The Crimson (7-6) got balanced scoring production as four players were in double figures, with junior guard Jeremy Lin leading the way with 17 points and junior forward Doug Miller scoring a career-best 15 points. Senior guard Drew Housman had 16, with freshman forward Peter Boehm adding 13.
Harvard used this balance, as well as some excellent ball control and defense, to overcome a big size disadvantage against the Broncos (7-8). Led by 6’11, 275 lbs. center John Bryant, Santa Clara outrebounded the Crimson 42 to 24, but committed 20 turnovers against just six for Harvard.
“We knew they were going to be tough inside, but we have a lot of speed and our gameplan was to run ’em and run ’em the entire night,” Housman said. “It worked out for us, we executed pretty well.”
Leading for most of the game, the Crimson dug down to get away from the Broncos three times when the visitors made it close in the second half. Trailing 37-36 early on after the break, Housman faked and drove to the hoop for a traditional three-point play, giving the team a lead it would not give up again. Lin copied Housman with his own three-point play on the next possession, then captain guard Andrew Pusar put back a miss to make it 44-37.
Miller put back his own miss the next time up the floor, but Santa Clara would pull back to make it 47-43 with 12:08 left. Lin answered with a quick bank shot. Boehm then hit an open three and Lin followed this, after taking a pass from freshman guard Oliver McNally at the top of the key, with a bullet pass down low to an open Miller for a layup as the Crimson went up 54-43 midway through the half.
The Broncos did not fold, however, and brought Bryant and three teammates back into the game, including Kevin Foster, who hit two quick threes. The visitors soon closed within four, at 54-50, with 8:04 left to play.
Harvard yet again had an answer. Off a pick-and-roll, Lin found Miller for a layup, one of his nine assists, matching his career-high against just one turnover.
“He made every right decision, being so unselfish and making plays and finding shots for his teammates,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “He’s such as huge weapon for us with what he brings to the table.”
After Pusar stole a pass on the next possession, Lin recorded another of his assists as he drove and dished to McNally who nailed a big three-pointer.
The Harvard defense really clamped down too, allowing just one field goal, a put-back by Bryant that McNally immediately answered with a long jumper with 4:20 left. The Crimson capped its strong run with some more playmaking from Lin. With the shot clock running down, he drove and kicked to Pusar, who buried a three from the corner, making it 64-53 with 2:17 left. Santa Clara kept at it, but solid free throw shooting by the home team kept it at least a two-possession contest to the end.
In the first half, Harvard came out smoking and led by double figures for most of the half before the Broncos rallied to cut the deficit to two at the break, 31-29. Miller led the charge on both ends, scoring six points on 3-of-3 shooting, including two reverse layups around Bryant off passes from Lin.
On the defensive end, he bodied up Santa Clara’s big man, despite giving away four inches and 55 pounds, limiting his touches and effectiveness.
“I’m so proud of how Doug played,” Amaker said. “He gave us incredible effort on the interior. I was really proud with how he finished around the goal and rebounded the basketball.”
Bryant finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks, four of them off shots by freshman forward Keith Wright, who was making his second appearance after suffering from mono. Foster added a game-high 20 points, but it was not enough to overcome the suffocating defense and consistent shooting from Harvard.
“I definitely think this is one of the best team games we have had all year,” Lin said. “That’s good to build on, especially with the Ivy League two games away.’
The Crimson’s Ivy opener is Jan. 10 at Dartmouth, and it has one more tune-up before then as it travels to local rival Boston College on Wednesday.
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