Keith Wright scored 15 points and grabbed six boards to lead the Crimson past Columbia, 57-52, Saturday night (photo courtesy Gil Talbot).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The No. 23 Harvard men's basketball team is off to its best start in program history, as the Crimson defeated Columbia by a score of 57-52 before a sold out crowd at Lavietes Pavilion Saturday evening. The Crimson improves to 20-2 overall surpassing the 1945-46 team. Harvard is also 6-0 in conference play, marking the best Ivy start in program history (1980-81, 5-0).
Harvard has now won at least 20 games in three straight seasons.
Laurent Rivard scored 20 points, while Brandyn Curry chipped in 12. Keith Wright added 15 points and six rebounds in the win, as the Crimson collected its 25th straight home victory. Harvard shot 16-of-37 (.432) for the game and blocked five shots as a team. Brian Barbour paced the Lions (13-9, 2-4 Ivy) with 15 points.
Curry opened the game with a triple from the top of the key, but Columbia answered to knot the game, 5-5. With 17:21 left, Rivard was fouled attempting a trey and hit two free throws, making it 7-5 in favor of Harvard. Rivard drew contact again trying a 3-pointer, but made one this time around, 8-5. Curry converted on another 3-pointer with just over 15 minutes left in the first, stretching Harvard's lead to five, 12-7.
The Lions came back to tie the game, 16-16, with a 9-4 run, but Keith Wright grabbed an offensive board and put it back for a layup, 18-16. Wright added another bucket, and Curry followed with a basket of his own in the paint, as Harvard opened up a six-point lead, 22-16.
With Harvard leading 25-21, Rivard went to the line again and made both, stretching the advantage to 27-21. Wright tried a spin move under the basket for two points, as Harvard led, 30-25, with just over one minute remaining in the first.
Rivard led all scorers with 12 points at the break, while Curry was 4-of-5 from the field, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc for 10 points in the first 20 minutes. Harvard shot 47.6 percent from the floor (10-of-21), but was only 7-of-12 from the line (.583).
Neither team managed to score in the second half until Wright converted a layup with 18:00 left, giving Harvard a five-point edge, 32-27. With 14:02 remaining, Kyle Casey hit a jumper before the shot clock expired, making it 36-29. Columbia answered with back-to-back baskets to get back within three, 36-33, but Curry hit one at the line to put Harvard back up by four.
With 10:45 remaining, Corbin Miller found a wide open Rivard for a triple, as the Crimson extended its lead to 40-33. Steve Moundou-Missi went to the foul line with 7:46 left and hit the first, giving Harvard a six-point advantage, 43-37. After Columbia got within four, 47-43, Casey hit one of two foul shots, giving Harvard a five-point edge, 48-43.
With 2:38 left to go, the Lions cut the deficit to just two, 48-46, but Wright connected on a layup under the hoop to make it a four-point game, 50-46. With 1:11 remaining, Oliver McNally grabbed a defensive board and was fouled. McNally drained both free throws, giving the Crimson some breathing room, 52-46. With 34.7 ticks left on the clock, Curry made the second of two foul shots, making it 53-48. Columbia got back within three, 53-50, but Rivard put the game out of reach with two successful free throws, 55-50.
The Crimson will visit Penn Friday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.