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."

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.