Four in a row.
The Harvard Crimson locked up their fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance with a 53-51 win over Yale at the Palestra in the league’s playoff game. The game-winning perimeter shot came from senior forward Steve Moundou-Missi, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. The assist, fittingly, came from senior guard Wesley Saunders, who posted 22 points, 18 of them in the second half. A floater off a drive from Yale senior guard Javier Duren rolled out as time expired, sealing the Crimson win.
Harvard led 46-37 with 6:22 left and went into conservative mode, dribbling possessions down and trying to hang onto the lead. Yale responded with a 12-2 run in the next 4:36, capped by a jumper from freshman guard Makai Mason, who was elbowed earlier in the half without a foul call being called, resulting in a gash on his head that rattled the Bulldogs in the early part of the half. Nevertheless, the Crimson were lifted not by that but by a 9-0 run from Saunders alone a quarter of the way through the second stanza.
Harvard also opened the game on an 8-0 run before Yale responded with a 14-3 run in the next 5:45, and the Elis led 27-23 at halftime. Ivy Player of the Year and Yale junior forward Justin Sears finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three steals, while Yale senior guard Javier Duren notched 12 points and six rebounds on 2-for-10 shooting.
In Harvard’s loss to Yale at Lavietes Pavilion last weekend, the Crimson shot just 1-for-13 from three-point range, losing by 10, 62-52. In Harvard’s win Saturday, it shot 5-for-14, collecting 12 more points from beyond the arc and winning by two.
Harvard’s opponent in the NCAA tournament will be determined Sunday. The Crimson have won their first game in the tournament in each of the past two seasons. Harvard and Yale were slated for the playoff game after finishing with identical 11-3 records in league play. The Crimson’s previous playoff game appearance was a 63-62 loss to Princeton at Yale’s Payne Whitney Gym in 2011, decided at the buzzer.