In light of last nights game I feel like I need to talk about the Harvard-Cornell rivalry for a quick second. So here is my bitter, crimson tainted rant:
Cornell has maintained a special place on my enemies list from the very first game I played against them. It was up in Ithaca and we had just beat a solid Columbia team. We were a veteran laden squad poised to challenge Penn for the league title. It was a back and forth game the whole way. We were up 7 with 5 minutes left, when Lenny Collins, some washed up dude with a Jew-fro, somehow summoned the inner Reggie Miller no one knew he had and single-handedly brought them back. We had the ball and were milking the clock for one shot. We tried to run a handoff, a Cornell player broke it up, the ball went flying out of bounds, and the ref made an extremely dubious call in rewarding Cornell the possession. Their final play, if my memory serves me well, went something like this: pass, pass, pass, dribble aimlessly, turn around, get stuck, pass, pass, heave a desperation 3 from the deep corner, hit the SIDE of the backboard, have ball bounce directly to hands of Cornell big guy, hit lay up, game over. It was terrible. Maybe if me and both of our All Ivy big guys hadn’t fouled out it would have been a different story.
So, that dropped us to 4-2 in league and set off a collapse of epic proportions. We lost our next 7 straight games. Our losing streak could be blamed on not having the right chemistry, lacking a good offense, and a possessing a half-hearted commitment to defense. But I like to blame Cornell, their lucky three’s and their hometown refs.
There was something like 3 blowouts the rest of my games against Cornell, but I feel like all the rest were highly competitive. We had many a battle over my 4 years, and there was always something extra important about the Cornell games. I personally always looked forward to my match ups with Louis Dale. I felt like he was my competition for top dog point guard in the league. We always guarded each other, and it was usually an intense duel with both people making big plays. In a brief respite from my Big Red Hating I will admit that I really respect his game.
Anyway, my favorite Cornell memory was definitely from my sophomore year. We had the ball down 1 with about 8 seconds left. I brought it up and was unexpectedly facing some sort of zone. My penetration got stopped and all I could do was look to fire a pass to Evan Harris under the basket. Problem was, there was a guy right in front of him. There was no time left and I had no shot, so I took my chances bouncing a pass toward the baseline. The second it left my hand I knew it was a sure turnover. Yet, inexplicably, it went between the defenders legs, into Evan’s hands, and he made a lay up with a second left to win it. I absolutely love getting lucky. (Unnecessary update just for the hell of it: A close win on my senior night with JLin and I both dropping 20 was probably the more all around satisfying memory I have of playing Cornell.)
As for last night, I didn’t watch it, but from what I can gather it was an admirable effort from an injury plagued Harvard squad. I still maintain my man Jeremy needs to shoot more. You’re telling me he couldn’t have gone for 40 that game if he really wanted to? Come on. It is also great to see such a huge, supportive student section that I am sure was more inventive and knowledgeable than their Cornell counterpart. Don’t get me wrong, the people up in Ithaca make great fans and they are loud beyond belief, but I don’t recall anything particularly funny or creative about them.
In closing, 5 years ago I was sure that Harvard was going to be the team that broke up the Penn-Princeton stranglehold. Since that didn’t materialize the next logical thing to do is hold a lifelong grudge against the team that broke through, correct? No? Well that is what I’m gonna do, and when a young, hungry Harvard annihilates Cornell by a combined 87 points next season there will be a bitter former player in a foreign country somewhere with a content smile on his face.