CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Oliver McNally still hasn't gotten over Harvard's loss to Fordham, a loss that will almost certainly deprive the Crimson of their best-ever ranking in the Top 25 -- if not knock them out of the polls entirely.
That's because he doesn't want to.
"The Fordham game is not behind me," he said Saturday after the Crimson (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) bounced back, if somewhat belatedly, with a dominant second half to beat Dartmouth 63-47 in their Ivy League opener. "It makes me even more frustrated that we weren't able to play well."
McNally scored 17 points, hitting a 3-pointer during an 8-0 run that gave Harvard (13-2, 1-0 Ivy) the lead for good. Dartmouth (3-13, 0-1) led by seven in the second half but was outscored 36-13 over the final 15 minutes.
"I'm disappointed that we weren't able to put a complete game together," McNally said, "but we'll take an 18-point win."
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said the turning point might have been McNally's halftime talk. The senior guard reminded his teammates to stop worrying about the missed shots -- they shot 39 percent from the field in the first half -- and get back to the things that had made them successful.
"He's very vocal for us. He's our heart and soul," Amaker said. "He's a tremendous leader. He's wired that way. If he played football, he'd be the quarterback."
Kyle Casey and Keith Wright scored 10 apiece for Harvard, which gained its first-ever ranking this season and climbed before the 60-54 loss to Fordham on Tuesday night. That could knock them out of the polls, and with the Ivy schedule starting they won't face the high-profile programs that would help them get back in.
McNally said the players had plenty of time to think on the four-hour bus ride back from New York; there was no movie because they lost, and the bus was dark.
"We've moved on," Amaker said. "Kids can bounce back. That's the beauty of being young."
Gabas Maldunas scored 15 points and added nine rebounds for Dartmouth (3-13, 0-1), which lost its sixth consecutive game.
"They're a Top 25 team. I can see it," Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier said, noting that even after a slow first half Harvard was able to turn things around in the second. "It's a real testament to them to have the patience to not panic."
Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust was at the game, Harvard's second sellout of the season. New courtside seats were added and a new press box was built to accommodate the interest in the program, which last season shared the conference championship -- Harvard's first men's basketball Ivy title.
Harvard entered the polls for the first time in school history on Dec. 5.
It won't help their case that they struggled with Dartmouth. Harvard led just 23-22 at the half, then the Big Green scored nine straight points -- capped by three baskets by Maldunas, to open a 34-27 lead with 16:20 to play.
Dartmouth led 36-30 when Harvard scored eight straight points during a 16-2 run, getting a 3-pointer by McNally to cut it to one point and then Brandyn Curry's three-point play to take the lead.