Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - Laurent Rivard's 3-pointer from the corner finally got Harvard over the hump.
It didn't take long for Michigan State to punch back.
Branden Dawson netted a career-high 26 points and Michigan State held off Harvard, 80-73, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dawson was 12-of-15 from the floor and added nine rebounds for the fourth- seeded Spartans (28-8), who will face either Virginia or Memphis in the Sweet 16.
MSU has reached the regional semifinals in 12 of the last 17 seasons.
The Crimson (27-5) trailed by as many as 16 in the second half, but Rivard's triple with 7:11 left capped a 17-5 run and gave them their first lead at 62-60.
Michigan State quickly countered with a 10-1 spurt to go back comfortably in front.
Travis Trice began the burst with a 3-pointer and after Adreian Payne hit a pair of free throws, Gary Harris nailed a triple to extend the margin back to 68-62. Denzel Valentine's trey capped the swing and gave the Spartans a 71-63 cushion with 4:02 to play.
"They made that run, but we stuck together as a team and we were able to fight through it," Harris said.
Harvard never got within less than four the rest of the way.
"A wonderful effort by our team," Crimson head coach Tommy Amaker said. "But you have to play perfect basketball to pull a game out like that."
Harris provided 18 points and five assists, while Payne put in 12 points coming off his career-high 41 in a win over Delaware in the second round on Thursday.
Wesley Saunders sunk all 10 of his free throws and scored 22 points for 12th- seeded Harvard, which beat Cincinnati to advance to the third round. The Crimson, seeded 14th a year ago, lost to Arizona in the third round last year.
Earlier, the Spartans raced out to a 21-12 advantage before settling for a 45-33 spread at the break.
Consecutive dunks by Payne and Dawson staked MSU to a 49-33 lead early in the second half.
The Spartans shot 49.1 percent (28-of-57) from the floor and 33.3 percent (7- of-21) from beyond the arc ... MSU tallied 17 assists on its 28 made field goals.