Housman, playing in his team-record 111th game, paced the team with a shared team-best 20 points and played excellent defense on reigning league Player of the Year Louis Dale. Pusar, the team’s captain, went 31 minutes, including 19 in the second half during which he scored all five of his points and helped spearhead Harvard’s tenacious defensive effort, as the high-flying visitors made just 13-of-30 shots after the break. Big man Harris had six points and five rebounds while battling the taller and deeper Big Red frontcourt.
“We talked about having to fight and compete because we knew that was how Cornell would play,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought we brought that, and I thought our seniors led us in every way. I was very pleased for those guys.”
For Housman, this was the fourth straight game he led or co-led the team in scoring. His offensive game was all over the court, scoring inside, outside, and from the foul line, where he was 7-of-9. After eight points before halftime, he was nearly perfect after the break, making 4-of-5 field-goal shots. He started scoring a minute-and-a-half in, driving by for a layup to give Harvard its first lead of the half, 36-35. Seven minutes later, he faked and drove to the lane and buried a shot to put his team up 54-50. His third basket of the half came with eight minutes to play. Dribbled around for an open look, he nailed a shot as the shot clock ran down to make it 61-58 in the Crimson’s favor.
“I can’t say enough about the way Housman has played for us these past few weeks,” Amaker said. “He’s been the catalyst for our team.”
Housman scattered free throws around those baskets, including a clutch pair with his team down 57-56, when he shook off a missed front end of a one-and-one situation on the previous possession to nail both ends and go back in front. He added four assists, including two on consecutive possessions in the first half when he found teammates for threes and erased a 26-21 deficit. On the defensive end, he frequently marked the explosive Dale and helped limit the star point guard to an ugly 3-of-12 night from the field and six turnovers.
Pusar’s gritty performance in the second half began with a fast-break layup, and he scored again with an excellent driving layup midway through to regain the lead at 56-55 to counter an explosive Big Red run. But his biggest play didn’t show up in the boxscore.
With the team up 69-67 and under three minutes left, a missed Harvard three bounced off the rim towards a group of players. But the captain was the first to touch it, and he batted it back to his roommate Housman. The point guard then took it to the hoop for the team’s final points of the night, which proved to be enough.
“That was a great hustle play on Andy’s part,” Housman said.
“He’s playing the four at like 5’11, so that’s great of him,” Housman joked of the 6’2 Pusar.
Harris fouled out with six minutes left but not before leaving his mark on the contest as he put in a game effort for the undermanned Harvard frontcourt and prevented his team from being overrun down low. He didn’t attempt any free throws on offense but attacked the rim on occasion to draw fouls on Cornell defenders and get his team into the bonus.
“Evan was fantastic,” Pusar said. “He is so athletic and disrupts the other team’s offense so much, and he was really good at posting very hard. His offensive-defensive combination is a great advantage to our team. We couldn’t have won without him.”
For three players, who had been a part of so many last second losses in their four years with the program—with a crushing last-second loss to the same Cornell team last year—there were few better ways to end their time at Lavietes than with an all-out gutsy effort against the team everyone thought would breeze through the Ivy League.
“It feels awesome,” Pusar said. “We’re playing the best team in the league [in] our last night here. I’ve been so appreciative and happy to play with some great guys and great coaches. To come out on top, it is a great team win. We’re really proud of ourselves, we worked hard, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.