Salt Lake City notebook: Harvard pulls together to overcome cheating scandal

2013-03-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:32:34Z Salt Lake City notebook: Harvard pulls together to overcome cheating scandalPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

SALT LAKE CITY - Months after making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946, Harvard's basketball team was met with a scandal unbecoming one of the nation's top academic institutions.

In August, more than 100 students were found to have similar answers on a take-home test. That extended to the basketball program, where the team's co-captains, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, withdrew from school.

"At the beginning it was hard to deal with - the media just scrutinizing the scandal and stuff," freshman guard Siyani Chambers said Friday at EnergySolutions Arena.

"But our coaching staff and our captains … pulled us together before and said, 'We can do this, we just have to believe in it.'

"Everybody bought into that."

The result: the 20-9 Crimson earned its first-ever NCAA tournament win Thursday against New Mexico.

"I think the guys have been able to adjust and to adapt incredibly well," coach Tommy Amaker said, "as evidenced by where we are right now."

Chambers said Harvard might be held to a different academic standard nationwide, but it's "like every other school in the Ivy League."

Amaker said the scandal "wasn't anything that any of us would prefer to have happen at our school, across the board, with so many kids and families and folks involved," but that he's been "very impressed" with how his team adjusted without two of its veteran players.

"It happened a while ago, and we've dealt with it throughout, as you can imagine," Amaker said. "We've been able to have this team focus on this year, and that's been what we have done as a coaching staff. And that's the right thing to do."

From Duck to Shocker

When he played at Oregon, Malcolm Armstead heard about Gonzaga all the time, from his roommates.

"That's all they would talk about, is Gonzaga basketball," he said.

Today, the Wichita State guard will experience the Zags for himself. He'll look to cap a career that took him from high school in Florence, Ala., to Chipola (Fla.) Junior College to Oregon to Wichita State.

"I knew I only had one year of eligibility to play, so it was a matter of finding a good situation," Armstead said. "I had a relationship with all the coaches, so I felt like that was the best thing possible for me to do."

He started all 35 games this season, averaging 10.7 points and leading the team with four assists per game.

The senior "is one of the most interesting and neat kids I've ever coached," Gregg Marshall said.

"Here's a guy that never stops talking," Marshall said. "He's a great young man to coach. I'm pleased we're advancing in the tournament for guys like him, that have sacrificed quite a bit to be in this situation."

Rim shots

• Gonzaga coach Mark Few said he was not concerned about "getting style points," one day after the No. 1 Bulldogs eked out a win against lowly Southern.

"We're not getting graded, y'know," he said. "You either win, or your season is over."

• When Wichita State plays Gonzaga today, it will mark the first time the Shockers have faced the nation's top team since 1967, when WSU played UCLA.

"More importantly, it keeps our season alive," Marshall said. "It's a great great opportunity, and it's going to be a great challenge as well. But our guys are excited and ready to go play."

• WSU guard Ron Baker doesn't care for labels.

"To me, it's just an opinion to somebody else, really, if they call us a Cinderella team," he said. "You can call us whatever you want. We're just trying to get as far in the tournament as we can, and just play every game as hard as we can."

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley

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