SPOKANE — For 18 seconds Saturday, it was happening. Harvard owned basketball, too.
The school that churns out U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices, billionaire CEOs and Nobel Peace Prizes was taking a serious run at altering the discourse on the NCAA East Regional as well.
Harvard guard Laurent Rivard made a three-pointer from the corner, looped his thumb and finger together around his eye — the “three-point goggles” — and flashed a determined glare toward a group of Crimson fans in the stands who were coming unhinged. Someone in the Harvard nation tweeted: “rooting for the 1 percent.”
The Ivy Leaguers had overcome a 16-point deficit to take a two-point lead over Michigan State, a team that always comes up big on college basketball’s biggest stage.
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The next time down the floor, Spartans guard Travis Trice came back with a three to put his team back in the lead. A few minutes later, Michigan State was out of danger — not by much, though — on the way to an 80-73 victory that sent Harvard (28-5) back home, but not without making a statement.
“We showed everybody that we can come all year and play with the best,” sophomore guard Siyani Chambers said.
Led by a career-high 26 points from Branden Dawson, the fourth-seeded Spartans (28-8) moved onto the Sweet 16 for the 12th time in the last 17 seasons. They’ll play Virginia or Memphis next Friday at Madison Square Garden.
“I thought our kids competed,” coach Tommy Amaker said. “We knew we would.”
“It was a scare and we need to give credit to Harvard,” MSU’s Denzel Valentine said.
Connecticut 77, Villanova 65
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Shabazz Napier scored 25 points in leading the Huskies (28-8) past the second-seeded Wildcats (29-5).
Villanova became the highest seed to be knocked out so far. Seventh-seeded Connecticut advances to play the winner between Iowa State and North Carolina.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie improved to 2-0 in his tournament debut, two years since taking over after Jim Calhoun stepped down because of health issues, and a year after the Huskies were barred from postseason play because of academic sanctions.