Harvard got a stiff challenge from an Atlantic 10 opponent en route to its latest victory.
It would probably prefer to avoid a similar struggle in the Bronx.
Fordham, fresh off a win over an ACC foe, will take its shot at the 22nd-ranked Crimson on Tuesday night at the Rose Hill Gym.
Harvard (12-1) had to rally from a 12-point deficit in the second half to beat St. Joseph’s 74-69 on Saturday.
Although the Crimson trailed 48-38 at the break and didn’t take the lead for good until Brandyn Curry’s basket with 1:49 left, they seemed happy to have overcome a rare difficult test. The first three victories on Harvard’s current four-game win streak came by an average of 19.0 points.
“This is like a first-round game or second round of a tournament,” forward Keith Wright said. “It’s going to help us in the long run.”
Wright had 16 points against the Hawks, but it was Kyle Casey who powered coach Tommy Amaker’s team with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Casey grabbed five boards on the offensive end and finished 10 of 16 from the field.
The junior forward leads Harvard with 11.8 points per game, bouncing back Saturday after totaling just nine in his previous two games.
The Crimson had to regroup defensively in the second half against St. Joseph’s, which was 19 of 24 from the field before halftime and 8 of 27 after.
“We knew we needed to trust each other with help defense,” Amaker said. “We emphasized trusting ourselves. We trusted our shots. We trusted our defense.”
Fordham’s rebounding may have been the key to its 72-66 win over Georgia Tech on Thursday. The Rams (6-6) outrebounded the Yellow Jackets 45-30, improving to 5-1 at home.
“It’s a great win for us, for the program and the university,” coach Tom Pecora told Fordham’s official website. “This is what our vision is, of what we want our program to be with a great crowd and a big-time opponent playing in the Rose Hill Gym.”
Fordham, however, has lost 21 straight against ranked opponents since a 68-67 victory over then-No. 24 St. John’s on Dec. 9, 2000, and that doesn’t include last season’s lopsided loss to Harvard.
Laurent Rivard led the Crimson with 21 points, hitting 5 of 8 from 3-point range, in an 80-57 home rout of the Rams on Dec. 1, 2010. Rivard, now a sophomore, has hit 11 of 17 from beyond the arc in his last four games.
The Crimson, who jumped again this week to the highest ranking in program history, know they’ve become a game opponents are circling on the calendar.
“Teams know who we are,” Wright said. “We’re not going to sneak up on anybody anymore.”
Wright, Harvard’s leading rebounder with 7.3 per game, will surely tangle inside with Fordham’s Chris Gaston, who is among the Division I leaders with 10 double-doubles.
The junior forward had a season-high 17 boards along with 23 points against Georgia Tech after posting 35 points and 15 rebounds in the previous game, an 81-70 win over Texas State. Gaston, though, is shooting a career-worst 41.6 percent and Fordham ranks among the nation’s worst at 37.7 percent.