In 100 years of Harvard basketball, the Crimson had never once won the Ivy Championship, and despite winning a share of it this year, they will have to wait at least another season before having their chance to get to the NCAA tournament.
Leading 62-61 with 2.8 seconds to go, Harvard needed just one stop to get to the NCAA Tournament. They needed just one Princeton miss to put their names in the record books and have their chance to dance. However, it was not to be, as the heroics of Princeton junior Douglas Davis dashed those dreams as the buzzer sounded and the Princeton fans flooded the floor of Yale's John J. Lee Amphitheater, which was playing host to the Ivy Championship game on Saturday.
Last Saturday, Harvard needed a win over Princeton to let them stay in the race for the Ivy League Championship, and they picked up the win on their home floor, giving them a share of the trophy. That game meant that Princeton needed a victory on the road at Penn to force a one-game playoff at Yale, a neutral location. Princeton took care of the rival Quakers, and the stage was set for the Ivy playoff, one that is only played when the top two teams finish with the same conference record.
The crowd was completely split down the middle. Half the tickets were given to Harvard and half to Princeton and both schools sold their allotment of seats to the 2,500-seat Amphitheater in about four hours. However, there was a completely empty section separating the two student sections.
Ivy officials feared that the bad blood might get out of hand if the students were forced to stand side to side. Some people were selling tickets on Stubhub.com for up to $1,200 for the game featuring two of the best private academic institutions in the country.
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The game was the third matchup between the squads this season. Princeton, led by head coach Sydney Johnson, won the first meeting, and Harvard, led by former Michigan head coach, Tommy Amaker, won the second. After one half of basketball, it appeared Harvard was well on their way to winning the third.
The Crimson led 32-25 at the break, which was a bit odd because low-scoring, intense defensive affairs had been a staple of the way Princeton played all season. They were losing at their own game so to speak. The lead would extend to as high as nine before Princeton fought their way back, eventually taking a 51-50 lead with just over five minutes to go.
Harvard sophomore Kyle Casey, who had 24 last weekend against Princeton, was limited today due to foul trouble and finished with seven points and four boards. He and junior Keith Wright both had four fouls with several minutes to go, and it appeared that Princeton would run away with it.
However, the Crimson guards stepped up and Brandyn Curry made a layup with 10 seconds to go to give Harvard a one-point lead.
The Tigers came storming down the court, and a Davis layup was swatted away with 2.8 seconds to go. It would be Princeton ball, and it was inbounded to Davis who did a little dribble-drive, step-back fade-away jumper that hit nothing but net as time expired, sending the Princeton faithful into a state of bedlam while the pain just began to numb for the Crimson fans who had seen their team come up just short once again.
Harvard shouldn't hang their head too much. It was a tremendous season and the group will be back next year as they featured a squad that remarkably didn't have a single senior. They still do have an outside chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament during Selection Sunday, though will likely get an invitation to the NIT.