LEXINGTON, Ky. - Just as No. 7 Kentucky seemed headed toward blowing out another opponent, the Wildcats suddenly lost the focus and accuracy that had Harvard on the brink.
The pesky Crimson took advantage down the stretch to get within single digits, only lacking enough time to make things even tenser against a team still learning that a 20-point lead should be a starting point toward finishing off games.
''We have to be able to put our foot on their throats and get good plays and good shots and not try to turn into a selfish team,'' freshman forward Kevin Knox said after scoring 20 points in Kentucky's 79-70 victory Saturday over the Crimson. ''I think that's what we do when we start to get up, people start trying to get their own. Next thing, they're (only) down eight.''
Officially, Harvard's deficit was nine after Seth Towns' 3-pointer with 22 seconds left capped an 18-7 closing run after trailing 72-52 midway through the second half. Kentucky (7-1) ran out the clock, which seemed logical considering it missed seven of its final eight shots and went without a field goal for the final 2:31.
''Give Harvard credit,'' Kentucky coach John Calipari said. ''They shot the ball. (Coach Tommy) Amaker did a great job of putting his people in positions. It was another good game for us to play where a team's not just going to give us a win. This team needs that.''
Before that, the Wildcats appeared to show hints of following up Sunday's 107-73 pummeling of Illinois-Chicago with another big game.
Hamidou Diallo added 19 points as Kentucky used a 13-0 run over 2:42 for a lead that seemed safe during a game when things were mostly clicking on both ends. The Wildcats returned from a break to shoot well for most of the game and lead the Ivy League Crimson throughout.
It wasn't easy, and the Wildcats needed that initial accuracy to counter Harvard's 12 3-pointers - including six by sophomore forward Towns (25 points) - that kept the Crimson within reach.
''They found me for a lot of open shots,'' said Towns, who was 8 of 14 from the field and missed just once from long range. Harvard shot 37 percent but was 12 of 28 from behind the arc.
''Tonight I was just able to get them in. A lot of them came from assists, and when we do that and move the ball really well is when we play our best. That showed a lot today, but I give credits to my teammates for finding me.''
''I was pleased with how Seth came off the bench for us and gave us a shot in the arm,'' Amaker said.
Kentucky made three of four free throws in the final minutes to win the first meeting between the schools and earn its fifth straight victory. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 12 points for the Wildcats, who shot 46 percent but were just 2 of 14 from long range.