Harvard defeats Boston College again, 78-69

New coach. New system. Same result.

Laurent Rivard scored 23 points and Keith Wright had 15 as Harvard upset Boston College and for the third straight season, 78-69 on Wednesday night.

This one may have been payback for all those Ivy League losses. The Crimson beat Eagles first-year coach Steve Donahue, who led Cornell to three consecutive Ivy titles before coming to Chestnut Hill.

"We have familiarity with winning here, certainly that doesn't hurt us," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "I do think this one's special for us because they have a very good team."

It was the Eagles' second home loss to an Ivy school this season, the other a 75-67 setback to Yale on Nov. 18. That's one more than the Big Red had in the league under Donahue all last season.

"It feels great," Harvard's Oliver McNally said. "They're the team in Boston — ACC team. Our team has all the respect in the world for Coach Donahue and for what he did at Cornell."

Donahue felt his team started to feel the pressure of losing two straight to the Crimson.

"I think they allowed the thoughts of the past, and for the first time, I felt that negative vibe," he said. "They shouldn't be like that. We're a good basketball team. We're working hard, each and every day. We're going to bounce back and learn from this."

Christian Webster scored 13 points, McNally 12 and Brandyn Curry had 10 for Harvard (10-3). It was the Crimson's fifth win in six games, their only loss at then-No. 4 Connecticut, 81-52 on Dec. 22.

Joe Trapani led the Eagles (11-4) with 21 points and Reggie Jackson had 18. The Eagles lost for the second time in 10 games.

Two years ago, the Crimson knocked off the Eagles three days after BC upset No. 1 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Last year, when BC talked about not letting down against Harvard, the Eagles lost 74-67.

"We definitely had an element of surprise the first couple of years, doing it two in a row," McNally said.

Wright felt this one proved Harvard has BC's number.

"We expected them to come out hard," he said. "Two years ago they didn't know what to expect. The second game we might have caught them not up. We were coming in expecting a tough game."

The Crimson had an 11-point lead with just under 4 minutes to play before BC started to press, forcing turnovers and cutting it to 70-65 on Jackson's driving basket with 2:11 left.

The Eagles then missed a pair of 3-point attempts before Rivard had a layup off a weakside cut. The Crimson sealed it at the line, with McNally, Rivard and Webster each making a pair.

Trapani said the Eagles approached the game with a different attitude.

"There was nothing said. We weren't trying to make this something personal — Harvard versus us," he said. "I feel like we might have done that last year and it didn't work out. Nobody really said anything. We just went about our business."

Harvard, which entered the game tied with Wisconsin with the nation's best free-throw percentage at 80.2 percent, went 23 for 24 from the line.

BC cut it to 45-44 on Trapani's short jumper, but the Crimson scored the next nine points. Wright started the run with a dunk, was fouled on the play and made the free throw. McNally had a three-point play 50 seconds later and Rivard nailed a 3 from the right wing, pushing Harvard ahead by 10.

The Eagles closed the gap to 61-56 on Trapani's 3 from the right wing, but Webster answered with a 3, and Curry hit a short baseline jumper before Webster added two free throws, making it 68-56 with 4:43 to go.

Harvard, which closed the opening half by scoring 18 of the final 23 points, led 33-29 at intermission.

BC opened 24-15 lead midway into the first half before Rivard hit a 3 from the left corner for the Crimson, triggering the spree. Harvard, which hit 13 of 14 from the free-throw line in the first 20 minutes, was 9 of 10 from the line in the run.