CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Even with arguably their most talented player, sophomore Kyle Casey, at well less than 100 percent, the Harvard Crimson went into Sunday afternoon’s contest against Colorado with confidence.
``Honestly, we expected to win,” said Casey, who looked rusty in his second game back after suffering a broken foot a month or so ago. ``We weren’t hooting and hollering in the locker room after the game. We did what we were supposed to do.”
The Crimson beat the living you-know-what out of a Big 12 team (for now) that may wind up having a first-round pick on its roster and another player who is being evaluated by NBA personnel.
Harvard shot 51 percent from the game, made 10-of-23 shots from beyond the arc en route to an 82-66 victory.
There were about 15 NBA types watching – mostly there to see the Buffs duo of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins.
But the best player on the court was clearly Harvard’s developing big man Keith Wright – who finished with 19 points, nine boards, six assists and three blocks.
Burks and Higgins combined for 41 points, but it the numbers are misleading. Neither played particularly well – and Burks didn’t show any of the potential that have some NBA types tabbing him as a possible lottery pick.
``We’ve got to start over,” Burks said after the loss. ``Coach told us Harvard played as a team and that’s why they won.”
The Crimson also came out on top because they did something the Buffs haven’t yet done: Defended.
``We gave up 82 points to an Ivy league school – no disrespect to Harvard,” first-year Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. ``We have to have more pride and toughness to get stops for us to be a decent road team.”
Let’s face it: Jeff Bzdelik wouldn’t have left for Wake Forest if he thought he had built it up to where the Buffs were a legitimate NCAA tournament team. Burks and Higgins are two quality players, but there isn’t much else in the cupboard right now – and Colorado has no inside presence after starting center Shane Harris-Tunks went down with a torn ACL on Oct. 28.
The most surprising part of the pounding was that Casey, who some felt would be a legitimate candidate for Ivy League Player of the Year honors, was a non-factor.
The 6-foot-7 forward logged 13 minutes off the bench and finished with one point and three rebounds.
``The bone has healed and I’m just working my way back now,” Casey said after the win.
When Casey gets back to his old form – the one in which he averaged 10.4 points and 5.1 boards last season as a freshman – the Crimson will be far more dangerous.
With last year’s star, Jeremy Lin, in the NBA, Harvard could use a go-to guy – especially on the perimeter.
The perimeter trio of Brandyn Curry, Oliver McNally and Christian Webster played extremely well on both ends of the court on Sunday – and big man Andrew Van Nest is finally healthy.
But Casey is a difference-maker.
The win against Colorado is significant because it comes with a different group: One that doesn’t have a single senior on its roster.
``It was a statement win,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
But Amaker, Casey and the rest of the team realizes the real statement isn’t made at the end of November.
It’ll be made come March if the Crimson can claim their first-ever Ivy League title.