On paper, the Harvard Crimson didn’t belong in the same gym as the New Mexico Lobos last evening in Salt Lake City. With one of the top RPI ratings in the country and having spent all season in the country’s top RPI conference, the Mountain West, the Lobos looked prepared to cruise through at least last night’s matchup, if not progress much deeper into the West Region.
The Crimson, on the other hand, appeared to be what they have always been: a well-coached, plucky upstart with the potential to make things interesting, but not enough athleticism, length, or depth to give the Lobos a run for their money.
In watching last night’s 68-62 victory, it actually felt like quite the opposite. Harvard was in complete control throughout — in spite of the score remaining close — and was never really threatened. Even when New Mexico would sustain a short-term run that would make you think they were finally getting things together, and would soon pull away, the Crimson would come right back, usually with a timely three or drilled jumper.
One of the first things I said last evening to fellow Rant Sports writer David LaRose as we were watching the game at a bar in Austin, was something along the lines of “New Mexico has way too much length and size for Harvard. This one should be a blowout.”
And therein lies my own ignorance, or more importantly, Harvard’s determination.
What Tommy Amaker’s squad lacked in athletic ability, they made up for in solid fundamental and team play throughout the evening, on both sides of the ball. Harvard guards Wesley Saunders and Laurent Rivard seemed to hit every single important shot possible, finishing with 35 points between them and highlighted by Rivard’s five three pointers.
On the flipside, the New Mexico guards just never got anything started. Kendall Williams and Tony Snell had pedestrian games given what Steve Alford expects from them, and Hugh Greenwood was totally non-existent. While Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk did their part in the paint to keep the Lobos in the game, it became obvious as the second-half rolled on they had no chance.
And, wow, is that odd.
The only thing I can chalk that notion up to is intangibles. Harvard never dominated New Mexico but it was obvious they were the better team on a single evening, and that’s what matters.
Call it intangibles, I suppose, for lack of a better word.