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 the Crimson wreak havoc on 10-year contracts.
Harvard won its third straight Ivy League title in 2013, but the Crimson were happy just to be mentioned on the nationally televised Selection Sunday Show, as this would be only its second NCAA Tournament appearance. When the matchup with the 11th-ranked, third-seeded Mountain West Champion New Mexico Lobos was finally announced, Harvard players and fans gulped at the daunting challenge that lay ahead. Then they sat on the edges of their seats to hear the CBS analysts’ take: “I like this New Mexico team to go to the Final Four!” Doug Gottlieb said enthusiastically. With that, the Crimson headed to Salt Lake City as 11-and-a-half point underdogs.
From the tipoff, the Crimson proved they would not back down, earning an early five-point lead. They stretched the lead to seven when senior captain Christian Webster, who clearly didn’t want his Harvard career to end, sunk a deep three-pointer. Webster and sharpshooter Laurent Rivard combined to go 5-for-9 from downtown in the first half, and the Crimson headed to the locker room ahead by four at the half.
In the second frame, the Lobos stormed back, taking a 33-31 lead on a Tony Snell lay-in. But back-to-back three-pointers from Webster and Rivard halted New Mexico’s momentum and gave the Crimson a 37-33 lead. New Mexico wasn’t ready to kiss its dream goodbye, however, and it battled a poor shooting night to reclaim the lead with under seven minutes to play. Then in the final five minutes, Harvard proved it wanted it more and built an eight- point lead. The decisive surge was led by the Crimson’s usual suspects: Wesley Saunders (18 points), Laurent Rivard (17 points), and Siyani Chambers (seven assists), who combined for only a single minute on the bench all night. Clutch free throws by a young but gutsy Harvard team sealed the 68-62 victory, and when the buzzer sounded, Crimson players jumped for joy on the court. For the first time ever, the Crimson had won an NCAA Tournament game (over a highly touted opponent as well), shocking the sports world and putting themselves on a par with the best teams in college basketball.