Harvard stuns New Mexico
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 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 tournament — and it had never won — though the Ivy League advanced in 2010 when a Cornell team made the regional semifinals.
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.
"I hit my first one, and you know, you hit the shot and then you keep shooting after that, and then I hit another one, so I knew it was going to be a good game after that," Rivard said.
Christian Webster was more of a role player last year, but jumped to the fore in 2013; he finished with 11 points and was gesturing after each of his three made 3s, even pointing to his forehead after making one from the corner in the first half.
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."
Amaker outcoached his contemporary, Steve Alford, exacting revenge of sorts for the time Alford's Indiana team beat Amaker and Duke back in the 1987 regional semifinals.
"I commend Tommy and his staff and his players," Alford said. "They made shots. We dodged this bullet a lot this year and were still able to get wins."
Arizona 81, Belmont 64
At Salt Lake City, Mark Lyons scored 23 points and sixth-seeded Arizona rolled past Belmont.
The Wildcats (26-7) used their huge size advantage to shut down the Bruins (26-7), who are 0-6 in tourney games. Arizona held a 44-18 edge on the boards, outscored Belmont 36-18 in the paint, blocked five shots and outshot the Bruins from 3-point range.
Wichita State 73, Pittsburgh 55
At Salt Lake City, Malcolm Armstead scored 22 points, Cleanthony Early added 21 and ninth-seeded Wichita State ousted Pittsburgh.
Freshman Steven Adams led Pitt (24-9) with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Marquette 59, Davidson 58
At Lexington, Ky., Vander Blue's layup with one second left capped Marquette's rally from a nine-point deficit and gave the third-seeded Golden Eagles a victory.
Blue and Jamil Wilson made consecutive 3-pointers to bring Marquette within 58-57 with 11 seconds left. The Golden Eagles then caught a huge break when De'Mon Brooks' long inbounds pass went out of bounds at midcourt with 5.5 seconds left, providing another opportunity.
Blue took full advantage after getting Wilson's inbounds pass, driving left and finding room for the winning basket.
Butler 68, Bucknell 56
At Lexington, Ky., Andrew Smith had a double-double including a career-high 16 rebounds, Roosevelt Jones added 14 points and Butler made its free throws down the stretch to hold off upset-minded Bucknell.
After trailing for most of the game, 11th-seeded Bucknell got back into it with a 19-2 second-half run. But after Joe Willman's jumper cut Butler's lead to 43-42 with 6:56 left, the Bison (28-6) went almost five minutes without scoring. Butler went 18-of-20 at the line in the last 4:43.
California 64, UNLV 61
At San Jose, Calif., Allen Crabbe had 19 points and nine rebounds, reserve Robert Thurman scored all 12 of his points on dunks and 12th-seeded California held off UNLV.
Buoyed by the crowd support of a strong contingent so close to Berkeley, the Golden Bears (21-11) held the Runnin' Rebels (25-10) without a basket for more than 11 minutes in the second half. Cal turned a tie game into a nine-point lead during that stretch and withstood a late UNLV push for its first tournament win since 2010.
Syracuse 81, Montana 34
At San Jose, Calif., Brandon Triche scored 20 points, C.J. Fair added 13 and the fourth-seeded Orange shut down No. 13 seed Montana with their zone defense in the most lopsided victory a team seeded third or lower has ever had in the NCAA tournament.
Louisville 79, North Carolina A&T
At Lexington, Ky., Russ Smith scored 23 points and set a Louisville NCAA tournament record with a career-high eight steals, and Peyton Siva had eight assists as the Cardinals demolished North Carolina A&T.
Louisville finished with a season-high 20 steals as it forced the Aggies (20-17) into 27 turnovers. It was the 11th straight win for the Cardinals (30-5).
Colorado State 84, Missouri 72
At Lexington, Ky., Dorian Green scored 17 of his 26 points in the first half and eighth-seeded Colorado State ran away from Missouri.
Green, who went scoreless with five turnovers in last year's second-round upset to Murray State, did much better this time as the Rams shot nearly 58 percent in the first half.
Michigan State 65, Valparaiso 54
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Derrick Nix had 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds to help power third-seeded Michigan State past the 14th-seeded Crusaders in the Midwest Regional.
The Spartans went on a 26-5 run in the first half to take control, and cruised to an easy victory.
Memphis 54, St. Mary's 52
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Matthew Dellavedova's 3-pointer from the right wing missed everything as time expired, allowing sixth-seeded Memphis to hold on for a win over 11th-seeded Saint Mary's.
The Tigers (31-4) led by 15 in the first half but nearly gave the game away in the final seconds.
Saint Louis 64, New Mexico St. 44
At San Jose, Calif., Dwayne Evans scored 24 points, Cody Ellis added 12 points and fourth-seeded Saint Louis overwhelmed New Mexico State in the Midwest Regional.
Playing through the death of Rick Majerus in December, Saint Louis reached another mark for its late coach. The Billikens (28-6) eclipsed the 1988-89 team's school record of 27 victories.
Michigan 71, South Dakota 56
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Glenn Robinson III scored 21 points and Mitch McGary added 13 points and nine rebounds, helping fourth-seeded Michigan overcome a rough night for star Trey Burke.
Burke made only two field goals and left the game briefly in the second half after a hard fall under the basket. The star point guard came back after that, but he finished with only six points.
VCU 88, Akron 42
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Troy Daniels had 23 points, Juvonte Reddic scored 21 and VCU routed Akronin the most lopsided victory by a fifth-seeded team over a No. 12 in NCAA tournament history.
The previous mark was set by Wyoming in a 35-point win over Howard in 1981 and matched by Tennessee against Long Beach State in 2007, according to STATS.
The Rams (27-8) forced 22 turnovers. Akron (26-7) was seriously short-handed, and it showed. In addition to playing without suspended point guard Alex Abreu, the Zips had other problems as well. Starting guard Brian Walsh and reserve center Pat Forsythe were limited by the flu, and reserve guard Deji Ibitayo wasn't even in uniform because of back spasms.