Yale is a win away from history.
The Bulldogs clinched a share of their first Ivy title since 2002 Friday night by defeating Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion in Boston, 62-52. The win, fueled by senior guard Javier Duren’s 22 points and nine rebounds, gives Yale the chance to earn its first NCAA tournament berth since 1962 with a win at Dartmouth tomorrow night.
The Elis’ win at Harvard, which has represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament each of the past four seasons, played out in surprising fashion.
Yale junior forward Justin Sears and Harvard senior guard Wesley Saunders, both Ivy Player of the Year candidates, combined for just 21 points on 7-for-17 shooting, with Saunders going scoreless from the 8:28 mark of the first half all the way until the 0:18 mark of the second half and Sears nailing his first two three-pointers of the season. The team’s respective sharpshooters – Harvard sophomore guard Corbin Miller and Yale junior guard Jack Montague – went 0-for-10 from beyond the arc, with Miller accounting for eight of those misses.
In fact, three-point shooting was the difference. The Bulldogs shot 7-for-16 from downtown, whereas the Crimson, plagued by outside shooting woes for much of the season, shot just 2-for-17. Harvard senior forward Steve Moundou-Missi added 21 points and 10 rebounds.
But Yale survived Sears’ foul trouble to pull away late, holding Harvard to 52 points for the second straight game after the Bulldogs lost 52-50 to Harvard at Payne Whitney Gym earlier this season. The win marked Yale’s second straight at Lavietes and earned Yale the spotlight on SportsCenter.
“We knew it would come down to Yale-Harvard,” Duren told ESPN. “We came in and we did a good job.”
Duren’s next quote looms large, though.
“We feel good about this win, but we’ve been preachin’ that we still got one more win to go,” Duren said.
That win will have to come at Dartmouth, which pulled off an incredible comeback against Brown Friday night, overcoming a 50-26 deficit with 13:58 remaining to obtain a 75-69 win over the Bears. Dartmouth also reeled off a 26-2 run en route to a 70-61 comeback win at Harvard, so the Big Green are more than worthy opponents for the Ivy conference-leading Elis. Dartmouth is fighting for a postseason bid of its own in the CIT.
But just a win away from history, Yale has the perfect opportunity to practice what Duren and company are preaching.