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Eleven long years ago, a film entitled Groundhog Day debuted in theaters starring Bill Murray as Phil Connors—a man who was forced to live the same day over and over again.
After this weekend, I know exactly how he felt.
The Harvard men’s basketball team played two identical games on Friday and Saturday night against two vastly different opponents in Cornell and Columbia. Watching the same game unfold twice in one weekend is downright eerie. So eerie that I’ve decided to share.
Friday, 6:45 pm: I arrive at Lavietes Pavilion to hear Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” blasting out the vents at the top of the arena. As I enter the building, I stop off in the press room for game notes and a Diet Coke.
Saturday, 6:45 pm: Same song. This time, though, I go with a Coke.
Fri., first half, 17:58: The Crimson grabs an early bucket in the paint to take a 2-0 lead, but the Big Red nails some quick three pointers to put Harvard in an early hole.
Sat., first half, 18:29: The Lions choose to respond with buckets of the two-point variety, but otherwise no difference.
Fri., first half, 12:13: The Crimson pushes its lead to six and begins to seize control of the game in the early going.
Sat., first half, 17:37: After two free-throws by sophomore forward Luke McCrone, Harvard once again holds an early six point lead.
Fri., first half, 7:06: The Crimson blows the game wide open, holding a 14 point lead, 33-19. I begin using the word blowout in association with the contest.
Sat., first half, 4:02: In the absence of better judgment and a short-term memory, I once again describe Harvard’s 33-19 advantage as a developing blowout.
Fri., first half, 3:01: Sophomore point guard Michael Beal sits down with his second foul and freshman guard Jim Goffredo commits a turnover as the Crimson’s lead shrinks from 14 to seven. I come down with foot-in-mouth disease.
Sat., first half, 2:28: Identical. And creepy.
Fri., first half, 0:00: A steal and a fast-break layup from Goffredo seemingly gives Harvard the momentum heading into halftime. But just before the half expires Cornell’s Cody Toppert gets a three-pointer to fall, making it just a two-possession game at the break.
Sat., first half, 0:00: Columbia’s Dragutin Kravic plays the role of Toppert in tonight’s rendition and junior guard David Giovacchini fills in for Goffredo.
Fri., halftime: I talk to men’s basketball sports information director Chuck Sullivan and express concern about the loss of momentum heading into intermission.
Sat., halftime: This time the same conversation contains far more head shaking.
Fri., second half, 16:47: After two free-throws by sophomore forward Matt Stehle increase the Crimson lead to seven, Harvard collapses and the lead evaporates. Stehle temporarily stops the bleeding by grabbing an offensive board, draining the put back while being fouled and finishing the three-point play.
Sat., second half, 17:05: Stehle pushes the lead to seven with an early bucket before the Crimson falls apart and its lead vanishes. Junior guard Kevin Rogus stops Harvard’s slide with a bucket and a foul, but can’t convert the free-throw.
Fri., second half, 6:32: Crimson captain Jason Norman responds to a Big Red three with a layup keeping the deficit in single digits at nine.
Sat., second half, 6:12: Norman’s layup following the Lions’ three reduces the Harvard deficit to seven.
Fri., second half, 0:00: A Rogus three with 45 seconds remaining cuts the Cornell lead to single digits, but the Big Red slam the door by going four-for-four from the line while Rogus misses two three pointers.
Sat., second half, 0:00: Norman hits a three with 51 seconds remaining to cut the Columbia lead to single digits, but it’s followed by four Lion free-throws and two missed three-pointers by Rogus.
Two nights, two 14-point first half leads, two times outscored by 16 in the second half, two Ivy losses.
Luckily, a six-day intermission has been scheduled before the next Crimson basketball game which should give me a chance to recover from one on the most bizarre weekends of basketball that I’ve ever personally witnessed. But I’ll tell you one thing, if Harvard takes a 14-point lead in the first half at Penn on Friday night, I—for one—will be leaving the Palestra.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at email@example.com.
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