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Harvard upsets New Mexico for school’s first-ever NCAA tournament win

Mar 22, 2013, 12:23 AM EDT

Harvard guard Laurent Rivard gestures after hitting a three-point-shot during their second round NCAA tournament basketball game against New Mexico in Salt Lake City, Utah Reuters

There were more than a few people who believed on Selection Sunday that the New Mexico Lobos were capable of not only making the program’s first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, but possibly even getting to Atlanta.

Harvard put an end to those ambitions in Salt Lake City, upsetting the 3-seed in the West Region by the final score of 68-62. The win is the first-ever NCAA tournament victory for the Crimson, who advance to take on 6-seed Arizona on Saturday.

Harvard controlled tempo and shot 52.4% from the field, outscoring the Lobos by 15 points from beyond the arc (24 points on 8-of-18 shooting for the Crimson). Wesley Saunders led four players in double figures with 18 points and Laurent Rivard added 17, hitting five of his nine shots from beyond the arc.

(VIDEO: Harvard’s band celebrates)

The Lobos (37.5% shooting on Thursday) entered the game shooting just 42.3% from the field on the season, and despite having offensive threats such as guards Tony Snell and Kendall Williams they aren’t a team that’s going to light it up offensively.

Defense is what’s made the Lobos so successful in Mountain West play, and defense was what they would need in order to make a deep tournament run. Harvard was efficient and hit timely shots, which ultimately led to the Crimson pulling off the biggest upset of the tournament to this point.

(From TODAY: How did Harvard alum Jeremy Lin react?)

Harvard’s victory is the first for a 14-seed since 2010, when Ohio knocked off Georgetown. In total 14-seeds have won 17 games in the history of the NCAA tournament, and given the circumstances surrounding Harvard’s season simply making the tournament was an accomplishment.

The withdrawal of point guard Brandyn Curry and forward Kyle Casey having to withdraw from school, the fortunes of the Crimson rested partly on the shoulders of freshman Siyani Chambers and sophomore Wesley Saunders.

(MORE: Recapping all of Thursday’s action)

With those two leading the way Harvard managed to repeat as Ivy League champions and pick up the program’s first NCAA tournament victory. Arizona will offer up a significant challenge on Saturday, but in the aftermath of their win over New Mexico it wouldn’t be wise to rule out the Crimson.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

  1. zagdog - Mar 22, 2013 at 12:47 AM

    Harvard is a great team. New Mex was overrated, MWC,poor showing, Boise, UNLV all fell round 1. RPI means nothing in the madness.

  2. thejjtrain - Mar 22, 2013 at 12:57 AM

    Alford has lost twice as head coach to the 14 seed, only made it to the Sweet 16 once. And oh yeah, just signed a 10 year contract.

  3. 27xwschamps - Mar 22, 2013 at 1:26 AM

    Hey !!! Coach Alford, Hawkeye fans got 2 words for U !! S@ck It !! Ur overrated..

  4. mungman69 - Mar 22, 2013 at 3:57 AM

    Everyone saw this score coming, right?

  5. goirishgo - Mar 22, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    Congratulations Harvard! They were the better team and deserved to win. And I’ll bet they all find their way to class too.

  6. florida727 - Mar 22, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    Have to admit, I’m one of the bracket idiots that bought into the New Mexico hype without watching much of their play this year. If I had watched them more, I would not have picked them to go far. Their guards didn’t impress me at all and their bigs are slow. I could see several teams beating them along the way. Turns out, I didn’t have to look far. Harvard. Congrats to The Crimson. Just adds more to the Tommy Amaker legacy. Doesn’t matter what happen against Arizona. They’ve already established themselves within Harvard sports history, and that’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of.

  7. andycher - Mar 22, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Time to get out my old Tom Lehrer stuff and listen to Fight Fiercely Harvard

    A

  8. kungfubowler - Mar 22, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    I was at this game and man Harvard, straight-up, had better athletes. What a blast it was to watch. There were a ton of people rooting for the underdog by the game’s end.

    I’m not one that can evaluate talent or technique but you can tell when a guy is better at running the court (or running period). New Mexico looked flustered and gassed by the middle of the first half and Haaaavard kept coming back for more.

    I picked NM to win this game on my bracket, not having seen Harvard play at all this season. I figured NM would fall to Arizona in the next round. But, after watching AZ play, I’m not sure. I think Harvard could give them problems, too. Ultimately I think AZ will win the matchup (based on statistics) but Harvard has me rooting for them. Forget brackets, these guys are fun to watch.

  9. raysfan1 - Mar 22, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Very happy to have alma mater blow up my bracket! Go Crimson!!

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