped by Colgate junior Chris Nicholas' three-point buzzer-beater, however, it was a small miracle that Campbell and his teammates even made it a close contest.
Everything that could go wrong in the first half, did. The Crimson shot just 36 percent from the field and 46 percent from the free-throw line. Rankin, the team's leading scorer with 16.5 points per game, drew three early fouls and spent much of the half on the bench.
"I made some stupid mistakes, and the refs were making some close calls that could have gone either way," the sophomore forward said. "But if you ask me, tonight we were the better team, if you look at the second half. We just beat ourselves."
Harvard crawled back into the game with a 23-7 run at the start of the second half. Increased defensive intensity led to a more wide-open offensive attack, and Colgate nearly let the game slip away.
"We bogged down," said Colgate star Tucker Neale (30 points), a 6'3" guard who professes ambitions to play pro ball overseas. "We were a little fatigued, just playing Saturday at Yale, and Harvard came out a lot stronger after halftime. It was a little scary, but I kind of had confidence throughout the game that we would pull it out."
Colgate now moves on to tournaments in San Francisco and New York City. As for Harvard, the search for poetic justice (in the form of wins) continues.
"It was a good sign that we didn't pack it in at halftime," Campbell said. "We didn't have guys give up. But now we need to get to where we all believe that we can go out and win these games.
"On Saturday [at home against St. Francis], I think we'll have more of that mentality to go out and put the game away," he said. "We'll have to learn that killer instinct if we want to win."