Harvard pulls off upset vs. New Mexico
by Lindsay H. Jones, USA TODAY Sports
SALT LAKE CITY — Harvard, the 14th seed in the region, delivered the NCAA Tournament’s first serious upset – and earned its first-ever tournament win – by shocking No. 3 New Mexico 68-62.
The Ivy League champions, winning for the first time in just their third invitation to the tournament, were dramatically undersized, even more so after starting center Kenyatta Smith had to sit for much of the second half with four fouls.
But size didn’t matter from the three-point line, led by Wesley Saunders with 18 points. And it seemed like Harvard couldn’t miss.
The Crimson snuffed out multiple New Mexico rallies by stepping back and nailing threes — eight in the game. Five came in the first half, and none was bigger than Laurent Robinson’s shot from right in front of his team’s bench to take the lead back with six minutes to play.
Harvard never trailed again. The Crimson will play No. 6 Arizona on Saturday.
With Harvard’s win, the Ivy League is now 3-13 in the NCAA tournament since 2000. And No. 14 seeds are now 19-112.
The Crimson quickly won over the crowd at EnergySolutions Arena that stuck around for the final game of the day. Those fans nearly got a historic upset earlier when No. 16 seed Southern hung with No. 1 Gonzaga until the game’s final minutes, but Harvard’s quest was just as thrilling.
As Harvard took a five-point lead with 90 seconds remaining, Harvard’s small cheering section could sense it. “We believe that we will win,” they chanted.
For New Mexico, the loss is just another NCAA Tournament disappointment at the end of a strong regular season. The Lobos, the Mountain West’s regular-season and tournament champions, lost in the Round of 32 as a No. 3 in 2010, and coach Steve Alford and his players were adamant that this team needed to make the Sweet 16.
But it wasn’t going to happen after a terrible shooting night, from the field and from the free throw line. New Mexico shot only 38% from the field, and only made 17-of-24 free throws. Only three of New Mexico’s 13 three-point shots fell.