Portions courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Laurent Rivard had 20 points, but the 12th-seeded Harvard men's basketball team fell in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship to No. 5 seed Vanderbilt by a score of 79-70 Thursday evening at University Arena.
A pivotal run at the end of the first half by Vanderbilt (25-10) saw the Commodores erase a 20-17 deficit to take a 33-23 lead into the locker rooms after a 13-3 run capped by a last second 3-pointer by Brad Tinsley. Deep shooting was the theme for Vanderbilt as it built an 18-point lead in the second half thanks to an incredible 8-of-12 shooting mark from beyond the arc before Harvard clamped down defensively and furiously worked back into the game.
The comeback started in earnest with seven minutes remaining as Kyle Casey put home a dunk, then stepped up and knocked on a 3-pointer, making it 62-49 in favor of Vanderbilt. On Harvard's next trip down the floor, Brandyn Curry made a floater in the lane, getting the Crimson to within 11, 62-51, as Harvard enjoyed a 7-0 run.
With 4:25 left, Rivard made his fifth 3-pointer, making it 67-54, and then hit another, as the Crimson got within 11, 68-57, with 3:48 remaining. Curry then pulled Harvard within nine points, 68-59, with another bucket in the lane, and added a layup on the break with 2:27 left, 70-61. With 2:14 left, Casey went to the foul line and hit both, pulling the Crimson to within seven, 70-63.
Keith Wright made his way to the charity stripe after getting an offensive board with 1:51 left, and he also made both, making it a five-point game, 70-65. It was as close as the Crimson would get as an unfortunate turnover on the sideline forced the team into fouling mode.
Rivard had an impressive showcase with the sophomore connecting on 6-of-7 from long range in 25 minutes. Casey had 13 points, Curry had 12 points and Wright had eight points and nine rebounds. Oliver McNally also played well, gaining the notoriety of the TV analysts with a game-high seven assists and two drawn charges.
Vandy's John Taylor led the victors with 27 points on 7-of-12 shooting and a 10-of-13 mark from the FT line. Tinsley had 16 points (5-6 FG, 4-4 FT) and Jeffrey Taylor had 15 points.
After starting 8-of-12 from deep, Harvard held the Commodores without a field goal for the final 5:36 of play. Still, a 21-of-30 mark from the free throw line coupled with a 35-25 rebounding advantage proved too much.
Early on, Vanderbilt led, 4-2, after the first four minutes, but Wright, who scored Harvard's first two baskets, tied it up when he made a steal in the Crimson zone and finished with a layup at 15:35. After Vanderbilt went up, 12-6, Casey dribbled down the baseline and connected on a jumper, keeping the Crimson within four, 12-8. On Harvard's next possession, McNally drove the lane and hit a layup, making it 12-10. The Crimson extended the run to 6-0 when Wesley Saunders scored on the break, tying the game, 12-12, at the 11:03 mark.
With 7:20 to play in the first half, Rivard made a triple after being fouled, getting Harvard within one, 16-15. At the 6:56 mark, the Crimson grabbed its first lead, 17-16, when Jonah Travis came off with an offensive board and put it back for a bucket from under the hoop. With 5:28 to go in the first, Christian Webster nailed a triple to put Harvard ahead, 20-17.
Vanderbilt went on a 13-0 run to reclaim the lead, 30-20, before Curry stepped up with a big trey to get the Crimson back within seven, 30-23, with 17 ticks left on the clocks. The Commodores carried a 33-23 lead into the break however with Tinsley's last-second trey, as Vanderbilt shot 52.4 percent from the field (11-of-21), including 5-of-9 from long distance (.556). Harvard, which scored 14 points in the paint, in the first half, only made 10-of-27 shots (.370) in the first 20 minutes.
In the second, the Commodores up their lead to 37-23, but Casey went to the line with 18:39 remaining and made both, getting the Crimson back within 12 points. Casey drilled two more free throws 31 seconds later, making it 39-27. With 17:35 remaining, Rivard connected on a 3-pointer, as the Crimson continued to match Vanderbilt with buckets, 42-30.
With 16:39 to play, Rivard made his second trey of the half, making it 45-33, but Vanderbilt answered two back-to-back buckets to push the lead back to 16, 49-33. Rivard buried another with 14:00 left, as the Crimson inched closer, 49-38. Steve Moundou-Missi added a layup on the Crimson's next possession, and Webster drained a jumper in the lane with just under 12 minutes left, 53-42.
After the Commodores extended their lead to 58-42, Rivard drew contact attempting a triple with 8:32 left and went to the line for three foul shots. Rivard nailed two of the three attempts at the charity stripe, drawing Harvard closer, 58-44.