The Harvard men's basketball team celebrates after being presented with the Ivy League trophy (Gil Talbot).
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Harvard men's basketball team became the first team in the nation to punch its ticket into the NCAA tournament Friday night with a 70-58 victory at Yale live on NBC Sports Network.
Harvard entered the contest with a two-game lead over Yale in the conference standings, and clinched the Ivy League Championship outright with the win. The Crimson, which is the first team to win four straight Ancient Eight titles since Penn did so from 1993-96, will now hear its name called on Selection Sunday for a third straight year and will be making its fifth consecutive trip to the postseason overall.
Harvard improved to 25-4 overall with the victory, coming one win shy of the program record, and has matched its best win total in the Ivy League with a 12-1 mark. The team will have a chance to improve on both those numbers tomorrow night at 7 p.m. when it wraps up the "14-Game Tournament" at Brown on the Ivy League Digital Network.
Siyani Chambers scored a team-high 17 points and dished out seven assists while Steve Moundou-Missi did the dirty work down low with 16 points and six boards. Brandyn Curry added 14 points with Wesley Saunders chipping in nine points, five rebounds and four assists.
The Crimson shot 56.8 percent (25-48) on the night while allowing Yale (15-12, 9-4) to shoot just 36.0 percent (18-50) overall and 0-of-14 from three. The Bulldogs were led by Justin Sears who turned in a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Yale won the opening tip, but Chambers intercepted a Nick Victor pass and Moundou-Missi finished the fast break for the initial lead. Chambers found Kyle Casey streaking down the lane on the team's next possession for a two-handed slam, and Saunders drove his way through traffic for a 6-0 lead. Saunders sent a long pass to Moundou-Missi running the floor for an and-one to continue the hot start, putting the spread at 9-0 before Sears finally got Yale on the board.
The Crimson answered right back as Chambers threaded a pass through two defenders to Moundou-Missi for an easy dunk, before Laurent Rivard connected from well beyond-the-arc to make it a 14-2 game and force a Bulldog timeout. Harvard's momentum was not slowed by the stoppage, however, as Chambers pushed the ball up the court for a layup and a 16-2 advantage. Sears went on a personal 5-2 run as part of an 11-5 stretch that pulled the Bulldogs to within eight, but a pair of layups by Saunders and Curry extended Harvard's lead back out to 25-13.
Yale continued to battle its way back and cut the deficit to 27-19. Three-pointers by Chambers and Curry helped to regain a double-digit lead, 33-23, and a step-back triple for Curry moved the score to 36-23 at the half. Curry and Moundou-Missi led Harvard with nine points apiece at the break, shooting a combined 7-of-9 from the field. The Crimson made 60.0 percent (15-25) from the field as a team, but went just 2-of-7 at the line to help keep the Bulldogs within reach.
It took nearly three minutes for either team to put points on the board out of the break before Casey's jumper from the middle of the lane got things rolling. Chambers scored on back-to-back possessions to begin shifting the momentum in Harvard's favor, and on the next trip down the court Saunders dished the ball off to Moundou-Missi for a two-handed jam and a 44-27 margin. A putback by Moundou-Missi and an uncontested dunk by Saunders maintained the 17-point spread, 48-31, and with 7:08 to play Harvard's lead stood at 55-39.
The Bulldogs began to make a run with under 6:00 remaining and made it a nine-point game on a Sears slam, 57-48. Brandon Sherrod got to the rim to move the score to 58-50, but with 3:26 on the clock Chambers buried a three from the top of the key to extend the advantage back to 62-51. A triple by Rivard pushed the edge to 12 points, 65-53, and the Crimson went 4-of-6 at the line in the final 1:15 to secure the win.
Game Notes: Harvard secured the Ivy League championship outright with the win, becoming the first team in the country to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament … Harvard will be making its third straight appearance in the NCAA tournament and will be making its fifth consecutive trip to the postseason (2011 NIT, 2010 CIT) … Harvard has won at least a share of the Ivy League title in four consecutive years, becoming the first team to do so since Penn from 1993-96 … Harvard's 25 victories are one shy of the program record (26 in 2011-12) while its 12 wins in Ivy League play have matched the program record … Kyle Casey registered five rebounds to tie Joe Carrabino '85 for 10th place in Harvard history (636).