WORCESTER, Mass.—It didn’t come easily, but the Harvard men’s basketball team got the job done.
In its first road contest of the 2011-12 season, the Crimson (2-0) pulled away in the second half, grabbing a commanding 73-64 win over Holy Cross (0-2) in a non-conference matchup last night at the Hart Center.
“[It was a] tough win for us against a team that I thought played exceptionally hard, exceptionally well,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, whose squad trailed by as many as six late in the first half to the underdog Crusaders.
But after a late first-half Crimson run evened the score at 34 heading into halftime, Harvard rode the momentum into the second period, thanks in large part to a new offensive plan: get the ball to co-captain Keith Wright.
The strategy paid off, as Wright notched nine points in the first 5:59 of the second half to give Harvard an eight-point lead, 48-40.
“I thought [we’d] try establish him right away,” Amaker said of Wright, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds in his first double-double performance of the year. “I thought we’d give our team a shot in the arm. I thought it certainly worked out in our favor.”
While the Crusaders managed to get back within three midway through the second period, the Crimson never trailed again en route to the nine-point win.
Harvard was once again anchored by its frontcourt duo of Wright and junior Kyle Casey, who combined for 31 points and 14 rebounds.
While Wright carried the Crimson in the second half, Casey did most of his damage in the first, notching 11 of his team-high 16 points in the opening period. The 6’7 forward also displayed his range, knocking down a pair of three-pointers. Casey’s first three, which put the Crimson ahead, 20-19, with 8:14 to play in the first half, was his first trey since Dec. 1, 2010.
But on the whole, Harvard shied away from relying on the deep ball, attempting just nine three-pointers on the night. Instead, the Crimson focused on attacking the basket, notching 46 points in the paint and getting to the charity stripe 25 times.
Wright and Casey weren’t the only Harvard players to get it done in the paint, as freshman Wes Saunders finished with 10 points, eight of which came off three consecutive and-one layups midway through the second half.
But before the Crimson established itself in the post in the second half, the Crusaders controlled the paint. Led by forward Phil Beans’ three first-half offensive rebounds, Holy Cross pulled down nine offensive rebounds and scored 10 second-chance points.
With 2:27 to play in the first, the Crusaders grabbed their largest lead of the game after center Dave Dudzinski corralled a missed three-pointer and finished a layup, putting his team up, 34-28, and forcing Amaker to use a 30-second timeout.
Walking back to the huddle, a visibly frustrated Oliver McNally yelled at his teammates to pick up their aggressiveness on the glass.
“We got hit in the mouth a little bit in the first half,” said the co-captain, who finished with 14 points on nine shots. “We were really soft down low. Our bigs weren’t catching the ball, and our guards were just hanging around expecting them to do everything.”
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