The Harvard men's basketball game with Cornell last night had all the ingredients for a classic upset.
The cagers were last in the Ivy League and had lost nine of their last ten games. Cornell was tied with Penn for first place in the Ancient Eight.
The Crimson had not won a basketball game in Ithaca, N.Y, since 1982, and the Big Red hadn't lost in eight outings on its home floor this season.
Since February 16, 1985--when Harvard beat Columbia, 59-56, in New York--the Crimson had posted an embarrassing 1-22 road record. Four thousand fans packed Cornell's Barton Hall. Final score: Harvard 71, Cornell 69.
Led by Co-Captain Keith Webster's 23-point performance and the clutch play of sophomore guard Mike Gielen, the Crimson (4-8 Ivy, 9-15 overall) snapped a six-game losing streak and helped put Penn--a 95-92 overtime winner over Brown last night--in the driver's seat in the race for the Ivy League title.
The Quakers' victory leaves them at 9-4 in the Ivies, a full game ahead of Princeton and the Red (both 8-5). Despite the win, Harvard remains in the Ivy cellar, a half-game behind Brown.
"It was definitely our biggest win," Harvard Assistant Coach Steve Bzomowski said. "We were playing relaxed, while they were playing with a lot of pressure on them."
In the opening minutes of the first half, the Big Red took an early lead and had a 30-21 advantage with 4:10 remaining.
A pressing Crimson defense then created several Cornell turnovers, allowing Harvard to reel off the next 10 points to grab a 31-30 lead. Co-Captain Arne Duncan, who finished the game with 14 points, pegged a pair of three pointers during that stretch.
"This was the turning point of the game," Bzomowski said.
With 12:16 remaining in the game, the Crimson had a seven-point lead, but Cornell--led by John Bajusz (19 points)--netted eight consecutive points.
Crimson forward Fred Schernecker answered back with five straight points of his own, including a three pointer, to regain the lead for the Crimson. Cornell came back once again and eventually led 60-57. But Keith Webster hit two consecutive three pointer, and Harvard took a 63-60 lead at the five minute mark.
The Crimson increased its lead to 70-63 with 50 seconds remaining before the Big Red attempted another comeback. Even though Harvard missed crucial free throws down the final stretch, Cornell ran out of time before it could get off a potential tying or winning shot.
Despite being outrebounded 42-30, the Crimson made up this deficit with stingy defense and accurate outside shooting. The cagers got seven steals--including Gielen's three thefts in the first half that all led to Crimson scores--and shot .544 (8-15) from three point range. Webster managed to hit a total of five three-pointers.
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