Arizona Basketball

No. 14 Harvard (20-9) vs. No. 6 Arizona (26-7): Lobos learned losing focus on Ivy Leaguers translates into losing game

OneHeart





Date: Today
Time: 4:10 p.m. Tucson time
Location: EnergySolutions Arena (19,911), Salt Lake City
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: TNT (Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb/Jamie Maggio)


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By my count, Arizona coach Sean Miller and his players had to answer six questions about Harvard’s Cinderella status as an Ivy League team from the media yesterday in the press conference. The word “Cinderella” was actually used as was “excited” for Harvard advancing and “surprised” to be playing the Crimson. Miller and his staff must not only adequately prepare the Wildcats with the X’s and O’s against upstart Harvard but they must get them in the right frame of mind of playing a program that achieved its first NCAA tournament win in school history Thursday with the triumph over heavily-favored New Mexico. Steve Alford admitted that New Mexico failed to keep its focus heading into the game with Harvard. “I think it was the first time this group has probably been patted on the back and as a staff and as a group of players, we went under the radar,” Alford said after his team shot only 21.4 percent from three-point range in the 68-62 loss. “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.”


Siyani Chambers

Siyani Chambers


Harvard’s defense especially on the perimeter was the difference against a cold-shooting New Mexico team. The Lobos shot poorly from three-point range and could not get enough spacing for dangerous guard Kendall Williams to get on track. Williams scored 46 points in a 91-82 win last month at Colorado State, a team that will play in the Round of 32 today against Louisville. Williams made 12 field goals against the Rams, 10 from three-point range. Against Harvard on Thursday, the junior made only 1 of 6 field goal attempts and missed all three of his shots from beyond the arc. Conversely, Harvard made 8 of 10 shots from three-point range and 52.4 percent from the field against the beleaguered Lobos. Harvard point guard Siyani Chambers ran the Crimson’s halfcourt sets to perfection, setting up an open shooter through spacing, penetration and ball movement. “New Mexico tried to make their run, and Harvard kept making runs themselves,” Arizona senior Solomon Hill said. “They have a couple of guys that can drive the ball and get to the free‑throw line and they all act as one. It’s not one guy that stands out. But their point guard is like their engine. He gets guys involved and makes the game a lot easier for the team.”









Tommy Amaker

Tommy Amaker


Arizona coach Sean Miller praised his counterpart, Tommy Amaker of Harvard, saying, “Whether he’s a player at Duke and what he did at Seton Hall and watching him at Michigan and now Harvard, he’s an excellent coach, terrific recruiter.” Following his All-American career at Duke, Amaker coached nine seasons as an assistant under his mentor Mike Krzyzewski and had lukewarm success at Seton Hall and Michigan on the basketball court. Seton Hall went to only one NCAA tournament in his four seasons with the Pirates, and Michigan never went to the Big Dance in his six years in Ann Arbor. Harvard hired him because it was more impressed with how Amaker cleaned up Michigan’s program in the wake of improprieties involving a booster before Amaker coached the Wolverines. Amaker, in his sixth year with Harvard, has coached the Crimson to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1946 when it made the field last year, and he coached it to its first NCAA tournament victory with the win over New Mexico on Thursday. Harvard has become a success without two of its best players — All-Ivy League selections Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry — who withdrew from school after an academic cheating scandal. Amaker is getting the most out of the Crimson despite being soft-spoken. He objects to having a radio or television show like other head coaches.


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Arizona is 6-0 against Ivy League teams, including 2-0 against Harvard. The last meeting between the schools was on Dec. 17, 1978, when the UA defeated Harvard 83-60 at McKale Center. Sophomore forward Robbie Dosty led the Wildcats with 15 points and was one of five UA players who scored in double figures. Joe Nehls had 12 points. That was so long ago that, on the same day, it was reported that NAU assistant football coach Mike Shanahan left his post as offensive backfield coach to become the offensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois. Shanahan, now the Washington Redskins head coach, won two Super Bowls as head coach of the Denver Broncos. Aside from its two wins over Harvard, Arizona beat Columbia in 1975, Cornell in the 1988 NCAA tournament, and Princeton (1985) and Pennsylvania (1996) in the Fiesta Bowl Classic at McKale Center. The win over Penn in 1996 was in the championship game after the Quakers upset Florida. Penn had Michael Jordan on its team and he was selected to the all-tournament team. Not that Michael Jordan. Miller has never coached against an Ivy League school during his Xavier and Arizona tenures, but he is 6-0 against the Harvard of the West — Stanford.


Wesley Saunders

Wesley Saunders


Louisville coach Rick Pitino told the media Friday that he was not surprised Harvard upset New Mexico. “We’re the No. 1 of No. 1 seeds,” Pitino said. “We play Harvard 10 times, we might win six, they might win four.” Harvard has won at Cal, lost at St. Mary’s on a last-second shot and battled host Memphis and coach Josh Pastner closely on Jan. 19 before losing 60-50. Harvard trailed 36-16 a minute into the second half and rallied to take a 46-44 with 7:07 left. Memphis, which increased its winning streak to eight with that win, managed to pull away in the closing minutes. “It’s a good win,” Pastner told the media afterward. “That’s a very good Harvard team. They’re extremely well-coached. We won the game through defense. We had a big-time skid offensively where we were not in a rhythm. Harvard comes in as the third-best three-point shooting team in the entire country, and we held them to 25 percent from three and 37 percent from the field. We did another great job on the glass – plus 14.” Harvard ranks 334th among Division I teams in rebounding with 29 a game. The Crimson is 12th in field-goal shooting at 48.2 percent. No rebounds are necessary if the Crimson does not miss. Harvard has four sophomore regulars who shoot better than 50 percent from the field — forward Jonah Travis (60.2 percent), center Kenyatta Smith (58.1), forward Wesley Saunders (53.8) and forward Steve Moundou-Missi (53.7).

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RELATED NCAA TOURNAMENT LINKS
— Balanced Arizona to face gritty, resourceful Harvard
— Success-starved Arizona victorious in six previous matchups against double-digit seeded team in second round of NCAA tourney
— Arizona faces upset-minded Harvard in next round of NCAA tournament
— Arizona basketball: Getting to know Harvard (Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com)
— Arizona basketball: Wildcats’ opportunities open wide in the West (Gimino)
— Coach K on Arizona-Harvard game: Crimson has a chance (Gimino)
— Crimson coach Amaker understands underdogs (Greg Hansen, The Arizona Daily Star)
Mark Lyons finds his fire from ashes of childhood (Patrick Finley, The Arizona Daily Star)
— Harvard has UA staff scrambling (Bruce Pascoe, The Arizona Daily Star)

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner

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