Story courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications
Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Harvard rallied from a 16-point deficit to take a 62-60 lead with 7:12 to play, but Michigan State proved to have the answer down the stretch as escaped with an 80-73 victory Saturday night to advance to the Sweet 16 in the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.
Wesley Saunders finished with 22 points, two assists and three steals, becoming the 31st member of Harvard's 1,000-point club in the process. Steve Moundou-Missi helped to spark the comeback attempt with an 11-point, 10-rebound effort, with all 11 of his points coming after the intermission.
Brandyn Curry and Siyani Chambers chipped in 12 points and 10 points, respectively, with Curry also grabbing six rebounds and Chambers dishing out four assists. Laurent Rivard, meanwhile, shot 2-of-5 from long range for seven points.
Michigan State (28-8) was paced by Branden Dawson, who turned in 26 points and nine rebounds. Gary Harris added 19 points and five assists as the Spartans combined to shoot 49.1 percent for the night.
Harvard's season comes to a close with a 27-5 overall record, marking the most wins in program history.
Michigan State began the game on a 5-0 run before Chambers put Harvard on the board nearly three minutes in. The Spartans continued to roll and extended their advantage to 11-4, but Chambers knocked down a triple to pull the Crimson within 11-7. It was 15-9 in favor of Michigan State after Dawson stepped into a passing lane and went the distance, and 18-9 following a breakaway dunk for Travis Trice. A three-pointer by Curry and tip-in by Jonah Travis cut Harvard's deficit to 21-14, but by the under-eight timeout Michigan State was in front by 10, 30-20.
Saunders scored five straight points to counter a spurt by the Spartans and make it a 36-27 game, and when he reached the 1,000-point plateau at the line the spread was 41-29. Saunders remained hot with a long jumper, sending the teams into the break with Harvard trailing by 12, 45-33.
Saunders finished the half with 13 points, including 10 of the team's final 12 before the buzzer. Michigan State, however, shot 54.3 percent from the field, including 16-of-23 on two-pointers, with Dawson contributing 20 points. The Spartans biggest advantage came in transition, where it outscored the Crimson 10-0.
Michigan State opened the second half with a pair of dunks as Harvard missed each of its first seven attempts. Saunders ended the drought with an and-one, 49-36, sparking a nine-minute stretch in which the Crimson outscored the Spartans 29-11. Curry kept the Crimson within striking distance with back-to-back three's, 53-42, and Moundou-Missi brought the Harvard fans to their feet with a two-handed jam.
Moundou-Missi stepped back to shoot over top of Adreian Payne to keep the margin at eight, 55-47, and after Saunders stripped Payne to lead to a thunderous dunk by Moundou-Missi over Harris it was a four-point game, 55-51. Moundou-Missi got to the basket again on the Crimson's ensuing possession, bringing Harvard to within two points, 55-53. Harvard tied the game at 55 as Saunders picked off another pass for an easy flush, but Harris responded on Michigan State's ensuing possession to regain a 58-55 edge.
Free throws by Chambers and Travis kept Harvard within one, and Rivard gave the Crimson its first lead of the night with a three in transition, 62-60. Trice answered with a three of his own, however, sparking a quick 11-1 run as the Spartans reclaimed a 71-63 margin.
Rivard registered four straight points, including his second triple, to bring the score to 71-67, and the deficit remained at four following a drive by Chambers. The Spartans ultimately had too much down the stretch, however, as they held on for the 80-73 win.
Game Notes: Laurent Rivard finished his career tied for the most games played (123) in Ivy League history (Princeton's Ian Hummer) … Wesley Saunders scored 22 points and became the 31st member of Harvard's 1,000-point club (1,012) … Laurent Rivard shot 2-of-5 from three to match his own school record for three-pointers in a season (80) … Saunders tied the program record for points in an NCAA Tournament game (Wyndol Gray in 1946 vs. NYU) … Saunders led Harvard in scoring for the 12th time this year, registering his sixth 20-point performance of the year … After allowing two Michigan State dunks to begin the second half, Harvard went on a 29-11 run to take its first lead, 62-60 … Harvard completes the year with a 27-5 record; the 27 victories is the most in program history … The Crimson is now 2-5 all-time in the NCAA tournament … Saturday's game marked the final contest in the careers of Casey, Curry, Rivard, Dee Giger and Tom Hamel.