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2014 NCAA Tournament Recap: Harvard vs. Michigan State

This edition of David vs. Goliath took the form of Smarty vs. Sparty. The differences between the two clearly illustrated in their mascots. Michigan State has a muscular Spartan warrior. Harvard doesn't have anything.

Travis Trice throws goes up high for a dunk against Harvard in the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Travis Trice throws goes up high for a dunk against Harvard in the 2014 NCAA Tournament

It was pretty clear which team hails from a power conference. Michigan State is bigger, better and more apt to dunk the basketball than Harvard.

Harvard was ice cold early, missing its first four field goals. It took nearly three minutes for the Crimson to score, and those first points came from free throws. The Spartans took full advantage of Harvard's lack of offense early.

Frantic fast breaks defined the first half, but it wasn't very sloppy. There wasn't a dead ball for the first media timeout until the 12:33 mark. The only stoppage of play was a stop-the-bleeding timeout called by Tommy Amaker. Gary Harris threw a lob that Branden Dawson threw down on a fast break, which prompted the Harvard timeout.

That was one of many Dawson dunks on the night. He finished the game with 26 points, 20 of which came in the first half. Dawson, and the Spartans, dominated the first 20 minutes.

Wesley Saunders was the only weapon for the Crimson in the early going. Saunders aside, Harvard shot 6-15 from the field for 20 points. With Saunders it was 10-23 for 33 points. Michigan State's massive advantage athletically rendered the more skillful Harvard players inept. Saunders, who was recruited by Pac-12 schools, was the only one able to keep up in the first half.

Harvard is a smart school, so the Crimson would learn how to deal with Sparty... It just took a while.

The second half opened with Michigan State exerting its will on Harvard as it had in the first. Three and a half minutes passed before the Crimson could score. During that time the Spartans silenced the pro-Harvard crowd with two more slam dunks.

A pair of Gary Harris free throws just under four minutes in pushed Michigan State's lead to 16 points, the largest of the game.

Steve Moundou-Missi can dunk, too. He wanted the Spartans, and the country, to know it. He had two monster slams during a mid-half 12-2 Harvard run. Left for dead early in the half, the Crimson tied the game with 9:07 to play.

Two minutes later, Laurent Rivard hit a three and Harvard held a 62-60 lead.

Michigan State answered with a Travis Trice three on the next possession. Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine both hit threes in the ensuing possessions and the Spartans rebuilt their lead, 71-63 by the four minute mark.

Laurent Rivard and Siyani Chambers did everything they could to keep Harvard in the game. They pulled their team back within four points. Playing from behind in the final two minutes, the Crimson looked like a team possessed. Everyone, every moment, at a full sprint. Players diving for loose balls that were out of their reach and pounding on the floor as they got up. It seemed that we were destined for a battle to the end.

It wasn't. Harvard fell into the late-game foul-fest, from which the Spartans survived. With an 80-73 victory, Michigan State advances to the Sweet 16.