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Harvard Keeps Dancing, Upsets Fifth-Seeded Cincinnati in NCAA Men's Basketball Second Round

Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications
Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Siyani Chambers scored five of his 11 points in the final 1:58 to lift the 12th-seeded Harvard men's basketball team to a 61-57 win over fifth-seeded Cincinnati in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.

Harvard will face the winner of No. 4 Michigan State and No. 13 Delaware on Saturday, March 22. Tipoff time has yet to be announced.

With the win, Harvard improves to 27-4 overall, setting a new program record for wins in a season. The Crimson also becomes the first Ivy League team to win an NCAA Tournament game in consecutive seasons since Princeton did so in 1983 and 1984.

Wesley Saunders finished with a team-high 12 points and four assists, with Chambers and Laurent Rivard each contributing 11. Chambers was just 2-of-10 from the floor, but connected when the team needed it most to put Harvard ahead 56-53 with 1:58 on the clock. Rivard was 3-of-5 from three-point range and matched his season-high with five boards.

Sean Kilpatrick led all scorers with 18 points while Justin Jackson added 13 points and 11 boards. The Bearcats, which entered the game ranked 15th in the Associated Press Top 25 and 14th in the USA Today Coaches Poll, shot just 36.8 percent from the floor.

The two teams started quickly, connecting on 5-of-9 shots to begin the game. Kyle Casey brought the crowd to its feet with a tomahawk slam, but Cincinnati came right back with a jumper by Shaquille Thomas for a 6-5 edge. Scoring slowed as the squads combined to go 0-of-11 over the next three-plus minutes, with Wesley Saunders' free throw to even things at 6-6 the only point scored. Brandyn Curry ended the spell with a three-pointer, and after a rainbow three by Chambers the Crimson held a 12-6 lead.

Steve Moundou-Missi drove the baseline for a reverse layup, and Curry beat the shot clock with a one-handed trey to push the score to 19-11. Rivard followed up with a three of his own, but after a dunk by Thomas and triple by Kilpatrick the Bearcats had pulled to within four, 22-18.

Kilpatrick followed an Evan Cummins layup with his second three-pointer, and Troy Caupain picked off a Saunders pass to make it a one-point game, 24-23. Saunders answered with a two-handed dunk as he drove the lane, and Rivard connected from long range to regain a 29-25 advantage.  Moundou-Missi went over Jackson for a slam, before a third trey by Rivard gave Harvard a 34-29 lead. Chambers added a pair of free throws, sending the Crimson into the break on top 36-29.

Harvard shot 6-of-11 from three in the first half, including a 3-of-3 performance by Rivard. The Bearcats, meanwhile, went just 11-of-31 from the floor despite an 11-point half for Kilpatrick.

The teams traded blows to begin the second half, with Moundou-Missi's two-handed slam moving the score to 42-33. Cincinnati used a 10-3 spurt to pull back within two, 45-43, but Saunders made an acrobatic move at the rim to cup the ball around a defender for a 48-43 lead. Curry found Cummins for a bucket and 50-43 margin, but a second surge cut the Bearcats deficit to 51-49.

Saunders kept Cincinnati at arm's length with a turnaround jumper, before a pair of Caupain free throws made it a 54-53 game with 3:12 remaining. Harvard kept coming, however, and outscored the Bearcats 7-3 in the final 1:58, with Chambers accounting for five points to seal the victory.

Game Notes: Appearing in its third-straight NCAA Tournament, Harvard won its second NCAA Tournament game in school history … Harvard has won its first game at the NCAA Tournament two-straight seasons … Harvard was a No. 14 seed last year when it earned the program's first postseason victory, a 68-62 win over third-seeded New Mexico in the second round … The Crimson has a 2-4 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament … Harvard improves to 4-6 against ranked opponents in the last five years … Harvard has a nine-game winning streak and has won of 13 of its last 14 contests … The Crimson's 27 victories have set the program record for wins in a single season; previously was 26 set in the 2011-12 season … Saunders, the Ivy League Player of the Year, is 10 points away from joining the 1,000-point club at Harvard … Head coach Tommy Amaker is four wins away (143) from second on the all-time wins list at Harvard … Harvard is 15-0 this season when holding opponents to fewer than 60 points, and 14-0 when opponents shoot under 40.0 percent … The Crimson is 5-0 this season on a neutral court and 25-2 when leading at halftime.