Men's Basketball Falls at Oklahoma State in First Round of NIT, 71-54

Kyle Casey led Harvard with 13 points and seven rebounds at Oklahoma State Tuesday (James Schammerhorn).

STILLWATER, Okla. – Kyle Casey led the way with 13 points, while Keith Wright and Laurent Rivard tallied 10 points apiece, but the Harvard men's basketball team dropped a game in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) to Oklahoma State, 71-54, at Gallagher-Iba Arena Tuesday evening. Brandyn Curry chipped in with six assists, while Oliver McNally scored nine points.

The Crimson, which was making the program's first appearance in the NIT, concludes its season with a 23-7 overall record. Marshall Moses (18 points, eight rebounds) and Reger Dowell paced the offense for OSU, which advances to the second round with a 20-13 mark.

The Cowboys jumped out to a 9-2 lead, but a layup by Wright at 16:34 snapped a 7-0 run for OSU, making it 9-4. Wright made a steal at midcourt moments later and McNally netted a basket on the break to get the Crimson within three, 9-6. With 13:32 left in the first half, Harvard's Matt Brown drilled a trey from the wing to cut the deficit to six, 15-9. Wright drilled two free throws to get within nine, 24-15, with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half. The Cowboys, which hit 11 of its first 16 shots (.688), opened up a 29-15 advantage until Wright hit a basket with 7:58 to go.

Laurent Rivard buried a triple with 6:12 remaining, pulling Harvard within 13, 33-20. Christian Webster added a layup as Harvard continued to chip away, 34-22. Curry added a 3-pointer of his own with 3:34 left, keeping Harvard within 12, 37-25. Heading into the break, Harvard trailed, 41-27, with Wright pacing the Crimson with eight points. Curry added five assists in the first stanza, but Harvard shot only 42.3 percent from the floor (11-of-26), compared to OSU's 55.6 percent clip (15-of-27). The Cowboys also led in rebounds, 17-9, after the first 20 minutes.

With Harvard down 18, 45-27, Christian Webster made Harvard's first basket of the second half, hitting a 3-pointer from the left wing. Kyle Casey added a two-handed dunk on the break on the Crimson's next possession, as Harvard got within 13, 45-32, with 16:26 remaining. McNally drained a trey with just over 15 minutes left, making it 47-35, as Harvard continued to find its rhythm on offense. Casey dunked the ball again on a fastbreak to get cut the deficit to just 10, 47-37, with 14:11 to play. Moments later, Wright scored on a layup, capping a 7-0 Harvard run, 47-39, but the Crimson could not get any closer.

Casey found McNally with a nice give-and-go play with 8:48 left, getting Harvard within 13, 54-41. Rivard hit another triple with 5:46 left, making it 60-45 in favor of OSU. On the Crimson's next possession, Casey made a jump shot over two defenders, getting Harvard back within 13, 60-47.  Rivard and Casey made consecutive layups near the three-minute mark to keep pace with the Cowboys, 64-51.

The Cowboys owned a 31-23 advantage in rebounds for the game and held the Crimson to just 40 percent shooting (22-of-55). Casey paced Harvard with seven rebounds, while Rivard connected on two of Harvard's six 3-pointers. 

Postgame Comments by Harvard Head Coach Tommy Amaker

On the game
"Certainly not one of our better performances we've played all year. Give a lot of credit obviously to Oklahoma State. I thought they played with a great deal of intensity; they're tough around the post area. I was very impressed with their quickness and speed. It certainly knocked us back on our heels how quickly they could get up and down the floor and their athleticism around the goal. We were a much better basketball team this season. It's disappointing with the kind of year we've had to have this kind of send-off for our final game."

On what went wrong
"We had a quick turnaround in terms of travel and everything to get here but without a doubt (Matt) Pilgrim and (Marshall) Moses, those kids are strong, they're veterans, they're senior players, and they played like it. They were very efficient with their numbers and I thought they had a very balanced team this evening."
On Oklahoma State
"You give credit to Oklahoma State, I thought they played exceptionally well and were very hungry tonight. I think we were able to make a run to get it down to eight and spent so much energy trying to battle back and it's tough to do so in this type of environment against a tough, physical basketball team."
On Oklahoma State starting the game strong
"It was a critical factor. We were hopeful that we could get off to a good start trying to manage the situation with the home-court advantage that they would have here."