ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It didn’t take any deep thinking to guess how this one might go.

Except for a late, desperate rally, the Ivy League’s best had trouble hanging with the only private school in the Southeastern Conference.

John Jenkins made all six of his late free throws and scored 27 points Thursday to help Vanderbilt hold off Harvard 79-70 in an East Regional game otherwise known as “The Brain Bowl.”

Vanderbilt’s senior-heavy group won its NCAA opener after the Commodores went winless in the tournament in 2008, ’10 and ’11 despite being seeded fourth, fourth and fifth. The Commodores (25-10) were a fifth seed for this one but came in with a victory against top-ranked Kentucky last weekend and armed with plenty of lessons from past failures.

“We probably didn’t feel pressure, but we understand that people were looking at us as an upset trend in recent years,” senior Lance Goulbourne said. “But we play the game looking forward, not looking backward. So this is a different year.”

They built an 18-point lead early in the second half and saw No. 12 Harvard (26-5) trim it to five with 1:51 to go. But the Commodores went 8 of 9 from the line from there and won despite not making a field goal over the final 5:22.

On Saturday, Vanderbilt faces Wisconsin. The Commodores have made it out of the first weekend only twice in their history.

“I’m really proud of them for not only what they did last weekend, which was quite an accomplishment, but also what they were able to do today,” Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said.

Harvard also knows a little something about postseason droughts.

The Crimson made the tournament for the first time since 1946, though this is clearly not your father’s Harvard — or even your grandfather’s. This is, after all, the school that gave us Jeremy Lin.

Coached by Tommy Amaker, a Duke grad, the Crimson notched an impressive win over Florida State early in the season, then held off the Ivy League’s more traditional powers, Penn and Princeton.

Laurent Rivard finished with 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range — many jacked up from well behind the line. But nobody else for Harvard shot well, and the Commodores built a lead that was too big to overcome. Kyle Casey scored 13 and Brandyn Curry had 12 for Harvard, which went 20 of 49 from the floor if you take out Rivard’s shots.

“I can’t say enough about the fight we had and the effort that we put forth to stay relevant in this particular basketball game,” Amaker said.

Harvard led 17-16 and one member of the Crimson band shouted to the Vanderbilt players: “You beat Kentucky and now you’re losing to an Ivy League School.”

Funny, even if it lasted only a few seconds. Vanderbilt closed the half on a 17-6 run and kept the lead at 10 or more for most of the second half.

The most telling sequence came with just under 11 minutes left, when Vanderbilt missed four shots and got offensive rebounds on all of them. The possession ended when Jenkins hit a 17-footer and got fouled to set up a three-point play for a 56-42 lead.

Jeffery Taylor finished with 15 points for Vanderbilt.