By: Ben Zauzmer
SALT LAKE CITY--Since 1900, Harvard has played basketball. Since 1939, the Crimson have held hopes of winning a March Madness game. And on March 21, 2013, that dream finally came true.
The 14-seeded Crimson made one of the nation’s top defenses appear defenseless, stunning the 3-seeded New Mexico Lobos 68-62 at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. And along the way, they stunned the nation as well. “Harvard” became the number one trending word on Twitter, and basketball fans across America have suddenly noticed the newest comer to the national scene.
It was not an entirely smooth ride to the finish. Kenyatta Smith, Steve Moundou-Missi, Jonah Travis, and Christian Webster all got into foul trouble, but Coach Tommy Amaker utilized a series of substitutions to get as much as possible out of each forward.
“We were juggling a little bit, deciding who we wanted on the floor,” said Harvard Head Coach Tommy Amaker after the game. “Sometimes when you’re in foul trouble you play passive. We needed to maintain a certain aggression on the frontline…and I thought our kids did a really nice job of that.”
New Mexico big men Alex Kirk (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (12 points, 9 rebounds), kept the game close, but Harvard effectively shut down star guards Kendall Williams and Tony Snell to stymie the Lobos offense.
“Wesley [Saunders] had to guard Tony Snell who is an outstanding player and a big-time prospect,” said Amaker, “[and] we had to chase those guys and dig in.”
This was the first win against a top-ten team in program, fueled by Laurent Rivard’s five three-pointers, Wesley Saunders 18 points, and Kenyatta Smith’s seven rebounds. When asked to describe the scene in the locker room after the win, Saunders only needed one word: “jubilation.”
For a school more associated with people who use such four-syllable words than people who use four-guard rotations, Harvard’s win is that much bigger. But there will be little rest for the victors: the Crimson face the 6-seed Arizona Wildcats on Saturday at 4:10 Mountain Time (6:10 Eastern). That game will be broadcast live on 95.3 FM WHRB-Cambridge by Charlie Hobbs (play-by-play), Brecka Fetzer (color), and Ben Zauzmer (color). Keep it tuned to WHRB’s Blog for more details on our extended pregame coverage.
The Wildcats will not be pushovers by any means, especially after they tore apart the 11-seed Belmont Bruins earlier Thursday by an 81-64 final. But the Crimson showed tonight that with tight defense and just enough offense, they can convince 20,000 fans – and an entire country – to believe in the underdog.