March 21, 2013
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Eventually the 2012-13 Lobos will be judged by their body of work, but Thursday night in Salt Lake City there were a whole lot of Lobo bodies in major NCAA pain and shock.
This was a shocker - a "massive" upset as one TNT announcer put it.
A NCAA Cinderella was born in the EnergySolutions Arena as the Harvard Crimson pulled an major NCAA upset as a No. 14 seed knocking off the No. 3 seed New Mexico Lobos 68-62.
Harvard advances to play an old Lobo enemy: Arizona. UNM ends the season at 29-6 as once again a Sweet 16 berth has eluded the UNM program.
"We lost here in the second round. It doesn't taste well; it doesn't sit well," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford.
"People were picking us to do this and that and I thought our focus was a little off and I thought Harvard did a lot of things to take advantage of that. We had a tough shooting night and they didn't, and I think that's what resulted in the loss."
"We were kind of sleepwalking and got smacked," said Craig Neal, UNM's Associate Head Coach. "We had a lot of ball watching. We left corners (open)."
The upset of UNM was Harvard's first win ever in the NCAA Tournament and maybe even more unexpected coming from an Ivy League team that had lost its two top players prior to the season due to academic violations.
The Crimson had few answers for the Lobos inside, but controlled the game tempo and hit big shots, big free throws and big treys to hold the Lobos off in the game's final minutes.
Harvard led most of the game and failed to crack when UNM muscled to a 53-52 lead. Instead, the Crimson went up 59-53 and outplayed the Lobos off down the stretch run.
"I think that our focus was there somewhat," said UNM's 7-foot Alex Kirk. "But like Coach said, they came out, they punched us first. They played harder than us. They wanted it obviously more than us tonight, and it hurts.
Said Alford: "I thought that they made shots. They just did. I don't know how else to say it, one team shoot 52 percent, one team shot 37. You can only dodge that bullet so many times and we didn't do it tonight."
Harvard (20-9) shot 52.4 percent going 8-of-18 from 3-point range. UNM shot 37.5 percent going 3-of-14 from long range. UNM only had a one-point edge at the line going 17-of-24 to 16-of-20 for Harvard.
"We just didn't step up and make the big stops like we normally do," said Kirk. "We didn't hit the shots on the outside to get the flow going inside and out."
The Lobos inside flow wasn't bad. The Lobos got 37 points from Kirk (22) and Bairstow (15) plus 12 boards from Kirk and nine from Bairstow. But UNM had no other players in double figures as Tony Snell went 4-of-12 from the field, Hugh Greenwood went 0-of-3 and Kendall Williams went 1-of-6 with no assists.
"Some place in the last four or five days, we lost our edge," said Neal. "You have to give (Harvard) credit. They played well and they played aggressive."
Said Alford: "We have to do a lot of work in the off-season with our shooting."
Harvard did not want to run with the Lobos and controlled the pace much of the game, especially in shooting to a 31-27 halftime lead fueled by five treys and 56.5 percent shooting. It looked like eventually the Lobos inside muscle of Kirk and Bairstow would eventually be Harvard's doom.
But maybe the Lobo guards thought the same thing. "We can't afford to have Tony, Kendall and Hugh not play well at the same time," said Neal.
Said Alford: "We had some guys (guards) have some tough games tonight and that hurt us."
The Lobos came out of the half down 31-27 but quickly scored four points inside to form a 31-all tie. A Snell drive pushed UNM up 33-31 at 18:40. Harvard came back with two treys to go up 37-33 and then scored inside to make it 39-33. The Crimson were not going to go away easily.
At the 11:38 media stop, Harvard was up 43-41. The Crimson were winning the shooting percentage battle and the 3-point war. The Lobos were ruling the boards and dominating second-chance points.
The Lobos' defensive intensity improved and they also closed the perimeter gaps on the Harvard shooters. The Crimson went through a cold spell, more than eight minutes without a field goal. A Jamal Fenton trey finally pushed UNM into a lead at 49-47 at the 7:42 mark. The Lobos were wearing down the Crimson inside, but the perimeter defense needed to do its thing on the Harvard shooters.
UNM went up 53-52, but the Crimson went on a little run and used a 15-footer and a post move to go up 59-53. Alford burned another timeout at 4:33. His Lobos were only down by six, but they needed to throw out that tough UNM finish.
Kirk got that finish off to a good start with a blocked shot and a follow on a Chad Adams' miss. UNM was down 59-55 and Harvard asked for a huddle with 3:20 to go. The needs were obvious: Harvard needed some buckets; UNM needed some stops.
Harvard put itself on the bubble of the upset. The Crimson went up by eight, 63-55, with less than two minutes to go, got a defensive stop, but then had a bad turnover that led to a Jamal Fenton trey: 63-58 with 1:29 to go. UNM had life.
Harvard got one free throw and Williams got two to make it 64-60 with 48.3 to play. Harvard burned their last two timeouts trying to get the ball in. Both teams were in a double bonus. On the third try, Harvard got the ball in.
The Crimson used the free-throw line and several Lobo misses to seal the 67-60 upset.
"We had some breakdowns (on defense)," said Alford. "Our bigs did a lot of good things inside offensively. They (Harvard) had a good game plan and their kids went out and executed it well."
Harvard had four players in double figures: Wesley Saunders with 18, Laurent Rivard with 17 (5-of-9 treys), Christian Webster 11, and Kenyatta Smith with 10. UNM had eight points off the bench and Harvard had seven points.
UNM won the second-chance points battle 13-2 and outscored Harvard 30-20 in the paint. UNM had 12 steals to three for the Crimson. Harvard outscored UNM by 15 points from the 3-point line.
"I certainly thought our toughness and our courage carried us through," said Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker.
First Half: Harvard Crimson 31, New Mexico Lobos 27
The Harvard Crimson established the tempo they needed and accented that pace by hitting 50 percent of their treys - 5-of-10. Harvard ended the half shooting 56.5 percent from the field while UNM opened 1-of-12 from the field and shot 35.7 percent in the first half.
The tempo might have favored Harvard, but UNM was getting the ball inside and Kirk and Bairstow combined for 16 points and 12 boards. The UNM Twin Towers combo went 6-of-18 from the floor.
The Lobos didn't get much from the outside and went 1-of-6 from long range with Snell dropping the lone bomb for three points. Williams and Greenwood went 1-of-4 from the field as UNM's emphasis was going "big."
Harvard got nine points and three 3-pointers from Laurent Rivard. UNM had a 17-13 edge on the glass and had seven steals to help UNM to a 13-5 edge on points off turnovers. The Crimson went into their locker room with one player with three fouls and two players with two fouls. They had 10 fouls to five for UNM.
The Lobos went down 16-10 but kept pounding the ball inside, and tied the game at 16-all at the 6:17 mark.
Harvard pulled away again, breaking out of an 18-all tie into a trey-fueled 26-20 lead. Alford burned a timeout. A Snell trey pulled the Lobos to 29-25, but Harvard went inside to score over Kirk: 31-25. The Lobos got a steal from Jamal Fenton and a layup by Snell to form the 31-27 halftime count.