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NOTEBOOK: Resilient Junior Co-Captain Helps Crimson Drop Cornell

By Martin Kessler, Crimson Staff Writer

ITHACA, N.Y.—When junior co-captain Oliver McNally had to be helped off the floor after suffering an ankle injury during last weekend’s matchup with Brown, some Harvard fans wondered whether they would see McNally on the court again this season.

But McNally cast all fears aside Friday night, returning to the starting lineup for the Crimson’s contest against Cornell.

“I was really pleased to see him play the number of minutes he played coming off of the injury he had last weekend,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said.

Despite suffering from cramps, McNally played 30 minutes, totaling four points, three assists, and one rebound. But according to the coach, McNally brought more to the game than could be reflected in a stat sheet.

“He has a great way of leading our team in a number of different ways,” Amaker said. “I told Oliver at halftime: he didn’t score, but I just thought he was one of our more valuable players out there…he was very active defensively, and you heard his voice a lot all night.”

According to McNally’s teammates, the guard’s ankle injury should not keep him off the court for the remainder of the season.

“He’s real tough,” sophomore Christian Webster said. "He’ll play through it. He might not be 100 percent, but he’s going to give it his all.”

THE WRIGHT STUFF

While junior co-captain Keith Wright finished as just the Crimson’s fourth-leading scorer, the forward quietly picked up his 10th double-double of the season.

In 29 minutes of play, Wright notched 10 points on four shots and grabbed 11 boards.

Harvard looked for Wright in the post in the early going, but the Big Red consistently sent a help defender at the big man when he caught the ball on the block.

After notching three points in the first 3:16 of play, Wright did not attempt another shot until 13:16 remained in the first half.

Instead, the forward helped distribute the ball to the Crimson’s guards on the perimeter.

“It starts with Keith and [sophomore] Kyle [Casey],” said Webster, who finished with 20 points on three treys. “When we ball-faked it inside, the whole defense collapsed, and then I’m just wide-open on the weak side.”

Wright also made his presence felt on the offensive glass, picking up a game-high six offensive rebounds.

“[His play] was tremendous,” Webster said. “Keith did a great job getting on the backboard.”

Wright’s 10 points mark his lowest offensive output in conference play. Heading into Friday’s contest, Wright was averaging 17.9 points per game in Ivy League play.

Casey—Wright’s frontcourt counterpart—also had a relatively quiet offensive night, finishing with 11 points on eight shot attempts.

But Casey drew attention to himself on one play in particular. With just 1:39 remaining and the Crimson sporting a 73-56 lead, Casey threw down a ferocious one-handed tip slam off a missed layup from classmate Brandyn Curry.

The dunk gave Casey his 11th point on the night, marking the seventh straight game in which the forward has scored in double figures.

NOW BOARDING

While the Crimson dominated most facets of the game against Cornell, Harvard struggled in one area in particular: defensive rebounding.

The Big Red pulled down 15 offensive boards and outrebounded the Crimson, 32-29.

Senior forward Mark Coury led the charge for Cornell, grabbing five offensive and two defensive rebounds. Three other players—Miles Asafo-Adjei, Drew Ferry, and Adam Wire—added five boards apiece.

“In order to beat us, they had to get on the backboards,” Webster said. “They were just ferocious trying to get offensive rebounds.”

The Big Red made the most of the added opportunities, finishing with 15 second-chance points.

While Wright and Casey led the Crimson with 11 and seven rebounds, respectively, the duo did not receive much help from its teammates on the glass. The rest of the Harvard squad combined for just 10 rebounds.

“We weren’t blocking out,” Amaker said. “I think we were just turning to rebound, and that ball takes a funny bounce...and you’re not going to be in position to rebound.”

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

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