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Men's Basketball Copes with Heartbreaking Ending

Saddened Steve
Robert F Worley

A missed three pointer and a close loss to powerhouse UNC could be the defining moment of this year's men's basketball season.

Out of Left Feld

How do you prevent a bad ending from ruining everything else? How do you remember a season for what it was rather than how it concluded?

These are not rhetorical questions. I really don’t have answers.

I hoped co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi might, for his sake and mine. Talking in hushed tones in the Harvard men’s basketball locker room after the season-ending 67-65 loss to North Carolina last Thursday, I asked him:

How long will the sting of this loss blot out all the highs of this season—a fifth straight Ivy championship, a Defensive Player of the Year Award, a thrilling win over your archrival in an Ivy Playoff Game? How long will it take before you can look at all of that in proportion rather than just thinking about what just happened?

“Forever, maybe,” Moundou-Missi responded. “Who knows?”

That can’t be right, can it?

Entering a losing locker room in the NCAA Tournament feels like walking into a painting. Players known for their movement are deathly still. A team that has learned to communicate so well is absolutely silent. It feels like the kind of place where the word somber was invented.

The players sit in a near-perfect circle, slouched in their chairs or curled into their wooden lockers, heads cast either up or down, eyes red and puffy. 

From a young age, basketball players are drilled to not linger on the past. “Next play, next game” coaches repeat incessantly.

But what about when there are no more nexts?

The easy thing to do would be to shift that one-play-at-a-time mentality to thinking about the last play, that three by senior wing Wesley Saunders that bounced off the backboard and caught the wrong part of the rim.

“It looked like it was going in,” senior Jonah Travis said after the game. “From my view, it looked pretty good.”

Travis did not dwell on the miss at the time. His sole thought when the ball hung in the air?

“Go get the damn rebound,” he said.

But then what?

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