Princeton Earns NCAA Tournament Bid in a Thrilling Finish with Harvard

Scott FriedlanderContributor IMarch 12, 2011

DENVER - MARCH 18:  Fans of the Princeton Tigers cheer during a timeout against the Texas Longhorns during their first round game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament March 18, 2004 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

It doesn’t get any more “March Madness” than this.

After playing down for most of the game, the Princeton Tigers clawed their way back to take their first lead with just under five-and-a-half minutes to go.  For the rest of the game, no lead was larger than two, and the John J. Lee Amphitheater at Yale University was rocking.

The sold-out crowd at the neutral site was divided in half between the Princeton and Harvard faithful. 

Fans were on their feet and rowdy. 

The Ivy League intentionally did not sell tickets for an entire section of seats so that the two student sections would be separated by a good 20 feet.

With a minute to go and down one, Harvard forward Kyle Casey hit a shot to put them up 60-59, only to be answered by Princeton forward Ian Hummer on the very next possession. Each basket unleashed a noise from fans that thought the shot could put them up for good. 

And with an NCAA tournament berth on the line, the small, compact arena was shaking.

Harvard inbounded the ball following Hummer’s shot with the shot clock just a couple seconds ahead of the game clock.  After burning some time, guard Brandyn Curry drove the lane and put the ball softly in the hoop to give the Crimson a one-point lead.  All that Harvard needed to get its first NCAA tournament berth since 1946 was 10 seconds of good defense.

And they got that defense.

No timeout.  The clock was ticking.  Princeton guard Douglass Davis brought the ball up the court and tried to sneak in a layup from the right side but got rejected out of bounds by Kyle Casey with 2.8 seconds remaining.

Harvard fans were waiting on edge for the final seconds to tick off the clock, while Princeton fans were on their feet waiting for their final prayer. 

The ball was inbounded to Davis in the corner.  He cut toward the free-throw line, juked back, fired and knocked down the game-winning jumper as the horn sounded.

Princeton’s bench stormed toward Davis with the same excitement as the fans who storm the court as well. 

This is college basketball at its finest.

The Tigers next stop is the NCAA tournament first round where they will most likely be looking to upset a No. 4, No. 5 or No. 6.  As for Harvard, it is up to the selection committee.  Harvard will be hoping to become the first at-large bid in Ivy League history.

This thriller puts an exclamation point on a fantastic Ivy League season.