The NCAA West No. 3 seed New Mexico, Mountain West regular-season and tournament champions, dropped out in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Division I National Championships Thursday night after a 68-62 loss to Harvard.
The Crimson had never before won an NCAA tournament game. The win puts Harvard into Saturday’s third round against No. 6 seed Arizona, which captured an 81-64 win over No. 11 Belmont.
Harvard’s hot shooting made the difference. The Crimson connected on 52 percent from the field for 22 of 42 shooting. Despite 37 points from its two big men, UNM finished at 38 percent on 21 of 55 shots.
Sophomore center Alex Kirk scored 22 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Junior forward Cameron Bairstow added another 15 points. No other UNM player reached double-figure scoring.
Four Harvard starters, meanwhile, were in double digits with guard Wesley Saunders on top netting 18 points. Guard Laurent Rivard had 17 points, followed by guard Christian Webster with 11 and guard Kenyatta Smith with 10.
UNM missed eight of its first nine shots as Harvard built a 9-2 lead early. The Lobos then tied the game at 16 and at 18, but three straight Cameron Webster 3-pointers helped the Crimson to a 31-27 halftime advantage.
After the first 20 minutes, UNM hit 35 percent of its field goal attempts (10 of 28) with many low-post misses and five misses on six 3-point shots. Harvard fired 56 percent from the field (13 of 26), including five triples on 10 long-range shots.
The Lobos did not get their first lead until the second half, scoring the first six points coming out of the locker room for a score of 33-31. Harvard soon regained the lead with its own 8-0 run.
The teams remained close for the rest of the half until Harvard rattled off an 11-2 run over five minutes for a 63-55 lead. The Crimson led for the remainder.
Earlier, in Salt Lake City, Arizona guard Mark Lyons scored a game-high 23 points for the Wildcats’ 17-point victory over Belmont. Guard/forward Kevin Parrom and center Kaleb Tarczewski each had 12 points and eight rebounds, while guard Nick Johnson netted another 12 points.
The Wildcats drained 56 percent from the field (29 of 51) and pulled down 42 rebounds.
Belmont benefitted from guard Kerron Johnson’s 22 points, guard Ian Clark’s 21 and J.J. Mann’s 13, but no other Bruin scored more than six points. The team was 39 percent shooting (20 of 51) and had only 15 total rebounds.
The Mountain West Conference has two teams left in the field after Colorado State beat Missouri 84-72, UNLV fell to California 64-61, and Boise State lost to La Salle 80-71 Wednesday. San Diego State plays Oklahoma today in the South Region.
Thursday’s winners were Michigan, Oregon, Louisville, Marquette, Saint Louis, Memphis, Butler, Michigan State, California, Virginia Commonwealth and Syracuse. The rest of the second round plays today.