Rapid Reaction: Vanderbilt 79, Harvard 70
March, 15, 2012
By Andy Katz | ESPNBoston.com
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Reaction from No. 5 Vanderbilt's 79-70 win over No. 12 Harvard.
Overview: Vanderbilt had lost to a double-digit seed in three of the past four NCAA tournaments.
Possibly none of them was as beloved as Harvard. Siena, Murray State and Richmond all knocked off the Commodores. But this Vandy team is not like the others. This one finally knows how to close. Vandy carried the momentum from the SEC tournament to snuff out the Crimson’s historic bid to win their first NCAA tournament game. It was Harvard's second appearance and first in 66 years.
Turning point: Harvard made a series of runs in the second half, and there was a sense the game could be turning when the Crimson cut the lead to 11. But the Commodores had a possession that changed the momentum. Harvard had put on a tremendous run to cut an 18-point deficit to two possessions. But a John Jenkins jumper gave the Commodores a 13-point lead. On the plan, the Commodores had four shots to make one. Harvard couldn’t grab an offensive rebound, and Vandy kept getting opportunities. That possession signaled a shift that contributed to Harvard getting down five more.
Key player: Jenkins scored 27 points, made three 3-pointers and was 10-of-13 from the line. He made key plays consistently when the Commodores were challenged. Jenkins always has had the most talent on this team, but there have been a few moments during his career when he has disappeared. That hasn’t been the case recently. He’s on a tear from being named the SEC's most outstanding player at the tournament last weekend in New Orleans to a fantastic start at the NCAAs.
Key stat: The Commodores got to the free throw line in bunches, and ultimately that’s what did the Crimson in because they couldn’t play catchup fast enough. There was no officiating issue. Vanderbilt simply created more contact and got to the line while Harvard did not. The final number had Vandy 21-of-30 while Harvard was 11-of-14.
Miscellaneous: Harvard '46 grad Don Swegan was in attendance. He’s one of three or four surviving members (he’s not sure) from the last NCAA tournament team from the Crimson. Swegan was a hot commodity. The 86-year-old was tracked down by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott (Harvard '86, where he was a tennis player). NCAA president Mark Emmert also made his way over to talk to Swegan. The Friends of Harvard basketball reacted to a story on Swegan on ESPN.com and paid for his expenses down from near Youngstown, Ohio, to the game. ... The NCAA has plenty of logistical issues in scheduling and bracketing. But there used to be a rule that would prevent a school from hosting and its team playing at the same time. The Pit crowd was near capacity but probably would have been a sellout if the University of New Mexico wasn’t playing at the same time as Vanderbilt-Harvard. ... I anticipate Harvard won’t have to wait long to be back here. The Crimson will be the favorite again in the Ivy. ... I’m not sure whose whistle is louder, Miami’s Jim Larranaga or Vandy’s Kevin Stallings. I can beat them with my loud clap. But the whistle is heard over crowd noise pretty easily.
What’s next: No. 5 Vanderbilt will take on No. 4 Wisconsin on Saturday at the Pit in what should be a tantalizing third-round game. The winner has a legit shot to knock off Syracuse, assuming the Orange get past Kansas State, next week in Boston. The Dores and Badgers will play a rugged, 3-point shooting game Saturday. It should be a good watch, as these are two teams that could make a run to the Elite Eight.