Yale had its first NCAA tournament berth in 53 years in its grasp.
And then it slipped away.
Leading 57-52 with 24.1 seconds left and having trailed for just 43 seconds of the entire game up to that point, the Bulldogs collapsed. Freshman guard Miles Wright hit two free throws for Dartmouth and added a three-pointer that tied the game. A 1-for-2 trip to the charity stripe for Yale senior guard Javier Duren gave the Elis a 58-57 edge with 2.3 seconds left, and Dartmouth had to go the length of the court in that span.
But the Dartmouth cross-court pass was batted out by Yale junior forward Justin Sears, who inexplicably and purposefully batted the ball out of bounds, hoping to take more time off the clock. As a result, the Big Green got the ball under Yale’s basket, where senior forward Gabas Maldunas used a screen from junior guard Alex Mitola to get free for the game-winning layup, clinching Dartmouth’s first postseason appearance since 1959.
Yale freshman guard Makai Mason led all scorers with 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting, but junior forward Tommy Carpenter led the winning effort for Dartmouth with 13 points in just 19 minutes.
The Elis could have won the Ivy League outright with a victory over Dartmouth, but Yale’s loss means an 11-3 finish and a tie with Harvard atop the final Ivy regular season standings. That means a one-game playoff at the Palestra in Philadelphia will decide whether it’s Yale or Harvard that earns a NCAA tournament berth.
A win would mark Harvard’s fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance. Harvard lost the league’s previous championship playoff game in 2011 to Princeton.
The third and final Harvard-Yale matchup of the season will take place next Saturday at a time to be determined.