NEW YORK - Ready or not, the Ivy League men’s basketball season begins this weekend. Based on last night’s performance, Harvard doesn’t appear ready.
Falling behind by double digits for the second straight game, Harvard was knocked off by Fordham, 60-54, last night in front of a boisterous crowd of 2,891.
Ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll, Harvard wilted at Rose Hill Gymnasium - the oldest active Division 1 court in America (opened in 1925).
The loss ended Harvard’s five-game win streak, and the Crimson will take a 12-2 record into their home game against Dartmouth Saturday afternoon.
Fordham (7-6) will open its Atlantic 10 schedule tomorrow evening at Massachusetts.
“I think Fordham deserved to win,’’ said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. “Our shooting percentage was horrific, and certainly that had a lot to do with how active and aggressive they were defensively.
“If you can’t throw it into the ocean sitting out on a rowboat . . .’’
Harvard shot 20 of 55 (36.4 percent), including 8 for 30 (26.7 percent) behind the 3-point arc, and went to the free throw line only a dozen times, making only half. The Crimson never got into a rhythm on offense, and, unlike their 5-point win over St. Joseph’s Saturday, they were unable to finish.
Harvard started the second half with a basket to go up by 5 points, but the home squad went sprinting down Fordham Road on a 20-7 run (including 12 straight) to go ahead, 44-34.
It took nine minutes on the scoreboard clock, but Harvard finally pulled even at 50 with 3:17 to play. It would never retake the lead.
Fordham - which beat a top 25 team for the first time since 1978, breaking a 54-game losing streak - made 6 of 6 free throws in the final 1:41 to hold off the Crimson.
And here come the Ivies, ready or not.
“We don’t have a choice,’’ Amaker said. “We’ve played a tremendous nonconference schedule, fairly successful throughout. Our conference opponent is up next and hopefully we can get prepared for them.’’
Guard Brandyn Curry led Harvard with 15 points, and forward Keith Wright scored 8 and had 11 rebounds.
Wright had the biggest number of the night, scoring his 1,000th point in the second half. But that would be of little consolation on the long bus ride back to campus.
“We came out flat,’’ offered senior Oliver McNally. “They punched us in the mouth and we couldn’t come back. It’s really disappointing. We’ll sulk on the bus ride home and then get back to practice and hopefully turn this around.
“We’ve been lucky a couple of games. We came back against Boston College and pulled it out against Saint Joseph’s. We can’t be living like that.’’
Both teams began the game as cold as the Bronx air, shooting 4 of 20 and committing eight turnovers in the first eight minutes. At that point, Harvard held a very ugly 5-4 lead.
Over the next four minutes, the teams traded baskets while the shooting effort rose to 11 of 35. Fordham took its first lead at 11-9 despite turning the ball over six times.
“We talked about getting off to a better start that would allow us to get in a better flow,’’ Amaker said. “We’ve been playing some quality opponents and I think another thing is that teams are going to be geared up to play us.
“We have to take responsibility, but it’s not all on us. You have to give [Fordham] credit for playing inspired basketball.
“We got outplayed, but hopefully we don’t need a wake-up call.’’
Harvard came out in the second half looking for its shot but actually wound up shooting worse. It was also looking for its No. 22 ranking.
It didn’t find that, either.