Salt Lake City, UT – Wesley Saunders scored a team-high 18 points to lift Harvard to its first ever NCAA Tournament victory, as the 14th- seeded Crimson upended No. 3 seed New Mexico, 68-62, on Thursday in a second- round matchup in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.
Laurent Rivard followed with 17 points, while Christian Webster and Kenyatta Smith added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Harvard (20-9), which gained access to the event by virtue of winning the regular-season title in the Ivy League.
"This is the No. 1 moment in my career," the senior Webster said. "The thought came to mind that this could be the last game. We showed a lot of toughness, just persevering."
The Crimson will next face sixth-seeded Arizona in Saturday's third round.
Alex Kirk paced the Lobos (29-6) with 22 points and 12 boards, while Cameron Bairstow netted 15 points and grabbed nine boards off the bench for New Mexico, which lost to Louisville in the third round of last year's NCAA Tournament.
"I've got all the respect in the world for Tommy. He does it the right way," New Mexico head coach Steve Alford said. "His staff was very well prepared. They had a good game plan and they executed it well."
The Crimson scored nine of the first 11 points of the contest and never trailed in the first half, as they knocked down half of their 10 3-point tries and shot 56.5 percent from the field in the frame to take a 31-27 edge into the break.
New Mexico netted the first six points of the second to take its first lead of the contest on Tony Snell's jumper, but Webster and Rivard buried back-to-back triples before Smith finished a layup to give Harvard a 39-33 edge just over 2 1/2 minutes into the final stanza.
The Lobos cut the lead to two five separate times over the next nine-plus minutes, but couldn't find the go-ahead bucket until Jamal Fenton nailed a trey to put his team in front 49-47 with just under eight minutes left.
New Mexico's lead was one, 53-52, with under 6 1/2 minutes remaining before Rivard knocked down a 3-pointer to give Harvard the lead for good.
After the Lobos came up empty on their next two touches, Saunders and Smith knocked down back-to-back jumpers around an illegal screen foul on Bairstow to extend Harvard's lead to 59-53 with 4:39 to play.
Kirk's tip-in just over a minute later brought the Lobos back within four, but Smith answered with a pair of free throws, and after Snell and Kirk each missed a jumper on New Mexico's next possession, Chambers buried a foul- line jumper to push the margin to eight with 2:17 left.
Fenton's triple with 1:32 left cut the margin to five, but Harvard was able to hold off the Lobos by knocking down 5-of-8 from the charity stripe over the final minute.
UNM fell to 8-15 all-time in the NCAA Tournament ... Harvard is making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in program history ... Harvard shot 52.4 percent (22-for-42) from the field overall ... New Mexico shot 37.5 percent (21-for-56) from the floor ... Snell finished with nine points for the Lobos.