A comeback starts as a seed. It’s invisible. No one in the stands can see it. Most of them never germinate. Out-of-town scoreboards are littered with these unrealized comebacks: 10-point deficits that become 10-point losses.
But once in a while, unbeknownst to everyone watching, something like magic happens. It can start with a play, with a look, with a word. It can start with a coach telling his kids, “This is going to be part of our story.” He looks them in the eye and says, “We’ll look back and say this is one of the moments that helped us win the Ivy League.”
The seed is planted. The 24-point deficit begins to shrink. Three straight layups. A pair of free throws. It peeks through the soil, and, for the first time, there’s a sign of life. A cautious hope ripples through the stands.
A dunk. A three-pointer. Another layup. No longer a bud, the comeback is taking shape. It’s inching upward, willing itself out of the earth, when suddenly it takes off. Two three-pointers, a layup, two more threes. It’s a four-point game. The comeback is almost complete. It’s grown out of nothing in front of our very eyes. But worse than it never being would be to lose it now.
A dunk—two-point game. A three-pointer—the lead! Yet the comeback isn’t finished. It continues to grow. A two-point lead becomes five-points, seven-, 10-, 11-. It’s roots dig deep and grip the earth like a fist. This comeback sticks. Harvard 85, Brown 78. The fourth-largest second-half comeback in NCAA history.
In the aftermath, we can finally see what the comeback was made out of. It started with faith: a coach believing in his kids in their lowest moment. It took character: the Crimson responding to its worst half of the season with its best. It needed talent: 18 second-half points from sophomore guard Christian Webster, 19 total points from sophomore forward Kyle Casey, 10 points and five assists from sophomore Brandyn Curry (carrying the point guard duties by himself), and a dominant 22-point, 14-rebound performance by junior co-captain Keith Wright.
And of course, like all comebacks, it had a little bit of magic, of which Lavietes had plenty on an unforgettable Saturday night.
HARVARD (18-4, 7-1 Ivy) at CORNELL (6-16, 2-6 Ivy)
Harvard is back in Ithaca tonight where it has lost three straight, including an embarrassing 86-50 defeat last season and a 96-75 trouncing the year before. The tables have turned this time around as the Crimson is the title contender. Harvard is the clear favorite, following its 21-point victory over the Big Red three weeks ago.
Aside from the game, Cornell has something else at stake this weekend. This will be my third visit to upstate New York, and on the previous two trips I haven’t been able to find a good meal, settling for warm pizza with congealed cheese and questionable subs each time. A big part of every road trip is sampling the local cuisine, and unless Ithaca steps up its culinary repertoire, I’m declaring its food the worst in the league.
Pick: Harvard 78, Cornell 73
PENN (9-12, 3-4 Ivy) at BROWN (9-13, 2-6 Ivy)
Last Friday, as Penn was trailing by 15 points to the Big Red in the first half, I told Crimson Sports Chair Dennis Zheng that the Quakers would come back, force overtime, and lose for the third game in a row. Guess what happened? Penn forced overtime, and Cornell won 82-71.
The only book I ever read growing up was “An Almost Perfect Game” by Stephen Manes. It’s about a kid who controls a baseball game by filling out his scorecard ahead of time. I obviously have similar powers. So when I say Penn’s winning this game by two, my word is as good as Nostradamus’.
Pick: Penn 71, Brown 69