No. 24 Harvard beats Saint Joseph's 74-69
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Harvard had to survive Saint Joseph's shooting the lights out in the first half and then had to overcome an 11-point deficit in the second.
Now the 24th-ranked Crimson feel like all the attention they have been getting will be even more well deserved.
Kyle Casey scored 7 of his 26 points in the closing 4:25 as Harvard beat Saint Joseph's 74-69 on Saturday.
"Teams know who were are," forward Keith Wright said. "We're not going to sneak up on anybody anymore."
Wright had 16 points and five rebounds, and Casey had 10 rebounds for the Crimson (12-1), who trailed by 11 points with just over 10 minutes to play.
Playing their first home game ever as a ranked team, the Crimson trailed by 10 points at halftime after a phenomenal shooting exhibition by the Hawks. They knew -- or at least hoped -- it couldn't last.
"I was telling our kids if we can hang in there, I didn't think they could shoot 79, 80 percent," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "Our defense saved us."
Saint Joseph's missed five shots in the first half (19 of 24) and made only eight of 27 in the second.
"We looked like we got tired," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. "That's on me. We really took a lot of time today to not wear the kids out. We didn't come over here this morning, we stayed in the hotel. We played tired, but the punch in the gut is 9 of 16 from the foul line."
Along with playing tougher on defense, Harvard shot 52 percent (13 of 25) in the second half.
"We knew we needed to trust each other with help defense," Amaker said. "We emphasized trusting ourselves. We trusted our shots. We trusted our defense."
Carl Jones led the Hawks (10-4) with 22 points and Langston Galloway had 15. Saint Joseph's had a five-game winning streak snapped.
With the Crimson trailing 68-67, Brandyn Curry hit a running one-hander in the lane to push Harvard ahead for the first time since the game's opening 2 1/2 minutes.
After a missed jumper by Jones, Casey made a 3 from the right wing on the next possession, making it 72-68 with 39.3 seconds left.
Harvard sealed it with two free throws by Laurent Rivard with 18 seconds left.
"We knew we had to dig down and grind this one out," Casey said.
Harvard, which trailed by 11 points with 10:49 to go after Halil Kanacevic's basket for the Hawks, sliced it 66-65 on Casey's basket with 4:25 left. He was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw.
After Galloway missed a jumper, Harvard had a chance to take the lead for the first time since early in the game, but Jones had a steal and breakaway layup.
Casey then nailed a jumper, closing it to 68-67 with 2:48 left.
The Hawks pushed it to 53-42 on Jones' free throw with 18:14 to play. The Crimson cut it to seven points twice in the next 3 minutes, but Saint Joseph's continued to hold them off, maintaining a comfortable margin before Galloway's free throw line jumper pushed it back to double digits, 61-50, with 10:49 to go.
But the Crimson kept hanging close until they made a run.
"This is like a first-round game or second round of a tournament," Wright said. "it's going to help us in the long run."
In the first half, Saint Joseph's shot 79.2 percent en route to its 48-38 halftime lead.
"I felt in the first half that we got the shots that we wanted to get and made the shots we usually make," Jones said.
The Hawks connected on 10 of their first 11 from the field, including two from behind the 3-point line, to open a 22-13 lead.
After a miss, they connected on their next two possessions and pushed it to double digits when Galloway nailed a 3 from the left wing and Ronald Roberts Jr. hit a short jumper in the lane, making it 27-13 with 11:11 to play in the half.
The Crimson had trouble matching up defensively as the Hawks players appeared to be driving the ball past defenders nearly whenever they needed to, setting up easy shots in the lane or feeding outside for mostly wide-open jumpers.
But Harvard, which trailed by double digits in the first half of a 21-point win over Boston College on Thursday, started to get going offensively and cut the gap to 32-28 by scoring 15 of the next 20 points. The Crimson relied on the inside scoring of Wright, who had six points in the lane, while Casey and Oliver McNally made 3s during the spree.
Saint Joseph's pushed its lead to 46-33 on Jones' 3 from the right wing, but Harvard closed it to 10 at halftime when McNally hit a 3 that bounced around before falling in at the buzzer.