NOTEBOOK: Crimson Has No Answer For Raucous Crowd, Hostile Environment

ITHACA, N.Y.—After a close battle with the Harvard men’s basketball team just two weeks ago at Lavietes Pavilion in which Cornell prevailed, 72-71, in the final seconds, the Big Red showed why it deserves to be the Ivy League champion by blowing out Harvard on its home court in front of a sellout crowd at Newman Arena, 86-53.

More than 30 minutes prior to game-time, the Big Red student section was nearly full, heckling and taunting Crimson players as they went through their warm-up routine.

“This is my first time here in this facility period, and obviously with a lot riding on the game for their team, their fans were tremendous, their students were terrific,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “They had the place packed and rockin’ and their team fed off that and away it went.”

Normally known for its intense hockey crowds where dead fish is thrown onto Harvard hockey players during lineup introductions, the Big Red basketball faithful were raucous and loud the whole way though, cheering for its home squad while jeering the Crimson players.

Every time that Harvard sophomore Jeremy Lin touched the ball, for example, chants of “Air ball!” were heard throughout the arena, referring to some errant misses by Harvard’s leading scorer early.

As the lead grew and the outcome was no longer in question, the taunts turned mostly to cheers for the Cornell squad, who clinched its first Ivy League title since the 1987-88 season with the victory over Harvard.

“I think that their season has been one for the books for them, and they played that way tonight,” Amaker said. “We started well, but with their energy and their crowd, things got going, they just ran away with the game and played exceptionally well tonight.”

Chants of “March Madness!” and “Let’s go dancing!” filled the stands in the game’s final minutes—celebrating the team’s clinched bid to the NCAA Tournament that goes along with winning the Ivy League—before a rush of fans stormed onto the court when the buzzer sounded to celebrate.

With hundreds of people on the floor, Big Red players and coaches took turns cutting down the net while the Cornell faithful continued with its deafening cheers.

Despite the hostile environment, at least one Harvard player enjoyed the chance to play through the Big Red boos and looks forward to next year’s battles.

“I thought it was a lot of fun,” junior guard Andrew Pusar said.

“I hope that they’re going to be good again next year, and hopefully we’ll get our place rockin’, then we’ll get other places going, and hopefully it will become spread throughout the league,” he added. “But this has certainly become one of the most fun places to play.”

Whether it was the crowd’s taunting or not, the Crimson didn’t help its cause, shooting miserably from the floor (24.2 percent) and giving the Big Red crowd much to heckle about.

“It was a tough night for us, no question about it,” Amaker said. “And an exceptional night for them.”

This marks the third time in Cornell history that it will play in the NCAA Tournament, and its first appearance since 1988. That year, as the 16 seed, the Big Red was defeated by No. 1 seeded Arizona, 90-50.

Harvard returns home for its final two games of the season next weekend, when it plays host to Yale and Brown.

“I think we’re all a little disappointed about the way this ended up,” Pusar said. “We want to finish strong, it’s Brad [Unger]’s last weekend. We have two teams we want to get back at, so we’ll certainly be hungry to get going back home and get two more wins.”

—Staff writer Kevin C. Reyes can be reached at kreyes@fas.harvard.edu.

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