Harvard falls to Oklahoma St. in NIT, 71-54

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Harvard falls to Oklahoma St. in NIT, 71-54

TILLWATER, Okla. (AP) After its fastest start of the season, Oklahoma State didn't need much of a second half to knock Harvard out of the NIT.

The third-seeded Cowboys scored a season-high 41 points in the first half on the way to a 71-54 victory Tuesday night behind 18 points and eight rebounds from forward Marshall Moses.

"Our guys were ready," Moses said. "Everybody was on the same page and wanted to win."

Reger Dowell went 6 for 7 from the field and scored 15 points and Matt Pilgrim added 12 as six Cowboys scored six or more points.

Oklahoma State (20-13) took a 14-point lead into halftime thanks to a 14-4 run midway through the first half.

"I was just excited the way they came out," said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, who thought his team was the most excited it's been all season. "I wasn't quite sure exactly how they were going to come out. I was watching them in pregame talk and I thought they were ready. How we started the game, I felt very good from that point. I felt we were ready to play."

Junior Keiton Page, who finished with eight points, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to start the spurt and Roger Franklin capped it with a jump shot from the baseline. The Cowboys held Harvard (23-7) to one basket during the four-minute stretch.

Markel Brown had seven points, three rebounds and three assists for Oklahoma State.

"I was very impressed with their quickness and their speed," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "It certainly knocked us back on our heels early."

Kyle Casey led sixth-seeded Harvard with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Ivy League player of the year Keith Wright scored 10 points and hit double figures for the 15th straight game. Laurent Rivard added 10 off the bench for Harvard, which totaled its fewest points since scoring 52 in a loss to Connecticut on Dec. 22, 2010.

Oklahoma State outrebounded Harvard 17-9 in the first half and 31-23 for the game.

"Their guys up front, Pilgrim and Moses, they are strong, they are veterans and they are senior players," Amaker said. "They played like it."

The Crimson ranked second nationally in free throw percentage, but went 4 for 7 from the line. It was a season low in both attempts and makes.

Harvard made its first NIT appearance after winning at least a share of the Ivy League for the first time in school history. The Crimson lost to Princeton on a shot at the buzzer in a tiebreaker for the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth.

Oklahoma State, which won its 32nd consecutive non-conference home game, will play the winner between No. 2 Washington State and No. 7 Long Beach State winner. The higher seed will host.

"It's a little difficult for someone like me, who loves to prepare," Ford said. "Not only do we not know who we are playing, but we don't know when we are playing."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

WATCH: Celtics vs. Thunder

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Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Celtics-Thunder preview: Another chance against a top-tier team

Hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Nov. 25, the Boston Celtics had the perennial title contenders on the ropes with the lead in the fourth quarter only to lose it and the game, 109-103.

On the road at Houston, one of the Western Conference’s top teams, the Celtics led in the fourth quarter and wound up losing their Dec. 5 matchup 107-106 as Al Horford missed what would have been a game-winning lay-up as time expired.

Boston played well in both games, but not well enough to win which unfortunately for the Green Team has been how things have gone when they’ve faced some of the better teams in the NBA this season.

They are hoping to break that trend tonight when they hit the road and face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder (14-9) come in with a slightly better record than the Celtics (13-10).

Boston’s issue isn’t that they can’t play with the better teams.

It’s their finish that needs work.

Boston has lost five of its six games this season against teams that are currently among the top-4 in their respective conferences. 

Losses to San Antonio and Houston only highlight Boston not being able to make the late-game runs needed to win.

Even in their 101-94 loss to Toronto on Friday, it was the Raptors’ ability to make one clutch play after another when it mattered most, that proved to be what was needed to propel them to victory.

“That’s what good teams do; they execute at the end of the game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “We just have to execute better and get stops at the end of the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

And while the Celtics have a number of returners from last season, every season brings about a different team and with that, a need to learn how to collectively be successful especially down the stretch in close games.

“We’re learning,” Bradley said following the Raptors loss. “We’re moving on to the next game.”

And that would be the Thunder who come in having won six of their last seven games.

Of course when it comes to the Thunder, everything starts with Russell Westbrook who is on everyone’s short list for league MVP.

He is averaging a triple-double this season with 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.8 rebounds per game.

“He’s amazing,” said Boston’s Terry Rozier who will likely spend some time defending Westbrook tonight. “He’s going to be aggressive. We have to try and find a way to stop that. He’s putting up video game stats. It’s tough but we gotta do something.”

The Celtics will likely lean heavily on Marcus Smart and Bradley, a first-team all-NBA defensive selection last season, when it comes to trying to slow down Westbrook.

“Russell’s a good player,” Bradley said. “I look forward to every matchup. If it’s him, whoever it is, I look forward to it. That’s what this league is about.”

It’s also about growth and development of franchises into title contenders, something the Celtics are eager to continue pushing towards tonight.

Horford spent the previous nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, advancing to the playoffs every season.

He saw first-hand how they went from a team that could barely get into the playoffs, into one that produced four all-stars in one season and had the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Horford saw the loss to Toronto as an example of a really good team doing what great teams do and that’s finding a way to win regardless of how things are going most of the night.

“We made a run early (against Toronto), they stayed with it, didn’t rattle and eventually got over us,” Horford said. “We’re growing as a group.”