For the second straight season, Tommy Amaker’s Harvard Crimson knocked off a higher seed in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. Last year it was New Mexico heading home early. On Thursday, it was the Cincinnati Bearcats that fell short against the Ivy League champions. Holding a lead for almost the whole game, Harvard dealt Cincinnati a loss in their Tournament opener for the second straight year with a 61-57 victory in Spokane on Thursday.
Don’t tell the Bearcats it was an upset, though. “Today’s game is anything but an upset. They’ve got a great team,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said after the defeat. Point guard Siyani Chambers sealed the deal with a steal and five of his 11 points in the closing minutes.
Sean Kilpatrick led all players with 18 points in the losing effort, putting up an efficient 6-of-13 performance from the field. But Harvard was diligent defensively, holding Kilpatrick to just 13 shots from the field and two trips to the free-throw line. The Bearcats were held to less than 37 percent shooting in the flow of the game and missed five of their 16 free throws.
The five-seed had no answers for the Crimson. The Ivy Leaguers were far more physical than their American Athletic Conference opponents, the frontcourt of Steve Mondou-Missi, Kyle Casey and Wesley Saunders out-muscling the Bearcats in the paint. Instead of enjoying an advantage inside and on the boards, Harvard’s interior trio forced a stalemate with Cincinnati.
The victory made Harvard the first Ivy League school since Princeton in 1983-84 to advance in the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons. They will square off against either Michigan State or Delaware in the Round of 32 on Saturday.