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March 23, 2013

Arizona smart enough to not underestimate Harvard

America's oldest university has come to the ball and is trying on Cinderella's glass slipper.

Sixth-seeded Arizona will attempt to turn No. 14 Harvard back into a pumpkin Saturday in the third round of the NCAA tournament at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. MDT/3:10 p.m. local Arizona time.

The Crimson (20-9) provided one of the early stunners of this year's Big Dance on Thursday. Established in 1636 and known more for its academics, Harvard pulled off a 68-62 upset over No. 3 New Mexico. Head coach Tommy Amaker's squad shot better than 52 percent and limited the West Regional's popular Final Four sleeper to just 37.5 percent shooting.

Winners of seven of its last nine games, the Ivy League champions will now try to continue the run against a school more likely produce an NBA point guard than the next President of the United States.

"It's kinda nice to break the stereotype that we're the nerdy kids and show people that we can play basketball as well," said leading scorer Wesley Saunders, who scored 18 points to guide the Crimson to the first NCAA tournament victory in the program's 102-year history.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats (26-7) have their sights set on a return to the Southern California area, which produced fond memories the last time UA was in the tournament. The winner will move on to next week's Sweet 16 and face either No. 2 Ohio State or No. 10 Iowa State at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

In 2011, the 'Cats rode Derrick Williams' back to the Elite Eight at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

First, however, Arizona must avoid the upset, and head coach Sean Miller is giving Harvard his full respect - especially after the region's Nos. 3, 4 and 5 seeds were knocked out in the previous round.

"To me, for us to let down at all or take a deep breath because we're playing a 14 seed would be foolish," Miller said. "Harvard has proved, not only in this year but in recent years, that they can beat anybody on a given night, especially on a neutral court."

The Wildcats have already eliminated one double-digit seed in the tournament. Mark Lyons scored 23 points and three others added 12 apiece in an 81-64 win over No. 11 Belmont, a trendy upset pick that had President Barack Obama in its corner.

Much like the Bruins, the Crimson have proven to be lethal from the 3-point line this season. Harvard has converted 40.3 percent of its long-range attempts - including 8 of 18 against UNM.

Arizona forced the nation's 18th-best team from beyond the arc into an 8-of-27 performance.

"I think they're similar," UA sophomore Nick Johnson said. "Their shooters last night killed New Mexico, and I mean, going into the Belmont game we knew that they were really heavy 3‑point shooting team. So it definitely helped us. We're looking forward to it."

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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