By EDDIE PELLS
SALT LAKE CITY — Sometimes, it’s rough being the smartest guy in the room.
Harvard freshman point guard Siyani Chambers knows.
He’ll be heading back to Harvard missing part of his front tooth — all part of a wicked basketball lesson provided by Arizona in a 74-51 crushing of the Crimson on Saturday in the NCAA tournament.
Mark Lyons matched a career high with 27 points to lead the sixth-seeded Wildcats (27-7), who showed how a real basketball school does it when March rolls around.
“The history of Arizona speaks for itself,” coach Sean Miller said. “This time of year, we not only represent ourselves, but all the great players and teams of the past.”
This will be Arizona’s 15th appearance in the Sweet 16. The Wildcats are heading to Los Angeles for a West Regional matchup against Sunday’s winner between Ohio State and Iowa State.
And Harvard — well, it’s back to class, though Chambers may want to stop by the dentist’s office first.
“We got the rebound, we were on a fast break, I went in the air, came down, and before I knew it, my tooth was out,” he said, in describing the inadvertent elbow he took early in the second half from Arizona guard Kevin Parrom.
Luckily, teammate Christian Webster was on the ball. He walked over to retrieve the tooth fragment and hand it back to its owner.
But there wasn’t much to salvage by that point.
Harvard (20-10) missed its first 13 shots and 20 of its first 22 while falling behind 30-9. The Ivy League champs, who shot 52 percent in their upset win over New Mexico on Thursday, made only 27 percent in this one.
“We had some open opportunities early, and once we missed some, we kind of got our heads down and they took advantage of it,” coach Tommy Amaker said.
Laurent Rivard, the Canadian guard who made five 3-pointers in the upset Thursday, shot 1-for-6 this time. He missed two early, then shot two airballs in the second half and finished with three points.
“They played me different than New Mexico did,” Rivard said. “Stayed on me, forced us to finish inside. That changed the game.”
Indeed, this was nothing like Thursday, when the upset over a physically imposing New Mexico team riled up the Harvard twitterrati and sparked dreams of nets somehow being cut down with a slide rule.
Yes, Amaker’s program could be redefining what’s possible in the Ivy League.
But Arizona, a team that hasn’t lost to an opponent outside of the Pac-12 this season, had too much height, too much speed, too much talent to be slowed by this Harvard team.
“They pounced on us from the beginning,” Webster said. “I think it took us by surprise how hard they played, how physical they were, their length and size and speed. From there, it was just an uphill battle.”
Indeed, it was over early and a couple vignettes told the story.
Forward Solomon Hill (13 points, 10 rebounds) spotted up for a 3-pointer, drained it, then looped his fingers over his eyes — the 3-point goggles — right by the Harvard bench, in Amaker’s face. On Harvard’s next possession, Hill rebounded a missed shot, took the ball coast to coast and jammed with both hands, then bumped chests violently with Parrom.
Moments later, Lyons made a backdoor cut and took an alley-oop pass from Jordin Mayes for an easy layup.
Bad enough that happens to a defense once in a game. But on the next possession, Lyons and Mayes combined for an absolute carbon-copy of the same play.
“My teammates got me the ball in the right position and I was able to make shots today,” said Lyons, a senior who came to Arizona from Xavier along with his coach.
Impressive as the back-to-back oops were, Chambers will remember another play better.
He was trying to make a jump pass, when Parrom left his feet, as well, to block it. His elbow bashed Chambers’ lip and he grimaced in pain. Helped off the floor with the tooth in hand, he was wincing on the bench, where TV cameras caught a clear shot of his newly jagged right incisor.
“That showed how physical the game was,” Rivard said. “It wasn’t even close to the rim. Guys were scratching and clawing. But it was an accident.”
Chambers came back shortly after and made a 3. He finished with six points.
Kenyatta Smith, Harvard’s tallest player at 6-foot-8, led the Crimson with 10 points. Also shut down was Wesley Saunders. Saunders led Harvard with 18 points against New Mexico, but went 1-for-11 for eight points against Arizona.
“They’re 7-feet, 6-9, 6-8,” Amaker said. “They’re in front of the rim, around the rim. They make it very difficult to finish.”
Arizona, meanwhile, was every bit as good on offense as it was on defense. The Wildcats made 55 percent of their shots, led by Lyons’ 12-for-17 night.