A Look Back to 1998: Harvard Topples Stanford

Editor’s note: The story below appeared in an extra edition of The Crimson on March 15, 1998 one day after the 16th-seeded Harvard women’s basketball team toppled No. 1 Stanford in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Four years later, it remains the only time a No. 16 team—male or female—has ever beaten a No. 1. The story is reprinted below on the occasion of Harvard’s return to the tournament. The Crimson will play UNC on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Cinderella is alive and well, and she has enchanted the Harvard women’s basketball team.

Tonight at midnight Harvard meets Arkansas for a spot in the Sweet 16 in an attempt to continue the magic ride it began Saturday against top-seeded Stanford.

Harvard (23-4, 12-2 Ivy) did Saturday night what no 16th-seeded team in the history of the men’s or women’s NCAA Tournament has ever done before—it won. The Crimson became the first 16 seed ever to win a game in the Big Dance, shocking top seed Stanford (21-6, 17-1 Pac-10), 71-67, at Maples Pavilion in the West Region’s first-round matchup. It was the first victory ever by an Ivy League women’s team in the NCAAs.

Harvard’s historic achievement also snaps a 59-game winning streak at Maples Pavilion for the Cardinal that dated back to the final game of the 1993-94 season. It is the first time since 1982 that Stanford has lost in the first-round of the Tournament, and it is Stanford Coach Tara Van-Derveer’s first-ever first-round loss as well.

“I’m really happy because no one thought we could do in but us,” Harvard Coach Kathy Delaney-Smith said. “We’ve prided ourselves on breaking records (this year), and this certainly tops that list.”

Co-captain and All-American Allison Feaster led the way for Harvard with one of the most dominating performances of her stellar career. Feaster finished with 35 points, 13 rebounds and three steals in a remarkable 39 minutes of action.

Juniors Suzie Miller and Sarah Russell poured in 12 and 11 points, respectively, and combined for 10 rebounds. Senior Alison Seanor turned in a fantastic all-around effort as well, chipping in seven points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists.

All-American Olympia Scott—playing in her final collegiate game—turned in an 18-point, eight-rebound effort for the Cardinal, who was without the services of All-Americans Kristin Folkl and Vanessa Nygaard, both sidelined with torn knee ligaments. Junior Regan Freuen added 19 points and six assists in the losing cause.

“This is one of the best wins I’ve ever experienced,” Feaster said. “I can’t tell you the amount of adversity we’ve faced just coming in here, but somehow we did it.”

When Scott hit two free throws to put Stanford ahead, 63-62, with 3:58 left in the game, it became evident that the contest would go down to the wire. After Scott sent the partisan crowd of 5,137 into a frenzy with two more from the charity stripe one minute later, the Cardinal looked like it might be able to stave off the scare from the Crimson.

HARVARD 71, STANFORD 67

But Feaster, Miller and Seanor helped Harvard end the game on a 9-2 run, sealing the history-making victory. The Crimson’s surge began when Feaster made the defensive play of the game.

Off of a missed shot by Harvard, Stanford sophomore point guard Milena Flores grabbed the rebound and launched a pass up court to Scott who was out in front of everyone. But Feaster, looking more like a defensive back than a small forward, sprinted after Scott and leaped high in the air to snare the ball and prevent the uncontested lay-up.

Shortly thereafter, Seanor fed Feaster with a gorgeous backdoor pass that the All-American converted into a lay-up to pull Harvard to within one. Following a missed shot by the Cardinal, Miller came back and hit an off-balance runner from the foul line to put the Crimson in front, 66-65, with 1:32 to play.