The resume was imposing: a top seed, two national titles, a 59-game winning streak at home.
Then along came Harvard.
Bucking history and making it at the same time, Harvard became the first 16th-seeded team to win an NCAA tournament game by jolting Stanford 71-67 Saturday night.
“This is one of the best wins I’ve ever experienced,” said Allison Feaster, whose 35 points and 13 rebounds led Harvard and shattered the Cardinal’s aura of invincibility on their home floor. “I can’t tell you the amount of adversity we faced, just coming in here. But somehow, we did it.”
Before Harvard’s victory, top seeds were 75-0 against 16th seeds in the women’s and men’s tournaments. The Ivy League champions won their first NCAA tournament game in three tries and in the process snapped Stanford’s 59-game winning streak at Maples Pavilion.
“We’ve set a lot of records this year, but they’re sure not as big as this one,” Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “We’ve broken records and created history, but this tops the list.”
“I’m just very, very happy,” Delaney-Smith added. “No one thought we could do it but us.”
Women’s top seeds were 19-0 against No. 16 seeds since the tournament expanded to 64 schools in 1994. Top-seeded men’s squads were 56-0 against No. 16 seeds since that tournament went to 64 teams in 1985.
Harvard (23-4), already with the most wins in the program’s 16 years, advanced to the second round Monday night against No. 9 seed Arkansas, a 76-70 winner over No. 8 seed Hawaii.
Stanford (21-6), weakened by injuries in the past week that sidelined stars Vanessa Nygaard and Kristin Folkl, lost at Maples for the first time since an 82-65 loss to Purdue in the 1994 West Regional final.
“It’s just been a horrible week,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “(The loss) wasn’t the worst of it.”
Still, it was a shocking end to a run of success for Stanford, which made six trips to the Final Four since 1990, including two national titles.
“We didn’t play with the type of confidence we played with all season. We didn’t get the perimeter shooting we got all year,” VanDerveer said.
From the start, Stanford struggled without Nygaard, its top outside shooter, and Folkl, its leading scorer and rebounder. Nygaard tore a ligament in her left knee in the season finale at Oregon State a week ago and Folkl sustained a similar injury in practice Tuesday.
Stanford couldn’t replace the lost production and couldn’t handle Feaster, the nation’s leading scorer.