HARTFORD--Things returned to normal for the Harvard men's basketball team last night.
First, the team went on the road, where the Crimson has enjoyed recent success.
Second, Harvard once again hit clutch free throws down the stretch to earn a hard-fought 73-67 victory over host Hartford at the Sports Center.
Going into the game, the Hawks could hardly disguise their main scoring threats: guard Ron Moye and center Vin Baker lead the North Atlantic Conference in scoring, both averaging more than 19 points per game. Moye so threatened the Crimson with his potent outside touch (he's shooting better from three-point land than from inside the stripe) that Harvard Coach Peter Roby employed a makeshift defense to neutralize the high-scoring guard.
"We boxed Moye and played matchup everywhere else," Roby said. "We've never done that before. We were going to force somebody else to beat us from the perimeter. They knocked a couple down, but over the course of the game, they couldn't do it consistently."
Moye finished with only 10 points on 4-for-16 shooting. He was 2-for-12 from three-point range.
The Crimson had a tougher time containing Baker. The 6'10" center finished with 24 points, including 13 in a second half that saw the Hawks overcome a 4 point halftime deficit.
"The Big Fella [Baker] went to work for a while," Roby said. "We had to make an adjustment because we had nobody who could really guard him. We had to guard him with our whole team. Once we made the adjustments and took the passing lanes away inside, we were able to win the game."
The game was won over a three minute stretch late in the second half. After Tyler Rullman (22 points) nailed a three-pointer to give the Crimson a 58-57 advantage with six minutes to play, Hartford's Jack Ayer answered with a trey of his own that gave the Hawks their last lead.
Harvard then went on a 9-0 run that put the game out of Hartford's reach. Ralph James, who scored a season-high 22 points, buried a three-pointer to start the rally. Jabbar Abdi then hit an 18-footer from the left side for two of his seven points. The following four points came on James free throws.
Hartford threatened to come back with less than a minute to play when Moye finally connected on a three-pointer and cut the Harvard lead to four. But the last 55 seconds belonged to the Crimson and its clutch free throw shooting. Ron Mitchell (12 points) and James combined to hit 6-to-8 shots from the charity stripe in the final minutes.
From the outset, this game looked different. The following unlikely quintet appeared early on for Harvard: starters Tyler Rullman and Ralph James along with Matt McClain, Anikar Chhabra and Jabbar Abdi.
"We were determined not to have anybody go much more than 30 minutes," Roby said. "Because we want to win the games this weekend. To tell you the truth, we would trade this win for two wins this weekend. We just don't want fatigue to be a factor."
Hartford held a slim advantage for most of the game's first eight minutes. Rullman's three-pointer halfway through the first frame gave the Crimson a one-point lead that grew to as many as eight.
Hartford went on a 6-0 run with six minutes left in the half to pull within two at 29-27. James then hit a running layup in the paint to extend the Crimson lead, and Harvard went in to the locker room holding a 36-32 advantage