Friday, March 22, 2013

Harvard pulls NCAA tournament shocker vs. New Mexico

SALT LAKE CITY – Before he would do anything else, see his family, do a television interview, Tommy Amaker needed a hug.
The Harvard coach scanned the crowded court amid the chaos of his team's NCAA Tournament upset win against New Mexico, and found his freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, and gave him a big squeeze.
It was the perfect picture of March happiness.
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Amaker's No. 14-seeded Harvard team pulled off the first stunner of the tournament with its 68-62 win against No. 3 New Mexico in a game the Crimson led nearly start to finish.
Harvard, the Ivy League champions, was smaller, sure, but it shot better, hustled more and very much earned its first NCAA tournament win in school history. It is no fluke that it is Harvard, and not New Mexico, is advancing to play No. 6 Arizona on Saturday.
"What a sensational, gutsy effort by our team," Amaker said.
Amaker's players came up with more adjectives to describe the locker room in the aftermath of their historic win.
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"Pandemonium," said senior Christian Webster.
"Jubilation," said sophomore guard Wesley Saunders.
What about you, Laurent Rivard?
"I don't know any other words for that," Rivard said, laughing.
Fine, Rivard, you get a free pass on the vocabulary quiz this time after a making five baskets, all of them three-pointers in Thursday's upset win, a win that still didn't seem real.
And truly, plenty has been surreal about this Harvard run. The Crimson lost two captains before the season began when they dropped out of school amid a massive academic scandal and lost back-to-back games to Princeton and Pennsylvania on the first two days of March. This was a team led by a freshman point guard, playing in only its second NCAA Tournament since 1946.
Harvard lost to Vanderbilt in the second round of the tournament last year.
This didn't seem like a favorable matchup. New Mexico seemed to feel slighted after receiving a No. 3 seed, and brought a brutish lineup and a rabid fan base to Salt Lake City, all intent on advancing to at least the Sweet 16.
Harvard, it seemed, would be little more than an opening-game nuisance for a team with three players who stood at least 6-foot-8.
But Harvard, much like No. 16 Southern University did here hours before, was undaunted. The Crimson's players drove right at the Lobos' big men, regardless of the whistles they drew. Harvard's 6-foot-8 center Kenyatta Smith picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, leaving Harvard with an even-smaller four-guard lineup.
But size didn't matter from the three-point line, and it seemed Harvard couldn't miss.
Harvard, which hit five three-pointers in the first half, never trailed in those first 20 minutes, and even as the Lobos quickly tied the game early in the second half, the Crimson managed to quell every rally. Instead, Harvard appeared to grow increasingly more confident with each passing minute.
"We didn't wilt or cave in," Amaker said. "The composure that our kids displayed, I'm very, very proud of that."
Before Amaker left the court, he shook hands with Steve Alford, New Mexico's head coach. The two were collegiate basketball contemporaries, Amaker at Duke and Alford at Indiana, and longtime coaching peers.
Thursday night was Amaker's greatest as a coach, at least that's what he told his players, but for Alford, it was a bitter, frustrating loss. The Lobos haven't advanced beyond the tournament's opening weekend since 1974, and have now suffered an early loss as a No. 3 seed for the second time in four years.
The Lobos made only 37.5 percent of their shots against Harvard and missed seven free throws, and none of their guards managed to score in double figures.
"We've dodged this bullet a lot this year by having bad shooting nights and still able to get wins," Alford said. "We weren't able to dodge that bullet tonight."
The Lobos and Alford will return now to Albuquerque, and Alford's new 10-year contract begins next month. All five New Mexico starters are expected to return, but Alford said the group would need to make significant offensive improvements in the offseason.
Amaker and Harvard, meanwhile, are starting to study Arizona after becoming just the second Ivy League school to win an NCAA Tournament game since 2000. Cornell advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2010.
"It's unbelievable," Webster said. "We were talking in the back, we're still in disbelief. We wanted to put everything in it, and believed in it, but this is as good as it gets right."
  • West Regional (Salt Lake City): Harvard guard Siyani Chambers celebrates the school's first NCAA tournament win after the 14th-seeded Crimson defeated No. 3 seed New Mexico.
  • West Regional (Salt Lake City): New Mexico became the third team from the Mountain West to lose in the NCAA tournament this year.
  • East Regional (San Jose): Syracuse had no trouble shaking off Montana for an 81-34 win, earning its largest margin of victory in a tournament game since 1986.
  • East Regional (San Jose): Montana fell behind Syracuse 38-15 by the half.
  • Midwest Regional (Lexington): Colorado State rode a hot start to a 84-72 win over Missouri.
  • Midwest Regional (Lexington): Dorian Green scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half for Colorado State.
  • South Regional (Auburn Hills): Virginia Commonwealth blitzed shorthanded Akron for an 88-42 win.
  • South Regional (Auburn Hills): Akron had 21 turnovers against VCU's "havoc" defense.
  • East Regional (San Jose): No. 12 seed Cal weathered a late push by No. 5 seed UNLV for a 64-61 upset. Forward Richard Solomon had 11 points and seven rebounds.
  • East Regional (San Jose): UNLV became the second No. 5 seed to lose to a No. 12 seed from the Pac-12 -- Oklahoma State lost to Oregon earlier in the day.
  • West Regional (Salt Lake City): Arizona kept Belmont winless in the NCAA tournament with an 81-64 victory. Wildcats guard Nick Johnson notched 12 points.
  • West Regional (Salt Lake City): Arizona posted a 42-15 rebounding advantage over Belmont.
  • South Regional (Auburn Hills): Michigan's frontcourt propelled the Wolverines to a 71-56 win against South Dakota State. Forward Mitch McGary tallied 13 points and nine rebounds.
  • South Regional (Auburn Hills): South Dakota State and forward Jordan Dykstra (42) couldn't make up for Nate Wolters' 3-of-14 shooting performance.
  • Midwest Regional (Lexington): No. 1 seed Kentucky rolled a 79-48 win against North Carolina A&T. Cardinals guard Peyton Siva dished out eight assists and grabbed five steals.
  • Midwest Regional (Lexington): Playing just two days after a First Four win against Liberty, North Carolina A&T had 25 turnovers against Louisville.
  • Midwest Regional (San Jose): Twelfth-seeded Oregon easily took care of business against fifth-seeded Oklahoma State, winning 68-55. Damyean Dotson had a team-high 17 points.
  • Midwest Regional (San Jose): Markel Brown put up 16 points for Oklahoma State, but it wasn't nearly enough to avoid being upset.
  • West Regional (Salt Lake City): Top-seeded Gonzaga nearly stumbled big time against 16th-seeded Southern University. The Bulldogs held on, though, for a 64-58 win. Kelly Olynyk had 21 points for Gonzaga.
  • West Regional (Salt Lake City): Southern University nearly pulled off a huge stunner against Gonzaga
  • East Regional (Lexington): Third-seeded Marquette held off 14th-seeded Davidson for a 59-58 win. Vander Blue had a team-high 16 points, including what proved to be the game winner.
  • East Regional (Lexington): Joke Cohen scored a game-high 20 points, but it wasn't enough for Davidson to pull off the upset.
  • Midwest Regional (Auburn Hills): Matthew Dellavedova's 3-pointer from the right wing sailed long as time expired, allowing sixth-seeded Memphis to hold on for a 54-52 win over 11th-seeded Saint Mary's.
  • Midwest Regional (Auburn Hills): Memphis guard Joe Jackson did a little of everything in the win, scoring 14 points, hauling in six rebounds and dishing out seven assists.
  • Midwest Regional (San Jose): Saint Louis' Dwayne Evans scored 24 points, Cody Ellis added 12 points and the fourth-seeded Billikens overwhelmed the New Mexico State 64-44.
  • Midwest Regional (Auburn Hills): Bandja Sy was the only New Mexico State player to score more than six points in this game, going for 17 of his team's 44.
  • West Regional (Salt Lake City): No. 9 Wichita State toppled No. 8 Pittsburgh 73-55 behind the Shockers' Malcolm Armstead's 22 points and Cleanthony Early's 21 points.
  • West Regional (Salt Lake City): Steven Adams was the only Pittsburgh player to score in double figures. He had 13.
  • East Regional (Lexington): Andrew Smith posted a double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds to help lead sixth-seeded Butler to a 68-56 win over 11th-seeded Bucknell.
  • East Regional (Lexington): Patriot League player of the year Mike Muscala was held to just nine points on 4-of-17 shooting.
  • Midwest Regional (Auburn Hills): Derrick Nix had 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds to help power third-seeded Michigan State past 14th-seeded Valparaiso 65-54.
  • Midwest Regional (Auburn Hills): The Crusaders were no match for Michigan State in their first NCAA tournament in nine years, just as they weren't as a first-round loser in 2000 to the eventual champion Spartans.
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