Harvard survives double-overtime thriller at Columbia

NEW YORK -- The Ivy League is a cyclical conference.

Different programs take different turns as the league's alpha dog.

For a long time it was Princeton with Pete Carril.

Then after that it was Fran Dunphy at Penn and Steve Donahue at Cornell.

Now it's Harvard's turn to carry the league's torch.

The responsibility is an honor.

The process however, is beyond arduous.

Tommy Amaker's team is no longer a unit that can sneak up on people.

The Crimson are now a national program after they beat New Mexico last season in the NCAA Tournament. They're going to get every team's best crack in each game they play in the Ivy League.

And that's exactly what happened when Harvard visited Columbia on Friday night.

Behind a career-high 34 points from Lions' junior forward Alex Rosenberg, Columbia gave the Crimson everything they could handle before Harvard pulled out a dramatic 88-84 double-overtime win.

"I thought both teams played sensationally," said Amaker, whose team is tied with Yale at 6-1 atop the Ivy League Standings. "It was critical for us. We had to turn the page from last weekend which ended on a loss. But there's still a lot of basketball to be played."

The Lions had two chances to pull the upset but failed to capitalize at the end of regulation and the first overtime.

Rosenberg made a tough leaner in the paint off the glass that looked like the apparent game winner at the end of the first overtime but he was called for a charge.

In the second extra frame, Harvard was never really threatened to managed to hold on for the win.

The Crimson are clearly more talented than any other team in the Ivy League.

Siyani Chambers (22 points) and Wesley Saunders (19 points) are a pair of sophomores that were integral parts of last season's squad that beat New Mexico in the NCAA Tournament and Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey have NCAA experience from 2012 even though they were suspended during all of last season.

The difference though for this group than the past two years?

They're being hunted.

Each time Harvard steps on the floor in a conference game, the opponent's crowd will storm the floor if they manage to upset the Crimson.

It's a new dynamic that Amaker is very aware of.

"It can be very draining," Amaker said of Harvard's expectations. "It can be lead to emotional and mental fatigue. We wouldn't trade our position though. We've worked very hard to have our program where it is."

And to keep it there --- as the perennial Ivy League team in the NCAA Tournament --- the Crimson are going to need to surrender individual accolades for team success.

"Sacrifice, that's the word," Amaker said. "We talked about that at the start of the season and that has to be part of the fabric of what we do this year. We have to sacrifice for one another."

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