College basketball is a game of a hundred ticking clocks. Forty minutes of regulation. Five months a season. Four years in school. It”s not a game of passing, shooting, rebounding, defending—no one would care if basketball were as simple as putting a sphere through a circle. It doesn”t pit college against college, fan base against fan base—for all intents and purposes, the opposing side is a total stranger.
The game, at its core, is a contest between you and time. You try to be your best, and you hope, in those desperate, private reaches, that when time”s up, when you look at the scoreboard and the crowd, you find that deep down inside you were good enough.
Last night, Harvard was in a classic battle against the clock. As soon as the Crimson took a 9-2 lead, time was the enemy. How long could Harvard keep this up? Would
it succumb to time the way it had against UMass, St. Mary”s, and Memphis? Of course, there”s no stopping time; the Crimson could only try to learn from those
losses and be better.
“Every time you learn and try to correct what you didn”t do well,” junior co-captain Laurent Rivard later said of those earlier setbacks. “We showed more toughness than we did during the season.”
With Rivard setting the tone with three first-half triples and senior co-captain Christian Webster following his lead with two late treys, Harvard was able to keep New Mexico at arm”s length and take a four-point lead into the half.
But when New Mexico came out in the second half with six straight points, time was rearing its ugly head again. The bad times. The old times. The time in December when Harvard played UConn dead-even for 25 minutes before the Huskies put the Crimson in its place. The time last season when Vanderbilt buried Harvard with a 20-3 run to effectively end its first dance since 1946.
Time is a great teacher though, and this time the Crimson”s two eldest leaders, Webster and Rivard, rose to the occasion with back-to-back threes to reclaim the lead. The battle against the clock was back on.
At 15:29, the fourth foul on sophomore center Kenyatta Smith—the only Harvard big man capable of defending New Mexico behemoth Alex Kirk—slowed the race to 0:00 to a snail”s pace. Free throws. Foul. Free throws. Foul. After an agonizing eight minutes of game action—a decade in real time—the Crimson”s lead see-sawed between one and four points. And then with just under eight minutes left, the Lobos broke through to take a 49-47 lead on a three from Jamal Fenton.
Sometimes the late second-half lead change is where upset bids fizzle out. But again, Rivard answered. His three pointer with 6:22 left gave the Crimson a two-point cushion. Then Wes Saunders hit a jumper. Then Kenyatta Smith hit a hook shot. And then…
As time dwindled, belief began to dawn. Up six with four minutes left, the faithful perked up. Six with three minutes left, a few more could see the finish. Eight with two. Is this happening? Up seven with one minute left. I cannot believe this.
The buzzer sounded and freshman sensation Siyani Chambers ran a lap around mid court. The scoreboard read Harvard 68, New Mexico 62, but really it said, that for a two charmed hours, the Crimson was made of something great. They carried us to that feeling too, and every fan watching felt touched by a kind of magic. It was truly one for all time.