Fifteen NBA Scouts were on hand Sunday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion to watch and evaluate high-scoring Colorado guards Alec Burks and Cory Higgins.
But throughout the game, it wasn’t a Buffalo who was the contest’s dominant force. Instead, Harvard junior co-captain Keith Wright was the best player on the court Sunday, just as he’s been all season long.
The center played 32 minutes, filling up the stat sheet in every category. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, to go with nine rebounds, a career-high six assists, and three blocks.
Wright was a force to be reckoned with, as all game long the Crimson guards fed the ball inside to their co-captain, who would finish with a layup, and at times, a dunk, bringing energy to the crowd and his teammates and leading Harvard to its first-ever win over a Big 12 school.
“[Wright]’s been a stellar performer for us this whole season,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “He’s anchored the interior for us, and when you have an interior post presence that is playing at the level where he is right now–very productive and effective—it allows our perimeter players to have the freedom to drive, to penetrate, to pitch.”
The junior set the tone early on that his team had no interest in being hesitant against a potentially more athletic Big 12 squad. After sophomore Brandyn Curry missed a trey, Wright followed with a two-handed put-back slam to give Harvard a 12-10 advantage at 13:25.
Seven minutes later, Wright’s second dunk of the period put the Crimson up 28-17, a lead it would never relinquish in its commanding 82-66 victory.
“I think he’s in much better condition [than last season],” Amaker said. “I think he feels confident attacking the basket like that.
The junior had the play of the game in the second half as he took a pass, spun through two defenders, and finished with a slam. And when he wasn’t attacking, Wright was dishing out assists, taking advantage of the double teams he faced to find his teammates open behind the arc.
“We played hard,” Wright said. “A lot of preparation went into it—practicing hard all week. I think we just did what we were supposed to do.”
Wright’s strong play continued a trend that began when he opened the season with a double-double at George Mason.
Wednesday at Bryant, he was equally as good, coming up big when his team needed him the most.
With Harvard down by four with 1:15 remaining, Wright willed his team to victory, preventing what would have been a major upset at the hands of the Bulldogs.
Coming out of a timeout, the Crimson knew exactly what it wanted to do, hitting its co-captain with a pass in the post.
Wright finished, was fouled, and hit the ensuing free throw, bringing Harvard within one with his three-point play.