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NOTEBOOK: Veterans Lead Harvard Over BC, Again

By Martin Kessler, Crimson Staff Writer

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.—Make that three in a row.

For the third straight season, the Harvard men’s basketball team bested Boston College on the road, grabbing the 78-69 victory last night at Conte Forum.

“It feels great,” junior co-captain Oliver McNally said. “It’s always a big game for us—they’re in Boston, and they’re in the ACC, so it feels great to come in here [and win].”

Along with classmate Keith Wright, McNally is one of only two Harvard players to have seen the floor in each of the three victories.

As a freshman during the 2008-09 season, McNally posted 17 points—then a career high—off the bench in the Crimson’s 82-70 win against the then-No. 17 Eagles. The 12-point win—Harvard’s first against a ranked opponent—came just days after BC had upset No. 1 North Carolina.

As a sophomore last season, McNally handed out four assists and pulled down three rebounds to help Harvard claim the 74-67 victory.

And last night, McNally chipped in 12 points and three rebounds.

“It’s special because I am going to look back on these games and think of [different things],” McNally said. “This year, new guys stepped up, and I’m going to think about Laurent [Rivard] stepping up as a freshman and having a great game.”

Harvard, which had trailed Boston College 9-31 in the all-time series before Crimson coach Tommy Amaker took over the program in 2007, has managed to make a small dent in the Eagles’ advantage since, now improving to 12-31.

“I think we’ve been a little lucky, which you need to be,” Amaker said. “We’ve played well, which we have to do, and sometimes we’ve been able to catch them on an off night. Those things can make for a perfect storm, and we’ve been able to take advantage of those situations.”

Under Amaker, Harvard has had success against BCS conference opponents, going 5-6 with wins against Michigan (Big Ten) and Colorado (Big 12) in addition to Boston College (ACC).

“I think our kids have believed that any time we suit up and play against anyone that we should be able to compete,” Amaker said.

A CHARITABLE STRIPE

While it may not be sexy, Harvard has found an effective offensive weapon—the free throw line.

The Crimson—which currently boasts the nation's best free-throw shooting percentage at 81.5 percent—used the charity stripe to its advantage again last night, sinking 23-of-24 attempts.

“We know it’s a weapon of ours,” said McNally, who is currently third in the nation from the line, shooting 95.2 percent.

But despite having the third best percentage in the nation, McNally is not even the Crimson’s top free throw shooter.

That title goes to freshman Laurent Rivard, who has missed just one attempt all season and is shooting 97.2 percent from the line.

Last night, Rivard went a perfect six-for-six, sinking all of his attempts in the first half to keep Harvard in the game after the Eagles established an early lead.

“We’ve been an outstanding foul shooting team,” Amaker said. “I thought that kept us in it in the first half and then certainly allowed us to keep them at bay in the late game situation.”

SHORT BENCH

Entering last season, depth was supposed to be one of the Crimson’s strengths. But Harvard certainly didn’t rely on its depth to get the win last night, as only six players—McNally, Rivard, Wright, and sophomores Kyle Casey, Christian Webster, and Brandyn Curry—saw the court during the second half.

“We wanted to stick with the lineups and the guys that were able to help us tonight, because [BC] plays very small and they stretch you defensively,” Amaker said. “It wasn’t a night that we could go deep in the frontcourt. We just couldn’t afford that with the way that they spread it and shoot it and the fact that they go small.”

Amaker went to a four-guard lineup throughout the contest, playing Webster, McNally, Rivard, and Curry along with Wright or Casey.

Webster and Curry played 38 minutes apiece, with the latter going the entire second half without a breather.

“I think we’re in good shape,” McNally said. “I think we rely on each other to pick each other up and we work hard in practice, so in these types of games where coach does shorten the bench, it sort of pays off.”

—Staff writer Martin Kessler can be reached at martin.kessler@college.harvard.edu.

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