Dec. 29, 2012
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Laurent Rivard scored 19 points, and Wesley Saunders added 18 to lead Harvard to a 67-62 victory over Cal Saturday night, its first over the Bears in three meetings.
Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12's leading scorer, scored a game-high 27 points for the Bears (8-4), while Justin Cobbs had 15 points and David Kravish 12. Richard Solomon had a career-high five blocks, and the Bears finished with 11, tying the school record.
Harvard (7-4) opened the game with four guards and no starter taller than 6-6 forward Jonah Travis. The Bears started three guards along with the 6-10 Solomon and 6-9 Kravish.
The game boiled down to Harvard's quickness vs. Cal's size, and the little guys prevailed.
"We are smaller compared to them," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "It's a game of, I guess, which one is going to win out, with the way it's structured. Rivard is a kid, he's smaller on the post on the defensive end, but he might be a little tougher to chase around on the offensive end for their kids. That's been our best lineup. We've stuck with that for a few games. I like the rhythm that it's given our team. We space the floor well."
Rivard went 5-for-12 from long range and hit a crucial 3-point shot down the stretch.
The Bears had little depth in their backcourt because of injuries that sidelined reserve guards Ricky Kreklow (ankle) and Brandon Smith (concussion). Robert Thurman, a 6-10 forward, and 6-7 forward Jeff Powers -- both walk-ons -- were the first Bears off the bench. Cal backup forward Christian Behrens (knee) also was out with an injury.
The Bears tried to attack Harvard inside -- with little success.
"Statistically they're one of the worst teams in the paint, but we couldn't take advantage of it," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "I was hoping that being bigger, I thought if we weren't able to score the ball inside, we'd be able to offensive rebound. We weren't able to do either."
Harvard went 10-for-27 from long range, while the Bears missed all six of their shots from beyond the arc. The taller Bears out-rebounded Harvard, but by a margin of just 34-33.
"It was just a great team win," Saunders said. "I think it's really a very important point in our season. Just coming off the break and getting a win is really going to propel our team to the next level. Cal's a great team, and they have some great players. I think our team just really came together this game and fought to the end to win. I think this could be a building block for the rest of the season."
After Harvard built a 33-26 halftime lead, Cal opened the second half on a 10-5 run, cutting the lead to 38-36. But the Crimson answered with an 8-1 surge, increasing their lead to 46-37 with just over 12 minutes left.
Then it was Cal's turn. They scored nine straight points and tied the game 46-46 on Crabbe's 3-point play with 9:49 remaining.
A pair of Crabbe free throws made it 58-58 with 4:33 left, but Rivard drilled a 3-point shot from the right corner, giving Harvard a 61-58 lead with 2:43 to play. Crabbe countered with a pair of free throws, and Kravish made a reverse lay-in, putting Cal up 62-61 with 1:45 remaining.
Harvard moved back ahead 63-62 when Saunders drained a pair of free throws with just over a minute left. After Cobbs was called for an offensive foul with 56 seconds left, Harvard's Siyani Chambers missed a 3-point, but Travis rebounded, and the Bears were forced to foul. Chambers, who went 2-for-15 from the field but had nine assists, made two free throws with 16.9 seconds left, putting the Crimson ahead 65-62.
Then, after Cobbs turned the ball over, Rivard sank two free throws with 9.4 seconds.
"We had a game plan, and we didn't execute it," Cobbs said. "We didn't want to let the open shooter shoot, and obviously they got a lot of 3s, and we didn't execute the game plan well."
Harvard, the reigning Ivy League champion, finished 26-5 last season and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1946. But the Crimson improved to just to 3-18 against current members of the Pac-12. Its other wins were against Utah and Colorado.
"It was a sensational win for the program," Amaker said. "Coming in here after traveling for the holidays, playing against an outstanding basketball team. I thought our kids did a magnificent job. They showed a great deal of poise and composure."