Harvard’s Bid for More Hoops Glory Falls Short

The Ivy League champs shoot only 28 percent against sixth-seeded Arizona.

Freshman Siyani Chambers exemplified Harvard’s tenacity by returning to the game barely a minute after chipping his front tooth on a play early in the second half.

Elation over the first-ever NCAA tournament victory for Harvard men’s basketball this week proved short-lived, as the Crimson came up short Saturday in a third-round loss to the Arizona Wildcats, 74-51, that ended the team’s most successful season ever.

The contest bore little resemblance to Thursday’s historic win over New Mexico, in which the Crimson led almost the entire way in its 68-62 upset of the highly favored Lobos. But against Arizona, Harvard struggled from the get-go, falling behind 10-2 in the opening minutes and never posing a serious threat to the sixth-seed in the West Region. Overmatched in size, speed, and athleticism, the Ivy League champions—for the third consecutive year, with a 20-10 record—missed their first 13 shots from the floor, and 20 of their first 22 shots. The Wildcats took advantage and control, breaking out to a 39-20 lead in the first half, and never looked back.

“It’s disappointing that we didn’t play better, and I think we’ve shown we’re a better team than we’ve displayed this afternoon, but nonetheless, we’ve had a wonderful season,” said head coach Tommy Amaker at a postgame press conference. “We’re very proud of our team and our program.”

“Their size, their length, was a problem tonight,” summed up point guard Siyani Chambers, the first freshman ever selected for the all-Ivy First Team.

Harvard’s offense sputtered from the start. Junior guard Laurent Rivard, who spearheaded Harvard’s offensive attack Thursday night with five three-pointers, was held to just three points for the entire game. Sophomore Wesley Saunders, the Ivy League’s leading scorer, shot just 1-for-11 from the floor. Overall, the team shot just 28 percent, compared with 52.4 percent in their second-round victory.

Despite the lopsided loss, the Crimson fought hard to the end. Chambers exemplified Harvard’s tenacity by returning to the game barely a minute after chipping his front tooth on a play early in the second half. Moments later, he nailed a three-pointer to close the gap to 14 points. But that was as close as Harvard would come, as the Wildcats made 55 percent of their shots, led by senior guard Mark Lyons’s 27 points on 12 of 17 shooting.

Sophomore center Kenyatta Smith led all Harvard scorers with 10 points, while senior captain Christian Webster, who has shared in more wins than any other player in the program’s history, ended his college career with eight points. “The shots we missed at the beginning were open. If we would have made the shots, maybe the game would have been different,” said Webster after the game. “We accomplished all our goals this year and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We’re going out with our heads held high and that’s what really matters.”

 

Selection Sunday. The Harvard men’s basketball team’s victory over New Mexico in the West Regional not only stunned the unwitting, but it also made history: It was the Crimson’s first win ever in the NCAA tournament. But where does it rank among Harvard sports high points?  Here are a magnificent seven. Please vote for your favorite and write your answer in the comments.

What was the greatest moment in Harvard sports history?

a) Charlie Brickley ’15 scoring all of Harvard’s points on five field goals—four from drop kicks—in the Crimson’s 15-5 victory over Yale in 1913.

b) Harvard’s junior varsity eight-oared crew winning the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in England in 1914.

c) Harvard’s football team beating Oregon, 7-6, to win the 1920 Rose Bowl.

d) The Harvard football team’s miraculous rally that scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds to “beat” Yale, 29-29, in 1968.

e) The Harvard men’s ice hockey team winning the NCAA championship in overtime in 1989.

f) The sixteenth-seeded Harvard women’s basketball team upsetting the No. 1 seed, Stanford, 71-67, on their home court in the 1998 NCAA tournament.

g) The fourteenth-seeded men’s basketball team’s 68-62 triumph over third-seeded New Mexico in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

 

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