Hit the Road, Jack; Men's Cagers Away
Crimson Head to New York for 2 Games
Perhaps the Harvard men's basketball team performs better away from the pressures of Cambridge and classes.
After two tough losses at home to Princeton and Penn last weekend, Harvard (12-8, 4-4 Ivy) is looking to improve its winning road record in the league (2-1).
Harvard travels to New York this weekend to face Ivy League rivals Columbia (5-15, 1-7) and Cornell (7-12, 3-5).
The Crimson defeated both teams convincingly earlier this season, but is taking nothing for granted.
"Both Cornell and Columbia are much improved teams," freshman point guard Tim Hill said. "Their records aren't indicative of what kind of teams they are, so we're trying to prepare very hard for this weekend."
"We're playing down at their place, and Cornell is on a roll after beating Brown," captain Darrin Rankin said. "Columbia showed a lot of emotion at the last game; they're definitely ready to play."
Harvard will be dealing with two teams with significant home court advantages, particularly Cornell, which is 6-1 at home and 1-11 on the road.
"In all the time I've been here, we've never won at Cornell," senior Mike Gilmore said. "That's something really want to get off my back."
The major objective for this weekend seems to be shutting down the opposition's offense.
"Columbia plays a lot like Princeton; they have a deliberate offense and can be a dangerous shooting team," junior Chris Grancio said. "We want to play a solid man defense."
Rankin agreed that Harvard's defensive performance will be crucial.
"Both teams play similar games and like to score three-point shots," Rankin said. "In practice this week we've been really emphasizing defense."
The Crimson has also been preparing by watching films of games to pinpoint areas for improvement.
"There are a lot of little things we've been working on," Grancio said.
One encouraging factor for Harvard is the possibility that Rankin will be able to play more. The senior, who has had chronic back problems and underwent surgery last February, is optimistic about his participation this weekend.
"I've been really sore, but have been doing much better this week," Rankin said. "I definitely plan on playing, and maybe even getting in more time."
The losses to Penn and Princeton were frustrating but not season-ending. Harvard's Ivy title hopes were considerably diminished, but not necessarily obliterated.
"We want to move ourselves up in the rankings in the league," Gilmore said. "But we have to focus on what we can do, not what we could have done."
For now, winning the title is probably not the most pressing concern.
"We're not going to get wrapped up in what we need to do for the future," Hill said. "That's the best way for us to approach the remainder of the season."
This weekend will be Harvard's critical opportunity to bounce back.
"We're looking forward to getting back on the winning track," Grancio said. "We're getting back to work, back to what got us twelve wins this season."