Kenyatta Smith, Harvard have NCAA run ended by Arizona

Having won its first-ever NCAA Tournament game on Thursday with an upset of third-seeded New Mexico, Harvard’s men’s basketball team, with starting center Kenyatta Smith out of Flintridge Prep, was looking for another upset and more history.

Sixth-seeded Arizona was having nothing of it, though, as the Wildcats came out strong and never relented en route to a dominating 74-51 victory on Saturday in the round of 32 at the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.

Smith, a former All-Area Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year and Glendale News-Press Athlete of the Year after leading Flintridge Prep to its first and only CIF Southern Section title, started at center for the Crimson and scored a team-high 10 points, matching his output against New Mexico.

Smith played 23 minutes, less than any other Crimson starter, shot four of nine from the floor, pulled down five rebounds, had one block and, perhaps surprisingly, a game-high three steals.

After winning the Ivy League title, 14th-seeded Harvard (20-10) collected a historic first-time NCAA victory on Thursday in the second round, defeating New Mexico, 68-62, with Smith tallying 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Arizona (27-7) was way too much from the start on Saturday, however. The Wildcats, though outscoring Harvard by a slim 34-29 in the second half, built an 18-point first-half lead that the Crimson could never whittle down.

Arizona dominated in all facets. The Wildcats shot 55.1% (27 for 49), including making nine of 15 three-pointers. Harvard struggled with a flat start and never recovered, making just 16 of 58 from the field (27.6%) and only hit five threes on 18 long-range shots. Harvard was also out rebounded, 39-31.

Trailing, 5-0, early, Smith scored the Crimson’s first two points, knocking down a pair of free throws.

But Harvard’s struggles continued, as Arizona built its lead to 17-2 before the Crimson got its first field goal at the 12:10 mark of the first half after misfiring on its first 13 shots.

Harvard struggled overall and certainly in the paint.

Smith, who started the game, was matched up with 7-foot Wildcats freshman Kaleb Tarczewski, who had seven points and eight rebounds.

Smith scored Harvard’s third field goal with just under six minutes left, posting up and working in for a layup to cut the score to 30-11.

Harvard began to show some glimpses of progress and trailed 40-22 at halftime.

Smith ended the first half with four points, which shared the team-high with Wesley Saunders. Smith, who shot one for four from the field in the opening 20 minutes, added a steal and three rebounds.

Arizona out rebounded Harvard, 21-13, in the first half, when the Wildcats shot 58% to the Crimson’s 25%. The only significant stat in Harvard’s favor was turnovers, as Arizona had nine to the Crimson’s six, lending credence to the notion that the half could have been even more lopsided had the Wildcats taken better care of the ball.

Harvard found more of an offensive rhythm in the second half, but Arizona still widened its lead, moving it to 22 at 56-34 with more than 11 minutes to play.

Smith scored his 10th point on a follow-up dunk with six minutes left to cut the score to 18, but Arizona countered on the ensuing possession with a three-point play and the Wildcats ran away with the victory en route to the Sweet 16.

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