Men's Basketball Extends Win Streak at Rice, 69-54

The Crimson is off to its best start since 1945-46 with a 13-1 record (Gil Talbot).

HOUSTON – Behind an 18-point effort from Wesley Saunders and 16 points from Brandyn Curry, the Harvard men's basketball team earned a 69-54 win at Rice Saturday night, its ninth straight victory.

Harvard improves to 13-1 on the year with the win, marking the program's best start under head coach Tommy Amaker and the program's best record to begin a year since going 19-1 in 1945-46. The Crimson's 13 non-conference wins are also one shy of the program record of 14 set in 2011-12.

Saunders shot 8-of-13 from the floor while adding four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Curry, meanwhile, was 3-of-4 from the floor with two three-pointers, 8-of-8 from the line, and added two assists and two steals. Harvard also received double-digit scoring efforts from Kyle Casey and Jonah Travis, as the front-court duo contributed 14 points and 10 points, respectively.

The Crimson shot 47.8 percent (22-46) for the game and was 21-of-28 at the line while holding Rice (5-8) to 41.3 percent (19-46) shooting. Harvard also owned a 37-21 advantage on the glass and scored 12 second-chance points off 14 offensive boards.

Harvard got off to a quick start, taking a 4-0 lead after Saunders stripped Seth Gearhart at midcourt for a breakaway layup. Another Saunders bucket made the score 6-2, and after Laurent Rivard connected for a three-pointer the Crimson was on top 11-5. Back-to-back baskets from Travis extended the margin to 17-9, before the junior added two at the line for a 10-point edge, 19-9.

Rice pulled within 20-14 off a Drew Bender triple, but a pair of Saunders free throws helped to prevent a run by the Owls. Saunders later added two more baskets, the first with a behind-the-back dribble to get to the rim and the second on a step-back jumper, to keep Harvard's advantage at 29-20 at the under-eight timeout. Rice, however, kept battling, and made it a 31-25 game off a pull-up from Max Guercy.

Siyani Chambers found Saunders cutting to the rim for a two-handed dunk and a 34-35 lead, but after free throws by Gearhart the Crimson took a 36-30 margin into the break.

Saunders led all scorers through the first 20 minutes with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go with three assists and two steals. As a team Harvard combined to shoot 50.0 percent (12-24) in the frame while outrebounding Rice 20-10.

Rice got within four points twice early in the second half, but each time Harvard found an answer. Saunders and Casey were the first to respond, moving the margin back out to 40-32, before a triple from Rivard and turnaround jumper from Saunders made it a 45-36 game with 15:54 to play.

The Crimson scored just one basket over the next four-plus minutes but kept the Owls off the scoreboard to maintain its lead. Casey's layup with 11:28 remaining ended the drought, and after Curry sank a pair of free throws the lead was back to double-digits, 51-41. Curry later added a long jumper and two more at the line, extending Harvard's advantage to 56-43.

Curry knocked down a pair of three's to put the score at 63-49 and end a brief run by the Owls. The Crimson's lead never dipped below 11 points down the stretch as Harvard walked away with the

Game Notes: Harvard improves to 13-1 on the year, marking the program's best start under head coach Tommy Amaker and the program's best start since 1945-46 (19-1) …  Harvard has won nine straight games, matching the program's longest win streak under head coach Tommy Amaker … Laurent Rivard made two three-pointers to move into sole possession of 10th place in Ivy League history (234) … Kyle Casey made his 100th career appearance for the Crimson, 75th career start … Brandyn Curry scored a season-high 16 points on 3-of-4 shooting, 8-of-8 from the line.