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

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


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.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.