SPOKANE, Wash.—While winning tonight’s matchup would have advanced the Harvard men’s basketball team to the Sweet Sixteen, the final result of the Crimson’s contest against Michigan State was, instead, bittersweet.
For twenty-five minutes, the game seemed over, a done deal that was all-but-sealed. The Spartans (28-8, 12-6 Big Ten) went up by as many as 16 points in the second half, scoring with seeming ease over Harvard’s defenders in the paint and from deep.
But with 15:37 left in the game and Harvard’s chances to advance quickly slipping away, a smaller lineup took the floor for the Crimson (27-5, 13-1 Ivy), and co-captain Brandyn Curry’s back-to-back three pointers sparked a 19-3 Harvard run that culminated in an emphatic dunk by junior wing Wesley Saunders.
After Saunders found Curry in the corner for three and sophomore point guard Siyani Chambers dimed Curry on his next trey, junior forward Steve Moundou-Missi knocked down a free throw and a dunk to bring the Crimson within single digits for the first time since the opening minutes.
Spartan sophomore guard Gary Harris and Moundou-Missi then traded baskets, the former scoring on a lay-in and the latter on a right baseline jumper, setting up a crowd-waking, rim-shaking dunk to bring the Crimson within eight.
Following Moundou-Missi’s short corner jumper, Spartan senior guard Keith Appling brought the ball up, and dished it to 6’10” classmate Adreian Payne inside. Moundou-Missi stuck with the bigger man, and forced the travel.
Thirty seconds later, after two Saunders free throws, Harvard went into a press. Curry pressured Harris, and forced him to throw an errant pass to Payne. The pass was deflected by Saunders, and Moundou-Missi ran down the loose ball: he grabbed it, put it on the floor, and stuffed it home over Spartan sophomore Denzel Valentine.