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

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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.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.