After trailing by as many as 18 points late in the second half, (12) Harvard (26-5) put a scare in (5) Vanderbilt (25-6) before eventually falling 79-70.
In the team's first tournament appearance since 1946, the Crimson came out slow but managed to grab a 20-17 lead with 5:32 to play in the first half. It was all downhill over the next 20 minutes, as the Commodores used a 16-3 run to end the half to grab a 33-23 lead and they kept extending it in the second stanza.
Harvard trailed 62-54 with 7:52 to play but used a 22-9 run over the next six minutes to cut the deficit to five, before eventually bowing out in the third ever NCAA Tournament game (0-3). The Crimson held Vanderbilt without a field goal over the final 5:32 and were able to thrill the fans in Albuquerque behind the exploits of sophomore guard Laurent Rivard.
Rivard knocked down six-of-seven 3-point shots and finished with a team-high 20 points for the Crimson. Junior forward Kyle Casey added 13 points and five rebounds before fouling out and junior guard Brandyn Curry chipped in with 12 points.
The trio form a solid core of players that will be returning for Tommy Amaker next season, as the roster featured just three seniors. Captains Keith Wright and Oliver McNally were the team's leaders and helped turn the program around but both saw themselves surpassed slightly this season by younger players like Casey, Curry and Rivard. Alexander Van Nest was the third senior but he has been injured all season long and has not played.
Junior guard John Jenkins made sure the Commodores would not suffer their third straight first round exit with 27 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Point guard Brad Tinsley added 15 points and four assists and senior forward Jeffrey Taylor poured in 15 points for Vanderbilt.
The Commodores were able to build their big lead behind strong 3-point shooting, as Vanderbilt knocked down eight 3-pointers on just 18 attempts (44.4 percent). Vanderbilt's size and length advantage enabled them to dominate on both sides of the ball, as the Harvard bigs struggled against the size of Festus Ezeli in the paint and the longer wing players for Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt will take on (4) Wisconsin Saturday afternoon in the Round of 32, after the Badgers knocked off (13) Montana 73-49.