No one thought Harvard had a chance. Everyone, including myself, characterized the Crimson as a lesser Belmont, a good shooting team that could not rebound. Where New Mexico was a disciplined yet less athletic team that Harvard exposed, no one thought the Crimson would be able to take the same advantage of Arizona, who was a much more athletically gifted team.
Harvard apparently listened to everyone’s predictions in the wrong sort of way, because quite frankly, the Crimson played like crap, and it was obvious from the tip that they were intimidated. The Wildcats, who ignored east coasts experts’ Belmont upset picks, equally ignored the praise in round 2 and simply played their kind of basketball (Something New Mexico made the fatal mistake of not doing).
The game was over before the whistle was blown. Arizona took an early 17-2 lead and never looked back, crushing the Crimson 74-51 for their second consecutive blowout of the tournament. Mark Lyons was in a playground, scoring 27 points at will (70% from the field and 50% from distance) for his second 20+ point performance of the tournament. Solomon Hill also played his game without contest, scoring 13 points and bringing in 10 rebounds. Big men Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley both had big days on the glass with eight boards a piece. Overall, Arizona shot 55% overall and 60% from downtown.
Two scary moments occurred during the game. Grant Jerrett left the game early when he hit his elbow hard on the hardwood and never returned from the game. It has been determined, however, that Jerrett is fine and will be back at practice on Monday. During a hard layup, Mark Lyons looked visibly hurt as he clutched his side and came out of the game (not, however, before draining a three pointer), but came back into the game shortly after to a huge sigh of relief to Arizona nation.
As good as Arizona’s offense was, their defense was even better. Interestingly enough, Harvard actually had nine more shot attempts than Arizona (mainly off of a better offensive rebounding performance, something coach Miller is probably not too thrilled about). The Wildcats, however, held Harvard to less than 28% shooting in both categories. Harvard’s best player Wesley Saunders, who averages 16 points per game, was held to just eight points (six off of free throws) and an abysmal 1-11 from the field.
Arizona is in great shape heading into the Sweet 16 in what has developed into a wide open Western Regional. After week one, the #1 (Gonzaga), #3 (New Mexico), #4 (Kansas State), and #5 (Wisconsin) seeds have all already been eliminated from play, leaving the Wildcats as the second best seeds remaining in the regional. The Wildcats play next Thursday in what essentially will be a home game in Los Angeles against #2 Ohio State or #10 Iowa State (9:15am this morning on CBS). If they can survive that game, they will then play #9 Wichita State or #12 Ole Miss/#13 La Salle for an excellent opportunity to head back to the Final Four in Atlanta.