SALT LAKE CITY – I tried to catch Book Richardson as he dashed away from the stands in the final seconds of Harvard’s upset of New Mexico on Thursday.
“I’ll call you tonight,” he said.
My phone did not ring.
I texted just before midnight.
“Watching film with staff,” he wrote back.
Phone still did not ring all night. That was understandable.
As the game scout, having watched Harvard video all week in case UA faced them Saturday (James Whitford monitored New Mexico), Richardson had just a few hours Thursday night to run over what he knew with the staff, which then transmitted the information to the players.
(As far as sleep, Richardson said he only "took a nap" at 3 a.m., then showered and came back to work later this morning).
By the time the Wildcats were made available for interviews at 3:10 p.m. local time, they all appeared fairly aware of Harvard’s strengths.
“They shoot the ball really well and like Belmont, they’ve got a really good point guard” in Siyani Chambers, Grant Jerrett said. “They’ll make really good passes, make the extra pass.”
It may help that the coaches had some tangible proof of what Harvard can do. Despite losing two key players to an academic scandal, the Crimson won at Cal on Dec. 29 and lost by just a point at St. Mary’s two days later.
They also lost at Memphis 60-50 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
And, oh, they also just happen to make 40.3 percent of their three-point shots, the sixth-best mark in the country.
Harvard made 8 of 18 threes (44.4 percent) on Thursday against New Mexico, a game the Wildcats watched partly in person and partly on their locker room television.
“Here’s the thing with Harvard: They’re a very good, disciplined, well-coached team,” Richardson said. “They don’t fear anyone. They had a really good Memphis team on the ropes and they just beat a top 10 team on a neutral site when they were 11-point underdogs. They’re incredible.”
Sean Miller said the Wildcats talked about the Crimson right after their win on Thursday, saying later that he believes his players are mature enough not to let up because of Harvard’s No. 14 seed.
“For us to let down at all or take a deep breath because we’re playing a No. 14 seed would be foolish,” Miller said. “Harvard has proved, not only this year but in recent years, that they can beat anybody on a given night, especially on a neutral court.
“We know we’re in for a fight, especially with the confidence that they have. When you win a game like that it doesn’t just all of a sudden leave you, many times it carries through for the rest of the weekend.”
On the other side of it, though, Harvard has to refocus after coming off their highly emotional win, their first ever in NCAA tournament play.
“It’s been tough, but I think the celebration ended this morning,” Harvard’s Christian Webster said.
Webster and Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said the back to back games Ivy League teams routinely play on Friday and Saturday should help.
“We talked about that as something that will hopefully serve us well while we’re here,” Amaker said.
Harvard suffered two of its three Ivy League losses on the second game of a weekend, including a Feb. 10 Sunday game at Columbia after their Saturday date was postponed by snow. On Saturdays, Harvard beat Brown in overtime at home, beat Princeton at home, won at Yale, lost at Penn and beat Cornell at home.
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