No. 6 Harvard put up a valiant effort in the second round of the NIT Sunday night but fell, 78-77, at No. 2 NC State in a game that showed how talented the Crimson really are.
Down 76-74, Harvard (19-12) had a chance to tie the game or take the lead as the seconds remaining elapsed into single digits after a Danilo Djuricic offensive rebound of a missed free throw from Bryce Aiken. But Aiken lost his handle on the ball as he left his feet behind the three-point line, a turnover that resulted in two NC State (24-11) free throws, enough to withstand a Rio Haskett three-pointer with three seconds left.
Harvard last led 61-60 with 8:53 left, having come back from a 24-12 deficit midway through the first half to make the game a see-saw battle that ultimately featured 15 lead changes and nine ties.
The Crimson held a 39-38 halftime advantage but faced narrow deficits down the stretch.
Aiken posted 19 points and six turnovers in 36 minutes, notching a game scoring high matched only by Noah Kirkwood, who dished five assists and collected four rebounds to go with his 19 points before fouling out with 6:18 to play.
Harvard committed 17 turnovers but made up for it with efficient scoring inside the arc (24-for-36, 66.7 percent), a game after notching the first NIT win for any Ivy since 2002 by defeating Georgetown Wednesday, an appearance which marked the Crimson’s third in the NIT in nine seasons.
Harvard’s loss came at NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum, the second postseason elimination for an Ivy there after the Princeton women lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Kentucky, 82-77, Saturday.