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While the Boston Garden crowd--generously estimated at 3000--buzzed with amazement last night at Harvard's surprisingly strong performance against the University of Texas, the participants, on both sides, voiced open disappointment.
Certainly no one expected that after one half of basketball, Harvard would be tied in a 42-42 knot with the Longhorns, last year's Southwest Conference co-champions.
But for the Crimson players, with visions of a massive upset dancing through their heads, the final 85-73 defeat was like a Christmas present that Santa got just halfway under the tree before the Grinch snatched it away.
"It was disappointing," Crimson captain Bob Allen said after the game. "We hung with 'em for a while there. I think we could have done it."
"We shot really well and controlled the tempo," said Harvard coach Frank McLaughlin, characteristically building the most positive case available for his team in the familiar aftermath of defeat. But last night, McLaughlin was justified in his praise--and in the disappointment that his squad fell just short.
With Tom Mannix and Don Fleming carressing the twines from long range, with freshman dynamo Calvin Dixon adding a touch of flash and sophomore Robert Taylor contributing a bit of poise, Harvard looked capable of upending the proud Texans. And no one realized that more than the master of verbal voraciousness himself, Texas coach Abe Lemons.
"I just was glad to get it over with," Lemons said after the game. "I just am glad to get out of here, too," he added, obviously unimpressed by the spectacle of the Boston Garden.
It had been a long night for the young Longhorns, rich with freshman inexperience. "I never had a team with so many freshmen," Lemons said. "This isn't a game for freshmen. They oughta be home washing their socks or something."
Lemons was--to say the least--disenchanted with his team's play. And he had no reason to be joyous about watching highly touted freshman center LaSalle Thompson do his imitation of a 6-ft. 10-in. oak tree sprouting roots in the Celtics' free throw lane.
"He talks like a senior, but he plays like a freshman," Lemons said of his prized recruit.
He had no reason to be happy with his team's 15 turnovers. "There ain't no way we had just 15 turnovers," he said. "I think [my players] have some friends out there."
To Lemons, his team's second win in this two-game-old season was hardly pleasing. He was almost bitter in his harsh final appraisal of the contest. "We're not very good, and they're not very good," he griped.
But meanwhile, in the Harvard locker room, amid the disappointment, Calvin Dixon saw the other side of the coin, the brighter side for Harvard fans and players. "We proved we're a legitimate team," he said.
And as poorly as UT looked last night, as young and inexperienced as it might be, it still held a massive advantage. Harvard fought against the odds, though, and no one can deny the Crimson a good bit of satisfaction in the outcome.
MORE FROM ABE LEMONS: "Size didn't help us at all tonight. They [UT players] weren't jumping. They don't jump in practice--they're out there yawning.
"We were looking for the big play tonight, for staaaahl (i.e. style). Anybody can throw the little passes. Staaaahl.
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