SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The No. 14 seed Harvard Crimson led almost the entire game and held off a late New Mexico rally attempt to top the No. 3 Lobos, 68-62, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at EnergySolutions Arena Thursday night.
It was the first NCAA Tournament victory for the Crimson, who were 0-3 in their previous contests. It was also the first win over a top 10 opponent, as the Lobos entered the tournament as the No. 10 team in the AP and USA Today Coaches polls, and it vaulted the Crimson to the 20-win plateau for the fourth consecutive season.
The Crimson will now face Arizona, the sixth seed in the region, on Saturday, March 23 at 6:10 EST on TNT.
Wesley Saunders poured in 18 points to reach double figures for the 29th consecutive game to pace the Crimson, while Laurent Rivard connected on five three-pointers to establish a new single-season record for threes (79) and finish with 17 points. Senior co-captain Christian Webster had 11 points for Harvard to top the 1,000-point plateau, and Kenyatta Smith also finished in double figures with 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Chambers put Harvard up, 2-0, with a layup on the break, and then Saunders hit a bucket in the paint, 4-0. The Crimson held the Lobos to 1-of-10 shooting early on and led, 4-2, at the first media timeout. After Rivard drained a triple to set the Harvard program single-season record (75), 7-2, Steve Moundou-Missi added a layup, as the Crimson went up by seven.
Saunders made another jumper, 11-6, and then Kenyatta Smith connected on a hook shot, 13-8. Rivard knocked down another trey, 16-10, but New Mexico fought back to tie the game, 16-16. Smith put Harvard back up, 18-16, and then Rivard made his third 3-pointer, 21-18.
Webster launched a trey with 3:35 to go, putting Harvard up, 26-20, and giving the senior co-captain 1,000 points for his career. Webster made another 3-pointer, 29-22, and then Moundou-Missi hit a basket in the paint, 31-25. The Crimson carried a 31-27 lead into the half, as Rivard led the way with nine points on three 3-pointers. Harvard shot 56.5 percent (13-of-23) in the first half, while the Lobos were 10-of-28 (.357) from the field.
In the second, the Lobos opened with a 6-0 run, but Webster hit another triple, putting Harvard back on top, 34-33. Rivard connected on his fourth trey, 37-33, and then Chambers found Smith for a layup as Harvard led by six. After Webster drained a jumper, 41-37, Saunders hit two from the foul line, 43-39, to keep the Crimson lead at four.
With Harvard up by two, Jonah Travis headed to the charity stripe and hit both, 47-43, with 9:48 remaining. After the Lobos cut the Harvard lead to one, New Mexico drained a trey to go up, 49-47. With 7:14 left to go, Rivard drew contact shooting a 3-pointer and hit two of the three foul shots, tying the game, 49-49.
Saunders hit an and-one and made the ensuing free throw, putting the Crimson up by one, 52-51, and then Rivard launched another 3-pointer, 55-53. Saunders connected on a long jumper, 57-53, and then Smith put Harvard up by six with a hook shot with just under five minutes to play.
At the 3:03 mark, Smith drew a foul and drained two free throws, keeping the Crimson up six, 61-55. Chambers added a jumper, 63-55, but the Lobos answered with a three to get back within five, 63-58. With just under a minute to go, Moundou-Missi hit one foul shot to make it 64-58.
Moundou-Missi fouled out on the next possession to send Williams to the line, and he connected on both shots to get the Lobos back within four. The Lobos fouled to extend the game, sending Saunders to the charity stripe where he split the pair to push the advantage to five.
New Mexico had two chances to cut into the deficit on the next possession, but the Lobos failed to convert a three-point shot and a layup. Chambers grabbed the board and went back to the line to extend the lead to 66-60.
Williams got the Lobos back within four with another two free throws; however, Saunders put the game away at the line, connecting on both of his attempts. A long three-attempt by Williams clanged off the back iron with 13 seconds left, and it was recovered by Chambers to seal the win and send the Crimson into a wild celebration on the court.