A year ago, Harvard, a No. 14 seed, pulled one of the biggest upsets of the NCAA tournament's opening round when it knocked off No. 3 New Mexico. Seeded two spots higher this year, the Crimson were a popular pick to beat No. 5 Cincinnati. So it would be an exaggeration to say that their 61-57 win was totally unexpected, but there’s no understating how significant a victory this is for a team that had won just one tourney game before Thursday.
The Bearcats were able to stay within striking distance most of the game, but Harvard showed impressive resolve and was able to keep offensively limited Cincinnati at bay in crunch time.
Forward Kyle Casey made a free throw with 8:30 remaining in the second half to give the Crimson an 51-43 lead. The Bearcats narrowed the deficit to 51-49 following a timeout near the seven-minute mark, but Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers buried a jumper for a 56-53 lead with two minutes remaining. Cincinnati forward Titus Rubles missed a layup that would have cut the Crimson's lead to one. Bearcats guard Sean Kilpatrick then turned the ball over. Chambers gained possession and raced the other way before getting fouled. Harvard made enough free throws from there to hold on for the win.
Guard Wesley Saunders paced the Crimson with 12 points, while guards Laurent Rivard and Chambers scored 11 points apiece. Harvard shot 43.2 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point range. Cincinnati got a game-high 18 points from Kilpatrick and 13 points and 10 rebounds from forward Justin Jackson. In the end, though, the Bearcats couldn’t overcome their offensive limitations. They shot just 37 percent from the field.
Harvard will move on to play the winner of the game between No. 4 Michigan State and No. 13 Delaware in the East Region.
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