The Harvard men's basketball team played the role of Sisyphus last night in a tough 83-64 loss to Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y.
Like the Corinthian king who was condemned to roll a huge stone up a hill in Hades only to have it roll down again on nearing the top, the Crimson (7-12,3-4) rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit to go ahead of the Big Red (6-13,1-6) in the second half, only to have Cornell mount a 20-3 run in the game's final minutes to come away with a blow-out.
Going into the game, the Crimson was at a disadvantage, Freshman forward Kyle Snowden sprained an ankle in practice on Thursday, and sat out the contest.
His lack of presence was felt as the Crimson were outrebounded by the Big Red, 47-33.
Cornell got off to a lightning quick start in the game. Paced by senior forward Zeke Marshall, the Big Red dominated the small Crimson in the paint from the get-go. Marshall's two foot bank-shot with 12:27 left in the half put Cornell up 20-5, and seemed to put Harvard out for the count.
But the Crimson battled back, showing a resilience that has been its trademark all season. Led by sophomore forward Michael Gilmore, surprise freshman forward Chris Grancio, who was playing in place of Snowden, and a frenetic full-cout press, Harvard brought the margin to within three at halftime, 33-30.
Harvard stayed within five from there until junior guard James White netted a three-pointer with 13:36 left in the game to notch the score at 45. Then, with 11:27 left, Gilmore hit a lay-up to put the Crimson ahead, 49-48.
Cornell and Harvard went back and forth for the next few minutes, and with 8:24 left, the game was tied at 55.
Then, disaster struck for the Crimson.
Dominating on the boards and repeatedly going to Marshall inside, the Big Red went on a 20-3 tear, shutting out Harvard for 7:06, and going up 75-58.
The Crimson never recovered.
Harvard was paced in the game by Gilmore with 16 points and Grancio, with 12 points, five rebounds, one blocked-shot, one assist and two steals.
Marshall tallied 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Big Red.
Prior to the game, Harvard was ranked second-to-last in the league and the Big Red were rated last.
The Crimson's loss sheds new light on the race for last place in the league and puts added importance on Harvard's next game against Columbia.
The Columbia game was scheduled for tonight in Manhattan but was post-poned until Sunday afternoon at 1:30 because of inclement weather.