"I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're going and hook up with them later." - Mitch Hedberg
Game #9-334: Dartmouth Big Green at Harvard CrimsonJanuary 26, 2013 2:00 pm
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - If you take it on its face, there was no good rhyme or reason why Dartmouth was in the position it was Saturday afternoon against Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion.
You may know a little about Harvard's rise under Tommy Amaker, a slightly controversial one, as some whine about lower academic standards
(by Harvard's high values at least). A plagiarizing incident resulted
in two Harvard seniors and co-captains - Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry - withdrawing from school
In some places, that might not be a huge deal, but consider that last year, 34,302 young men and women applied to become Harvard's Class
of 2016, and only 2,032 were accepted, a 5.9% acceptance rate. Damn,
Still, by late January (the Ivy League gets late start on conference play
) Amaker's Crimson looked to be the favorite to back up its first conference title in 54 years with a second, and they certainly shouldn't have any trouble with 4-11 Dartmouth at home.
After all, the Big Green had lost 42 of their last 45 Ivy League games, and were riding an outrageous 23-game conference losing streak that encompassed three different head coaches. Their last Ivy win outside of New Hampshire? Feb. 21, 2009, at Princeton of all places.
Surely it was going to take a lot for Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier to believe that the game was even close to over, and he was actually victorious. Coaches are like that, especially struggling ones like Cormier. He is in his third season in his second stint with the Big Green, and was trying to rebuild a program that hasn't had a winning record in conference play since 1998-99. Cormier himself hadn't won an Ivy League game on the road since March 3, 1990 (he went to Fairfield for five seasons and then in the NBA
as a scout before returning to Dartmouth).
But as he looked up at the scoreboard next to his bench after freshman Malik Gill hit two free throws, and it read: "Dartmouth 57, Harvard 44", surely the thoughts were starting to stir in Cormier, even as he did his best to keep them from moving to the front of his brain.
This could be the win that gets us going. This will be a great day for Dartmouth basketball, a win on national television (NBC Sports). Things will get better after this. We've got a lot of young kids, and - finally - we'll be on our way.
Cormier's team, who had only one road win all season coming in and that was at Longwood, had done everything right and deserved the lead. They had grabbed the game early, and were able to be very patient on offense, but - as many upset-minded teams need to - were able to get good looks at the basket with the shot clock running down.
At the other end, Harvard - one of the best shooting teams in the nation, both from the field and on superhoops - were missing shots, sure, but Dartmouth's defense was remarkable: switching when they needed to switch, helping when they needed to help, giving nothing up easily.
Even the giddy part of Cormier's brain expected a little run from Harvard down the stretch. But with Dartmouth up 57-47 and two minutes left, sophomore Connor Boehm (who was huge with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five steals) took the ball from an out-of-control Siyani Chambers, the Harvard freshman point guard who was harassed all afternoon (to the tune of seven turnovers), Cormier's team led by 10 and had the ball.
With hindsight the 20-20 proposition it always is, Cormier is probably kicking himself for not using a time out at this point. Gill, under pressure, started to dribble in circles and then threw the ball over Boehm's head. Now Cormier called the time out.
My seat in the last row of Lavietes Pavilion (much worse than it sounds) behind the Dartmouth bench happened to be next to a couple of Cormier's college friends (he went to the University of New Hampshire). Knowing they were in enemy territory, they had politely cheered their friend on, like Cormier, starting to sense a giant moment for him. But, as you've probably figured out, it was all about to go horribly wrong.
Harvard was 1-for-15 from behind the arc, but Christian Webster drilled a superhoop to make it 57-50 with 1:33 left.
Chambers had a layup to make it 59-54 with 1:01 left, and Dartmouth immediately turned it over, but Chambers was stripped by Gill on the way to the hoop, and John Golden was fouled with 47 seconds remaining.
But Golden made only one-of-two, and Webster, suddenly feeling confident, hit another superhoop to make it 60-57 just six seconds later. Gill calmly knocked down a pair of free throws when he was fouled on the inbound, but it was Webster for a third time - this time from 25+ feet - to make it 62-60.
There was still 32.1 seconds left. Man, time goes slowly when you're trying to pull an upset, doesn't it?
Golden was fouled three seconds later and missed both free throws. Both Amaker and Cormier had used all their time outs long before, and Dartmouth looked intent on cutting off Webster (with good reason), but that allowed Chambers to virtually walk through the lane and lay the ball in and tie the game at 62.
There was still 17 seconds left, but - again - no time outs, so the best look Dartmouth could get was a Gill contested 25-footer. It hit the back of the rim, and we were headed to overtime.
Of course, the extra session was a mere formality at this point. Laurent Rivard, who had hit 14 of his last 25 superhoops coming in but had missed his first six Saturday, finally hit one on the first possession of overtime. Suddenly, Harvard was up seven, and although Cormier's team battled until the end, this one was over once Gill's shot didn't go in.
As the clock wound down, Cormier looked up at that same scoreboard that has shown him minutes earlier that he was on his way to one of the biggest wins in his long coaching career, and that Dartmouth would be one giant step closer to Ivy League respectability.
However, it was an illusion, a mirage, and he was probably chastising himself for being duped. This game will hurt you, Paul, unfortunately.
There are still 12 Ivy League games left, and most of them will not be against teams as talented as Harvard (due to Ivy League scheduling quirks, you begin the conference season by playing your "travel partner", i.e. school closest to you geographically, consecutively before playing anyone else). He did start three sophomores and two freshman, including someone like Boehm. But when will a chance like this present itself again? Stupid dreams.
Meanwhile, it was a massive let-off for Harvard in the only Division I league that sends its regular season champion to the NCAA Tournament. Amaker, to his credit I guess, maintained his stoic demeanor, even when his team looked to be suffering a hideous home loss. Eventually, his team came through on a day where they played poorly, forced into 19 turnovers and getting only five points from his bench.
The next step in building the program for Amaker may be upgrading Lavietes Pavilion, some of which is already in the plans. The Ivy League doesn't really do beautiful new athletic facilities. Technically, Lavietes is the second oldest Division I basketball arena (behind Fordham's Rose Hill), but Harvard didn't actually start playing there until 1982.
It holds only 2,050 for basketball, which leads to this for ticket pricing, which you can spin into a positive by saying the demand is there for Harvard basketball these days. But once the band takes one section and the students another, there's not much left for the rest of us.
But I did like the way they left plenty of space on their Ivy League championship banners for many Crimson titles that Amaker hopes will come.
Cormier and Dartmouth would probably take just one. Hell, they'd probably just go for one road victory at this point.
At the final buzzer, Cormier's friends said fairly calmly, "Well, get 'em next time, I guess."
Hopefully, Cormier handles it as well.
at HARVARD 82, DARTMOUTH 77
DARTMOUTH 4-12 (0-2) -- C. Boehm 6-13 2-2 14; J. Brooks 4-5 1-2 9; A. Mitola 3-7 0-0 6; J. Golden 6-8 1-4 15; T. Melville 3-8 2-2 8; G. Maldunas 2-3 3-5 7; M. Gill 4-10 6-9 15; B. McDonnell 0-1 0-0 0; K. Crescenzi 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 29-58 15-24 77.
HARVARD 10-6 (2-0) -- W. Saunders 5-8 10-14 20; S. Chambers 6-14 9-12 21; L. Rivard 1-7 4-6 7; C. Webster 4-9 1-2 13; J. Travis 7-9 2-3 16; S. Moundou-Missi 2-3 1-1 5; K. Smith 0-1 0-0 0; A. Nesbitt 0-0 0-0 0; A. Okolie 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 27-38 82.
Three-point goals: DART 4-16 (T. Melville 0-3; J. Golden 2-3; C. Boehm 0-5; K. Crescenzi 1-1; A. Mitola 0-1; M. Gill 1-3), HARV 5-21 (C. Webster 4-9; L. Rivard 1-7; S. Chambers 0-4; A. Okolie 0-1); Rebounds: DART 29 (C. Boehm 11), HARV 32 (W. Saunders 7); Assists: DART 10 (A. Mitola 5), HARV 16 (S. Chambers 7); Total Fouls -- DART 28, HARV 20; Fouled Out: DART-J. Brooks; HARV-S. Chambers.
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