By Kate Crandall
In some ways, the men’s basketball team going 0-2 at Harvard and Dartmouth should not come as a surprise. Like the 72-71 loss to Radford on Nov. 19, when a last-second attempt missed the mark, the season is winding down the same way it began — with a long, disappointing road trip.
The Bulldogs have spent many contemplative hours on the bus since November, as 12 of their games were on the road. For much of that traveling time, the Bulldogs rode between losses both close and, well, not so close, going 3-9 away from home. On the last two-game road trip of the season, it seemed as though a season’s worth of lessons went unlearned. This weekend’s losses knocked out whatever momentum the streaking Bulldogs may have gained from winning four of their last five games at home.
The Elis went into Harvard’s gym lackadaisically Friday night and committed what, in light of the season, amounts to a huge turnover. Instead of bouncing back from a tough loss to Brown at home Tuesday night, the Bulldogs let the Cantabs start off hot. By halftime, the Crimson led 32-26, and they started the second half with an 18-8 run. Often starting slowly or finishing weakly, the Elis have been chasing the elusive complete game all season long, finding it only once, in the win over Penn Feb. 19.
“We either come out slow, come out hot, or come back at the end, or blow it at the end,” Sam Kaplan ’07 said. “But in the Penn game, we put together a solid 40 minutes of basketball. If we played every game with a solid 40 minutes of basketball, we’re going to the NCAA tournament instead of Penn.”
Just 26 seconds into the weekend, the Elis found themselves back-peddling and on the defensive.
“In the first play [against Harvard], we allowed their best shooter [Kevin Rogus] to hit a three,” Kaplan said. “That just kind of sums it all up.”
Out of the four halves the Elis played this weekend, the second half of the Dartmouth game was the only one where the Bulldogs of the Feb. 19 Penn game showed up. After trailing the Big Green 33-19 at the half, the Elis put together a 16-6 run, drawing the score to 39-35 with just over 12 minutes remaining. The Bulldogs kept up a torrential pace, finally taking a 52-51 lead with 21 seconds left, on the first of two Edwin Draughan ’05 foul shots. After Draughan missed the second shot, the Big Green came out with nothing on the other end of the floor. In a turn of events that represents the rapid fluctuation of the Bulldogs’ fortunes in the past week, Caleb Holmes ’08 was whistled for traveling and on the ensuing inbounds play, the Big Green hit an exceptionally improbable underhanded lay-up for the win.
“[Losing on a last-second shot] was tough,” Kaplan said. “We’ve been beaten on close shots and we’ve tied on close shots, but it has been our main problem this year, closing out games.”
With the clock ticking down on a lackluster season, the Bulldogs have a chance to show a last-minute resurgence of their own. If they hope to rebound from their slide, the Elis have to find something worthwhile to play for aside from pride and a chance at third-place in the league.
“We’ve got to play intense the whole 40 minutes,” Draughan said. “We have to play like it means something.”
For the seniors, Draughan and captain Alex Gamboa ’05, that ‘something’ is exiting with a “couple of wins, at least,” Draughan said, since the team fell short of their goal to be Ivy champions.
Eric Flato ’08 said the underclassmen not only want to win it for their senior leaders but also to exact some revenge on Friday against Cornell and notch a season sweep on Columbia.
“With the whole Jones rivalry, we know we never want to lose to [Columbia],” Flato said.