MORAGA, Calif. -- Stuck in a 14-point halftime hole, the Saint Mary's men's basketball team needed to do some digging if it wanted to even compete with visiting Harvard on Monday.
The Gaels still had plenty left to give.
Two free throws by Mitchell Young with 1.1 seconds left gave the Gaels a stirring 70-69 win over the Crimson in the 2012 Shamrock Office Solutions Classic in Moraga.
Jonah Travis led Harvard (7-5) with 19.
Young stepped to the line needing to hit both ends of a one-and-one to put the Gaels in front. Not only did he block out a screaming McKeon Pavilion crowd, he hit nothing but net on both shots.
"It's just about if you've put in the time and put in the reps," Young said. "That's something I've done. I've really worked on my free throw shooting. I try to shoot 100 a day, and it paid off tonight."
Trailing by 10 with 3:30 to play, Saint Mary's fought to claw back against a Harvard team that was perhaps the toughest team to visit McKeon so far this season.
The Gaels closed to within six when Walker tipped home a miss with 2:59 left. That made it 68-62 Harvard.
Things got closer on the next Gaels possession, when Stephen Holt hit two free throws to close the margin to 68-64.
To combat the Crimson, head coach Randy Bennett sent out the smallest lineup he has all year, calling on Matthew Dellavedova, Holt, Walker , Jordan Giusti and Levesque on defense and subbing Jorden Page in for Giusti on offense.
A Levesque drive and layup made it 68-66 Harvard with 1:36 to play. Harvard countered with one of two free throws at the other end by Christian Webster.
Young returned to make it a one-point game, laying it in with 1:01 left to make it 69-68 Harvard.
"They hit shots. We didn't shoot it well. Delly was 1 for 13," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "We had a ton of excuses we could've made, but we didn't. They kept stopping our runs, credit them, but we kept coming and the last time, we got them."
Saint Mary's found itself in a 16-point halftime hole, and needed a spark to climb back into the game.
To that end, the Gaels turned to the 3-ball. Three of Saint Mary's first four field goals of the half came from long range, with James Walker II contributing two. His second brought the deficit back to single digits at 41-32 with 16:37 left and caused Harvard coach Tommy Amaker to call time out to quiet a roaring crowd.
"Coach got on us pretty hard. He told us we needed to play harder, they came to play and tonight they came out and hit us in the mouth," Walker said. "We had to respond. We got together as a group and told ourselves we were going to come out and respond."
The long distance assault was only getting started. Page knocked down his second triple of the half, this time to pull the margin to seven at 44-37 with 15:22 to play.
It would take Saint Mary's several more minutes to get any closer than that, due mostly to the offensive display put on by Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers.
The freshman scored seven of nine at one point for the Crimson, and his 3-pointer with 13:27 left made it a 10-point Harvard lead at 50-40.
Eventually though, the defense caught up to the offense, giving Saint Mary's the chance it needed to get even closer. Young brought the deficit to four with back to back layups, the second coming off a pick and roll with Dellavedova to make it 52-48 with 10:28 left.
Harvard owned the first half, carrying a 35-21 lead into the locker room.
The Crimson got started early, going on a 13-3 run to begin the game. A dunk by Wesley Saunders capped the stretch, giving Harvard the 10-point cushion with just over five minutes elapsed.
Saint Mary's managed to fight back into it thanks to a 9-1 run of its own. Brad Waldow scored the final point on the run, getting fouled after an offensive rebound and making one of two free throws. That brought the score to 14-12 Harvard with 12 minutes left in the half.
As hard as the Gaels tried to claw back into the lead, the shots just would not fall. They made just seven of their 31 first half shots, an icy 22.6 percent from the floor.
The Gaels return to the court Saturday, as Loyola Marymount visits McKeon Pavilion at 1:30 p.m. in Saint Mary's West Coast Conference opener. Tickets are available online at SMCGaels.com or through the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx.