Oh no! Not again!
That's the easy reaction after the Harvard men's basketball team's loss to Dartmouth last night. The Crimson was held scoreless for over five minutes late in the game, at which time the Big Green expanded a four-point lead to 13 and coasted to victory.
The reason why anyone would react that way is that last night's loss had many similarities to many of last year's games. And heaven knows, no one on the Harvard side wants to remember that 6-20 season.
It's a little scary. In many of its losses last year, the Crimson played pretty well but just couldn't get over the hump.
Which is exactly what happened. Harvard--as well as Dartmouth--put forth a superb defensive effort, batting balls away and pressuring every shot. The two teams combined to shoot 40.4 percent from the floor. Splitting that percentage up between the teams, however, gives a 42.1 mark for the Big Green and 38.5 for the Crimson. The Harvard offense never had any consistency, a problem that culminated with Dartmouth's 9-0 run late in the contest.
For Harvard, the game was sorta good and sorta bad. A mixed bag. Mezzo-mezzo. Just like last year. So does that mean that this year will be hike last year... yikes! But this is not the case. On closer inspection, it's clear that last night's loss was different from those of last year, which gives Harvard fans no reason to worry about deja vu.
For starters, the team is different. Freshman point guard Tim Hill was in high school a year ago, but last night he led the Crimson with 23 points and four assists. And junior swing man David Weaver hit a couple of key three-pointers in the first half to help Harvard hold a brief lead.
But more importantly, last night's contest was altogether well played. Dartmouth's Sea Lonergan knocked home 30 points and was a perfect 11-for-11 behind the free-throw line. It was also a clean game, the Big Green committed 15 fouls, while the Crimson had 17--and almost half of those came in the last couple minutes, when Harvard fouled to stay in the game.
In contrast, the last time these teams met (a 73-65 Dartmouth win in Hanover on January 14), the Crimson fouled 31 times. Trust me, it was not pretty. Many of Harvard's other losses last year were also of the variety that, uh, probably didn't make Sportscenter. In a 73-69 double-overtime defeat against Princeton, the Crimson and the Tigers each scored two points in the first overtime, with Harvard only hitting on two of six free throws.
If this makes you think of a shootout at the O.K. Corral where everyone dies of heart attacks instead of gunshot wounds, well, that's how part of last season felt. Of course, Harvard did have some good games last year, but it also had lots of under-achieving ones in between.
Yesterday's game was not under-achieving. Harvard did not reach its full potential, but it also did not do a heck of a lot worse than could be expected against one of the top teams in the Ivy League.
"That's the standard that we have to measure up to ourselves," Harvard coach Frank Sullivan said.
So even though Harvard is now 0-1 in the Ivy League and lost its last two straight games after opening 4-0, there is no need freak out. This team will roll over and die.