The Irish got off to a slow start and tallied just 16 points in the first 10 minutes. Fortunately for Notre Dame, Harvard also struggled and were only able to score nine points in the time. But the last 10 minutes of the half belonged to the Irish as they dominated and outscored the Crimson, 25-9, and took a comfortable 41-26 lead into the locker room.
The Irish shot 17-of-38 for 44.7 percent from the floor in the first half, but only 4-of-11 from 3-point range for 36.4 percent. The Irish defensive play limited the opponent to 20 shots in the first stanza.
The second half was a complete turn around as Harvard came out very aggressively on both ends of the court and kept the Irish off balance. In the first seven minutes, the visitors went on a 17-8 run cutting the lead to 49-43. The Crimson kept up the pressure, and with six minutes remaining, pulled into a 57-57 tie. This was a wake-up call for the Irish and they outscored the Crimson 9-2 to come away with a rugged 66-59 win.
Although this game turned out to be a lot closer than many expected, the Irish showed they know the keys to winning a close game and they demonstrated this down the stretch with clutch foul-shooting, timely rebounding, and good ball-handling.
Chris Quinn was the leading scorer for the Irish and in the game with 20. Thomas was the only other Notre Dame player in double figures as he finished with 17 points.
On the night, the Irish shot a dismal 34.8 percent (23-66) from the floor and a disappointing 25 percent (5-20) from 3-point range. Foul-shooting was a key factor in this win and the Irish shot a respectful 71.4 percent (15-of-21) from the stripe.
Irish head coach Mike Brey was happy to get the win but expressed some concerns with how his team played after the game.
"When you take 18 more shots than your opponent and turn them over 19 times but can only score 66 points, it's going to be interesting," said Brey. "I thought in the second half, defensively, their big guys played great against us in a run, but we are going to lose games if we can't make a few more of those open looks we had. We're a team that has to make some shots, and I thought we had a couple in the second half to start a run again and we don't make them and you got some game pressure on you.
"I like how our guys handled that and we had to make some plays to win the basketball game and we did that. We have to be more efficient offensively. I don't think we moved real well offensively probably the last 15 minutes. We just didn't move very well and had to rely on our guards. Thank God we have our guards, but our guards are going to play the same way in Big East games making all the plays and doing things at the end of the game."
Senior forward Dennis Latimore, playing in his first regular season game in two years, was also happy to get the win but said there are things to be learned from a game like this.
"You have to really respect your opponent," Latimore said. "We are playing an Ivy League team, and it really doesn't matter how big the program is or bells and whistles they come in with.
"Because when guys play hard like they did and not give up in the second half and give everything they've got, you have to match that. I don't think talent beats hard work all the time so you have to give a lot of credit to those guys."
Junior forward Rick Cornett was glad to be back on the court after being sidelined by injuries. Cornett contributed nine minutes and scored four points for the Irish in his first game back.
"I feel all right but I think I could have done better, but you know it happens sometimes so you have to look at the future and not in the past," Cornett said. "It was a tough game and we have to be ready all the time and play 40 minutes a game because nothing is going to come easy for us."
Senior captain Jordan Cornette was excited about the win, but not happy with their performance.
"A consistent team plays two halves and a consistent team wins a string of games and doesn't fold and lose a string of games," Cornette said. "I think if you are going to have performances like that, you're going to win a string of games and you're are going to lose a string of games because it all depends upon how the ball bounces and we can't have that. We have to put together two good halves and be solid for two halves or else we are going to have a lot of close games.
"To be honest, I prefer blowouts compared to close games. I think Harvard played tough and battled for forty minutes, and I wish I could say the same for our team. I think we got lackadaisical with thinking we had the lead and got comfortable. In a forty-minute college basketball game, you can't ever really get comfortable, and I think we need to learn that and improve on that for sure."
The Irish return to action at the Joyce on Tuesday, November 23, as they host IPFW. The opening tip-off is set for 7:30 EST.