SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Some people may have heard of the school that’s suddenly generating a bit of March Madness buzz.
Yep, Harvard —the school known for producing U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices and Nobel Prize winners earned its first NCAA tournament victory Thursday night with a 68-62 upset of No. 3 seed New Mexico.
“It’s unbelievable,” guard Christian Webster said. “We’re still in disbelief. This is as good as it gets for us right now.”
The Crimson put the clamps on New Mexico’s Tony Snell, holding him to nine points on 4-of-12 shooting after he dominated in the Mountain West Conference tournament. They banged inside with Lobos big men Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk, whose 22 points provided New Mexico’s only consistent offense.
Mostly, they showed none of the jitters that marked their trip to the tournament last year, a 79-70 loss to Vanderbilt in the Crimson’s first NCAA appearance since 1946.
Rivard went 6 of 7 from 3-point range in that one — played on New Mexico’s home court in The Pit — and was clearly pumped for an encore against the Lobos themselves. He was 5 of 9 this time, with three coming in the first half, while Harvard was holding a small lead and, more importantly, answering every surge the Lobos (29-6) could muster. Rivard finished with 17 points.
Next up for Harvard: a meeting with sixth-seeded Arizona.
In the other part of the West Region bracket, top-seeded Gonzaga got a scare from Southern before pulling out a 64-58 victory. The Zags will play No. 9 Wichita State, 73-55 winners over Pitt.
Gonzaga barely escaped to keep No. 1 seeds undefeated against No. 16s since the NCAA tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
That doesn’t mean it was easy for the Zags, who ran into a No. 16 seed that wasn’t playing like one.
Kelly Olynyk scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half to help the Zags (32-2) advance. Gonzaga iced the game with a pair of 3-pointers — one by Gary Bell Jr., the next by Kevin Pangos — that gave the Bulldogs their small cushion after Southern tied things at 56 with 3:45 left.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few was almost ready to jump on the Southern bandwagon.