NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In an ending befitting a one-game, winner-take-all playoff for the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, Princeton's Doug Davis sank a fall-away jumper as time expired to give the Tigers a 63-62 win over Harvard at the John J. Lee Amphitheatre on the campus of Yale University.
Princeton (25-6) will claim the Ivy League's automatic bid to the tournament after sharing the league championship with a Harvard team that falls to 23-6 overall.
A tense game saw Harvard edge out to a nine-point second half lead only to see the Tigers whittle away at the lead as Harvard was uncharacteristically average from the free throw line.
Harvard, which entered the game as the nation's second-leading free throw shooting team, was just 10-of- 16 from the stripe including several missed front ends. Princeton meanwhile was 14-of-15.
The Crimson was deft from everywhere else on the court, making 24 of 47 shots for the game (.511) while Princeton was 23 of 55 (.418).
Christian Webster opened the second half with a layup, giving Harvard its largest lead to that point, 34-25. Recently-named Ivy Player of the Year Keith Wright made back-to-back baskets, including one on a dunk, as the Crimson led by eight, 38-30, with just under 18 minutes remaining. After the Tigers got within two, 40-38, Oliver McNally drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to give Harvard a five-point cushion, 43-38. With 11:02 left, McNally was fouled while making a layup and hit the free throw, as Harvard went up by eight, 48-40.
The Tigers netted eight of the next 10 points to pull within two of the Crimson, 50-48, with 5:48 remaining. Princeton hit a trey after a Harvard turnover, giving the Tigers a 51-50 advantage, its first lead since midway through the first half, with just 5:20 to go. With 4:31 left, Wright was fouled and made one of two free throws, as Harvard trailed, 53-52. After Princeton went up by three, Brandyn Curry drilled a trey from the wing to know the game with 3:49 remaining.
On the Crimson's next possession, Wright added a tip-in, as Harvard regained a lead, 57-55. With 2:33 to play, Curry hit the second of two from the line, giving the Crimson a one-point advantage, 58-57. After the Tigers made the next basket, Kyle Casey made a layup with 59 seconds left to put Harvard back on top, 60-59. Princeton answered with a basket on its next trip down the floor, but Curry drove the lane and hit a clutch runner, as Harvard regained the lead, 62-61, with just 11 seconds left.
Princeton pushed the ball up court with Davis, whose soft floater was rejected out of bounds by Casey with 2.8 seconds left. After a timeout and the ball underneath the basket to the left, Princeton inbounded along the right baseline to Davis. Davis caught, took a dribble to the middle of the floor, pump-faked to get a Harvard defender in the air, and sank a 12-foot fade away as the clock expired to extend the Ivy League's automatic bid to the Tigers.
Davis led Princeton with 15 points despite a 4-of-14 shooting day while Kareem Maddox had 10 points and 13 rebounds with the Tigers owning the boards, 36-24.
Wright led Harvard with 16 points (7-11 FG), six rebounds and four blocks while McNally (13), Webster (12) and Curry (12) followed in a balanced attack.
After each team missed shots on each of their first few possessions, Harvard opened up a 6-4 lead when McNally found Wright under the basket for a wide open layup just before the first media timeout. With just under 14 minutes to go in the opening half, McNally buried a trey from the left corner as Harvard increased its lead to 11-6. The Crimson moved the ball around well in the middle stages of the stanza, as Wright drove the lane and found Curry for a basket, making it 13-8.
The Tigers responded with an 8-0 run to take a 16-13 advantage at the 10:59 mark. McNally answered on the Crimson's next possession with an acrobatic layup just as the shot clock expired, getting the Crimson back within one, 16-15. After the Tigers made a basket, Christian Webster knotted the game, 18-18, with a triple from the top of the key. With 7:59 to play, Webster drew contact and made the shot. He also hit the ensuing free throw to put the Crimson up, 21-20. With 6:16 left, Curry tossed an alley-oop pass to Casey for a two-handed slam as Harvard increased its edge to five, 25-20.
With 3:39 to go, Wright hit a left-handed hook shot in the lane, giving the Crimson a six-point lead, 29-23. Curry dished off a pass to Rivard for a layup with 25 seconds to go that put Harvard up, 32-25, and the half ended with the same score. Webster was Harvard's leading scorer with eight points at the break. The Crimson shot 52 percent from the field in the opening stanza, while holding Princeton to a 33 percent clip, but the Tigers owned a 20-12 advantage in rebounds.
Harvard will await its fate during Sunday night's NCAA selection show, which starts at 6 p.m. The Crimson has a strong case for an at-large bid, although it would be the Ivy's first-ever at-large berth to the big dance if it were to occur.