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A gung-ho Crimson quintet played with reckless abandon last night at the IAB to pull off a come-from-behind 73-71 overtime victory over the Columbia Lions.
Harvard trailed during all but two minutes of regulation and faltered once again at the start of overtime, but when Bob Hooft enveloped the rebound off Gary Ackerman's missed free throw with ten seconds left to play, the cagers had knocked off their first Ivy League powerhouse of the year.
Ackerman was the persistent gadfly in the side of the Lions as the junior forward scored a career high 21 points, all coming in the second half. Hooft and Steve Irion also excelled as both poured in 16 points.
The Crimson triumph came as a crushing blow to the Lions as it extinguished their hopes of gaining an invitation to the post-season NIT tournament.
Irion swished a 15-footer to get the Crimson on the scoreboard first but the cagers never led again for the entire half. Hooft and Irion combined for 18 points before intermission, but Columbia had a seemingly commanding 35-28 edge.
When play resumed Ackerman began his whirling performance with a bucket at 18:28 on which he drew a foul.
Half a minute later he drove the lane for a pair and then sprung a spinning one-hander that cut the Lion lead to 37-33.
Jonas Honick contributed his first field goal of the evening at 14:08 to cut it to 39-38. Meanwhile Ackerman was fighting a rearguard action as the Lions refused to relinquish the lead, scording 12 of the hoopsters' 16 points in the half.
Dave Rogers swooped down the lane in traffic to make it 64-59 with 2:03 left to play, but with a stranglehold on the lead, Columbia was content to go into a stall.
Ackerman stripped Mike Wilhite of the ball and canned one of two foul shots with 1:19 showing, but the next time the Lions brought it down the floor, playmaker Alton Byrd fouled a man alone underneath.
Jeff Combs bolloxed the layup and the Crimson streamed down the court with Honick bombing from the corner to lop Columbia's lead to one, 64-63.
Byrd drew a foul after a Columbia timeout but missed the second attempt with 17 seconds left to play and Harvard rebounded.
Rogers drove the right baseline with time running out, drew two defenders when he went up and shoveled off to Ackerman who appropriately laid it in to propel the game into overtime.
Columbia sped to a 69-65 lead in the five-minute overtime stanza as Wilhite bagged a pair of jumpers. Ackerman then followed up on a rebound and then stole the inbound pass from Lion leading scorer Ricky Free.
Free pinned Ack's layup against the glass and got whistled down for goaltending as the game was deadlocked at 69-69.
The gamebreaker came with 0:53 when Hooft whipped a crosscourt pass to Irion underneath to give the Crimson the lead for keeps.
Rogers dropped through a pair from the line to up it to 73-69 and close out the Crimson's scoring before Hooft snuffed a last-ditch shot by the Lions with the rebound that allowed Harvard to run out the remaining ten seconds of play.
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