Some unfamiliar faces joined the usual spectators at Lavietes Pavilion yesterday, as over a dozen NBA scouts watched Colorado guards Cory Higgins and Alec Burks take on the Harvard men’s basketball team.
But that wasn’t all that was unusual about the matchup. For the first time since 2007, the Crimson hosted a BCS-conference opponent, and for the first time in program history, Harvard defeated a Big 12 team.
Behind 19 points and nine rebounds from junior co-captain Keith Wright, the Crimson (4-1) handled the Buffaloes (2-3), never trailing en route to an 82-66 victory.
“Certainly an incredibly gratifying win for us,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who has coached the Crimson to a win over an opponent from a power-six conference in each of the past four seasons. “I thought our ability to stay composed and show a lot of concentration and finish plays really allowed us to come away with a very good win.”
A major focus for Amaker’s squad was clamping down defensively and slowing Colorado’s pair of talented guards—Burks and Higgins—who entered the contest averaging 23 and 18.8 points per game, respectively.
While the pair combined for 41 points on the afternoon, Harvard was pleased with its overall defensive effort, limiting the Buffaloes to 38.8 percent shooting from the field while forcing 15 turnovers.
“For the most part, we did what we wanted to do defensively, which a lot of the time means we’ll do pretty well in the end,” junior co-captain Oliver McNally said. “We really wanted to not let them run because they’re a more comfortable team when they’re getting up and down instead of in the half-court.”
The strategy paid off, as the Buffaloes were held to their lowest scoring output of the season.
Offensively, the Crimson relied heavily on Wright, running the majority of its sets through the post. The Buffaloes had no answer for the 6’9” forward, who entered the contest as the Ivy League’s second-leading scorer, as Wright had his way in the paint, finishing 8-of-11 from the field.
And when Wright faced double teams, the forward was able to successfully find the open man on the perimeter, dishing out a career-high six assists.
“If I see a double, I’m kicking it out,” Wright said. “That’s one of the emphases on the board every game is playing inside-out.”
“Keith is a very unselfish player,” Amaker said. “He’s an easy guy to play with. He’ll pitch it out, and we get a chance to step into our shots.”
McNally and sophomore Christian Webster were the major beneficiaries of Wright’s unselfishness, finishing with 17 and 20 points, respectively, on combined 6-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc.
McNally played a crucial role in building on Harvard’s nine-point halftime lead, knocking down a pair of treys in the first 2:10 of the second frame to lead the Crimson on a 9-2 run.
McNally ignited the Harvard run on the Crimson’s opening possession of the second half, stroking a deep ball from the left corner off a pass from sophomore Brandyn Curry.