As I walked into Lavietes Pavilion with 1:30 left to go in the first half of Harvard's clash with Columbia, I thought to myself that, all things considered, things had gone very well.
I had planned to be at both of Harvard's Ivy Weekend home games, but real life had intervened. I thought I would miss both games. My plane from New York landed 20 minutes early, however, and a cab ride later, I had made it to the game when it was less than half over.
Then I looked up at the student section in Lavietes, and realized that I had a problem. There was nowhere to sit.
To be more precise, there was nowhere to stand. Harvard gives out 300 student tickets for each game, but the student section's true capacity must be smaller than that. To fit everyone in, and to cheer the team louder, the students stand for the whole game. The rest of Lavietes, too, was sold out, as it is for every Harvard game remaining this season. This tiny gym of just over 2,000 can get very loud, and the atmosphere that has developed around home games is (an albeit small) part of the reason that the Crimson haven't lost at home in almost two years. I found a couple friends at the top of the student section and squeezed in.
Ironically, the last time Harvard lost at home was the first time Lavietes achieved the atmospherics that are common to Ivy League home games this year. The Crimson took on the 2010 Cornell squad that eventually made it to the Sweet Sixteen. In front of a raucous sellout crowd, Harvard fell to the Big Red, despite 24 points from senior star Jeremy Lin. Every other major player from that team remains on Harvard's 2012 roster, and since that night, they have not lost at home.
This night, however, continuing that streak would not be easy. Columbia was down only three at the half, and played strong defense throughout the game. Do-everything junior guard Brian Barbour made good decisions with the ball and made tough shots to keep his team in the game. Harvard helped, too, uncharacteristically missing 11 free throws on the night. When Alex Rosenberg scored six straight points to cut the Harvard lead to two with 2:36 remaining, the streak was in serious jeopardy.
Yet again, the Crimson responded. A Keith Wright layup pushed the lead to four, and on the next Lions possession, with the 300 students bouncing up and down, doing that chant which adorns the masthead, Kyle Casey forced a Columbia turnover. Ninety seconds later, Harvard clinched its 25th straight home win and the sellout crowd happily filed out of Lavietes into the bitter February night. For the 25th straight time, the Harvard band joyously played that famous fight song.
Illegitimum Non Carborundum indeed.
at HARVARD 57, COLUMBIA 52 02/04/2012
COLUMBIA 13-9 (2-4) -- B. Barbour 4-13 7-7 15; M. Lyles 3-3 0-0 7; M. Cisco 4-8 0-0 8; B. Staab 3-9 0-0 6; V. Green 2-4 0-0 5; A. Rosenberg 2-7 1-1 6; J. Daniels 0-0 0-0 0; C. Crockett 1-4 0-0 3; C. Osetkowski 1-2 0-0 2; N. Springwater 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 8-8 52. HARVARD 20-2 (6-0) -- B. Curry 4-10 2-4 12; L. Rivard 5-11 8-12 20; K. Wright 6-10 3-4 15; O. McNally 0-1 4-4 4; K. Casey 1-3 3-6 5; C. Miller 0-0 0-0 0; S. Moundou-Missi 0-1 1-2 1; W. Saunders 0-0 0-0 0; C. Webster 0-0 0-0 0; J. Travis 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-37 21-32 57.
Three-point goals: COLU 4-8 (C. Crockett 1-3; V. Green 1-1; M. Lyles 1-1; A. Rosenberg 1-3), HARV 4-12 (K. Casey 0-1; B. Curry 2-4; L. Rivard 2-7); Rebounds: COLU 27 (B. Staabq 7), HARV 25 (K. Wright 6); Assists: COLU 11 (J. Daniels 3), HARV 10 (O. McNally 4); Total Fouls -- COLU 19, HARV 12; Fouled Out: COLU-A. Rosenberg; HARV-None.