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Arizona decisively ends Harvard's hopes

The SportsXchange

SALT LAKE CITY -- When Arizona advanced to the Sweet 16 on Saturday with a 74-51 blowout win over Harvard, the Wildcats might have done their opponents a favor.

Harvard players can now devote more of their free time to their Ivy League education than on basketball.

Of course, that might not come as much consolation to a gutsy group that two days earlier had picked up the first-ever NCAA Tournament win in the prestigious academic institution's history.

Arizona showed early that it wasn't about to be the victim of another Harvard upset, as third-seeded New Mexico was Thursday. Using their athleticism and height advantage, the Wildcats seized an early double-digit lead that they never relinquished.

"Harvard beat a good team two days ago and we knew they were capable of beating anybody," Arizona guard Mark Lyons said. "It's not the name on the jersey. We went out there and played them like any other team we have to face."

Indeed, Lyons and the Wildcats did.

Lyons scored 27 points and Solomon Hill had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lift Arizona to another impressive tournament win at EnergySolutions Arena.

With strong victories over No. 11 Belmont (81-64) and the 14th-seeded Ivy League school in hand, Arizona (27-7) advanced to play Iowa State or Ohio State on Thursday in Los Angeles. The Wildcats, who missed out on the tournament last year, are one win from returning to the Elite Eight, where they fell to Connecticut 65-63 in 2011.

"Obviously, we're thrilled to be advancing to the Sweet 16," said Arizona coach Sean Miller, who has had four teams in the past six seasons reach this point. "The history of Arizona speaks for itself, and I really feel like when we enter the NCAA Tournament and this time of year we not only represent ourselves, but we represent all the great players and teams of the past."

Lyons provided an offensive punch in both halves for Arizona, which is in its 30th tournament. He hit 12 of 17 shots from the field, including five in a row after Harvard pulled within 14 during a brief spark in the second half.

Hill was the only other Wildcat in double figures, scoring 12 points in the first half when Arizona quickly established a large lead against the upset-minded Crimson (20-10).

Harvard's blowout loss came two days after it pulled off the first big upset of the 2013 tournament with a 68-62 win over third-seeded New Mexico. That was also the first win in NCAA history for the Crimson, who lost their opener last year after a 66-year tournament absence.

Harvard coach Tommy Amaker was quick to credit Arizona for being a "championship-level team" with NBA size (especially 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski) and athleticism.

"Disappointing for us that we didn't play better," Amaker said. "I think we've shown that we have been a better team than we displayed this afternoon. But, nonetheless, we have had a wonderful season, very proud of our team and our program."

Kenyatta Smith (10 points) was the only Harvard player to score in double figures. Steve Moundou-Missi came off the bench for nine points, all in the first half.

The Crimson's stars against New Mexico all struggled.

Wesley Saunders missed 10 of 11 shots from the field and scored eight points after finishing with 19 against the Lobos. Laurent Rivard missed 5 of 6 shots from the floor and had just three points two days after his spunky 17-point outing.

Overall, Harvard shot a miserable 27.6 percent from the field. Arizona connected on 55.1 percent, including 9 of 15 on 3-pointers.

From the tipoff, Harvard looked nothing like the composed team that rattled New Mexico.

Hill hit a jumper 16 seconds into the game, and that proved to be the beginning of the end for the Crimson.

Harvard missed its first 13 shots, including four layups, four 3-pointers and five from mid-range.

Smith made two free throws with 17:29 left in the half, when the Wildcats' lead was only 5-2, but Harvard went more than five minutes before scoring again.

Point guard Siyani Chambers finally made a basket for the Crimson -- 7:43 into the game.

By that point, Hill, Lyons, Brandon Ashley and Kevin Parrom had already made field goals for Arizona, which had a double-digit lead for good less than six minutes in.

Things only got worse for Chambers and Harvard, which was outscored in the first half by Hill (12 points) and Lyons (11 points). Arizona, which led by as many as 25 in the second half, was up 40-22 at halftime.

As for Chambers, he not only lost a game but a chunk of a front tooth. In the second half, he was smacked in the mouth by Parrom and came up off the court exclaiming, "My tooth's gone!"

A teammate retrieved the missing part of the chipped tooth.

But, in more ways than one, the damage had already been done.

Harvard, however, only has one senior, Christian Webster, and the Crimson are counting on becoming an NCAA fixture.

"The level that they (Arizona) played at today, that's the level we have to play at, whether that's the speed, strength, athleticism, and I feel like we can get there just with hard work," Webster said. "Looking at where the program came from, it's just rising. It's just going up. It's going to take a lot of hard work ... and we'll get there."

NOTES: Tarczewski plays for Arizona but is no stranger to Harvard. The freshman grew up in New England and graduated from St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass. That, by the way, is also where Harvard's Laurent Rivard played prep ball. "But," Miller joked, "Kaleb probably didn't want to study 15 hours a day to compete at the Ivy League." ... Arizona has a good overall record in NCAA games in Salt Lake City (7-2). The Wildcats' two losses were big ones, having fallen as a No. 1 seed in 2000 and No. 2 in 1993. ... With his 13-point, 10-rebound performance, forward Solomon Hill moved up Arizona's career leaderboard. He is now 10th in scoring (1,414 points) and 20th in rebounding (770 boards).
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