By Matt Noonan
CAMBRIDGE, MA – Ending the calendar year with a victory was certainly something the Harvard University’s men’s basketball team wanted to do, as they rallied to beat St. Joe’s on Saturday afternoon, 74-69.
“What a gutsy win by our team against an outstanding basketball team,” said Harvard University head coach Tommy Amaker. “I told our kids that this is a preview of maybe something we’ll see a lot of [for the remainder of the season].”
The victory wasn’t exactly the prettiest, especially since Harvard relinquished a four point lead early in the first half, and allowed the Hawks to tally an 11-5 run, which eventually ballooned to a 14 point lead.
St. Joe’s finished the first 20-minute period by recording 19-of-24 shots from the field, which contained six three-pointers by sophomores C.J. Aiken and Langston Galloway, and junior Carl Jones, (22 points, five assists, and three rebounds).
“They’re an explosive offensive team,” said Amaker. “They’re extremely quick. They’re shifty with the ball, they’re crafty off the bounce, but then they obviously can make shots off the pass, and off the bounce, [as well as] get to the basket, [too]. They’re a handful. ”
Harvard recovered from their lackluster start, and ended the half by taking advantage of a few St. Joe’s miscues, a missed free throw by Galloway and travel by Aiken, which set up a dramatic three-point basket by senior co-captain Oliver McNally as the buzzer sounded.
The Crimson built off their dramatic first half ending immediately once the second half started, as junior Kyle Casey, (26 points, 10 rebounds), sparked a second half rally, which featured Harvard outscoring St. Joe’s, 36-21.
“Kyle was tremendous,” said Amaker. “He carried us offensively and was a presence for us, and he has the athleticism to make plays against a team like [St. Joe’s, who’s] very athletic. And we needed that.”
Casey recorded 17 points and seven rebounds in the second half, but his biggest moment of the contest came with two minutes remaining, as he secured a critical defensive rebound, which set up Curry’s go-ahead lay-up to secure Harvard’s second lead of the game, and eventually their 12th win.
“We’re a veteran team, and we’ve been in situations like that before,” said Casey, when asked to describe his team’s composure. “We knew that we had to really dig in, and just kind of grind this one out, and I think that’s what we do.”
Harvard will have very little time to enjoy this exciting victory, as they’ll head to Fordham on Tuesday, Jan. 3 for 7:00pm tip-off, while St. Joe’s will head to Duquesne on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
* The Crimson have won 21 straight games at home, which is the ninth longest streak in the country
* Saturday’s meeting marked the second time the Crimson and Hawks met on a basketball court, and now, the series is tied, 1-1. The Hawks last beat the Crimson during the ’98-’99 season, 87-69. Harvard is now 19-36 against current Atlantic-10 teams.
* Finally, Harvard’s 12th victory of the season marked their 1,001st program win.