We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Harvard is next because its students are “fraudsters and liars” … according to 1968 Penn alumnus Donald Trump.
In 2014, the Crimson capped off a fourth consecutive “Ivy banner” season with a third straight trip to the Big Dance. A year after being huge underdogs versus New Mexico in the NCAA Tournament, however, the Crimson were a popular upset pick in the always interesting “twelve-five game.” Harvard was looking for a second straight first-round win, but Cincinnati, which had shared the American Athletic Conference regular season title with Louisville and had knocked off eventual national champion UConn, was no pushover.
The game started close, but a 7-0 run midway through the first half gave the Crimson a lead they never relinquished. A balanced offensive attack in the first half was key, and seniors Laurent Rivard and Brandyn Curry led the way with nine and six points respectively. Harvard’s defense also shined in the first half, holding the Bearcats to just 35.5 percent shooting. At the break, Harvard held a commanding nine-point lead.
The Crimson cooled off in the second half, shooting just 35 percent from the field, but their defense prevented a Bearcats comeback by locking down star player Sean Kilpatrick (who managed just four second-half shots, guarded by Wesley Saunders) and holding Cincinnati to 38.5 percent from the floor. Afterwards, Bearcats coach Mick Cronin called Harvard’s defense the key to the game: “Every time we tried to free [Kilpatrick], they doubled him. Any time he came off a pick on the ball, they doubled him.”
With three minutes left, Harvard led by only one, but down the stretch the Crimson sunk four of their last five free throws to ice the win. As the clock wound down, Cincinnati players wept amid Harvard players jumping for joy. “In my mind, today’s game was anything but an upset,” said Mick Cronin. “They have a great team.”