SALT LAKE CITY – Give those Harvard kids an A-plus in another subject: Bracketbusting 101.
Wesley Saunders scored 18 points and Laurent Rivard made five 3-pointers to help the 14th-seeded Crimson pull the biggest upset in Thursday’s flurry of NCAA men’s basketball tournament games, a 68-62 win over No. 3 New Mexico.
The university where John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy earned degrees was making just its third trip to the tourney – and it had never won – though the Ivy League advanced in 2010 when a Cornell team made the regional semis.
Reaction, not surprisingly given the school and the moment, came quickly and from various corners.
“America, we are sorry for messing up your brackets and also your financial system and everything else,” tweeted the jokesters at the Harvard Lampoon.
But this was no laughing matter. And it was anything but a fluke.
The Crimson (20-9) put the clamps down on New Mexico’s Tony Snell, holding him to nine points on 4-for-12 shooting after he dominated in the MWC tournament. They banged inside with Lobos big men Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk, whose 22 points provided New Mexico’s only consistent offense.
Mostly, they showed none of the jitters that marked their trip to the tournament last year, a 79-70 loss to Vanderbilt in Harvard’s first NCAA appearance since 1946.
Rivard went 6 of 7 from 3 in that one – played on New Mexico’s home court in The Pit – and was clearly pumped for an encore. He was 5 of 9 this time, with three of them coming in the first half, while Harvard was holding a small lead and, more importantly, answering every surge the Lobos (29-6) threw at them. Rivard finished with 17 points.
Yep, these smart kids really can play.
“We battled a really good basketball team in a tough environment,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “I’m very proud of our guys.”