Harvard all-time moment No. 1: Crimson capture first ever Ivy title

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. We did the Crimson next because, hey, it”s their dynasty.

When Harvard players awoke on the morning of March 5, 2011, they were part of a basketball program that had never won an Ivy League basketball championship. That night, however, they would have a chance to make history. One win over Princeton would give the Crimson their first title and bury the demons of the past 50 years.

Since Tommy Amaker had become head coach in 2008, Harvard had been a program on the rise. The Crimson had twice finished sixth under Amaker, but a third place finish in 2010 had given Crimson fans reason to be optimistic. Still, a victory over the legendary (and favored) Princeton Tigers in the last game of the season to clinch a title didn’t seem possible.

The game was sold out: 2,195 rabid fans, young and old, wearing orange and crimson, crammed into Lavietes Pavilion. Earlier in the season, the Crimson had lost to the Tigers at Jadwin Gymnasium, and that fact, along with Princeton’s half-century of domination over Harvard in men’s basketball, gave the Tigers a slight upper hand in this game. A Crimson win would give them a share of the Ivy title, forcing a one-game playoff against Princeton; a Princeton win would give the Tigers the title outright, ending Harvard’s season. Everything was on the line for Harvard.

The game was tight throughout: in the first half, Harvard lit it up from the field, shooting 54 percent. Sophomore Kyle Casey scored 17 points for the Crimson, but Princeton’s Dan Mavraides shined too, scoring 16 points, almost half of Princeton’s 38 first-half points. Harvard took momentum into the locker room at the half, though, as freshman Laurent Rivard nailed three free throws with a second to go to give best online casino the Crimson a one-point lead.

As the second half began, Crimson momentum built as Kyle Casey threw down a one-handed and-one dunk over Princeton’s Patrick Saunders. The Crimson Crazies went berserk as Casey knocked down the free throw to give Harvard a four-point lead. With 13 minutes remaining, Matt Brown nailed a three and Brandyn Curry made a layup to give Harvard a 10-point lead. Harvard fans chanting deafeningly “I believe that we will win!” could taste their first title.

The chants became a countdown as the final seconds ticked off the clock: “Five, four, three, two, one!” When the buzzer sounded, bedlam ensued all over the court as the Crimson and their fans basked in the glory of their first-ever Ivy League championship. While fans swarmed them, Crimson players hugged anyone and everyone in sight, teammate or fan. Jeremy Lin (this was pre-Linsanity) shared a laugh with junior captain Keith Wright at center court, congratulating him on the title, something Lin had never won. The moment was perfect. (Princeton would win the NCAA berth in dramatic fashion though.)

At a university more than 300 years old, it is hard to do something for the first time, but that’s what this team had done. “Tonight was a really special night for us,” Kyle Casey said after the game. “It was very special for the whole Harvard community.” So special that it ranks as the number one moment in Harvard basketball’s history. (For now.)

6 thoughts on “Harvard all-time moment No. 1: Crimson capture first ever Ivy title

  1. I humbly disagree.

    What about the day Amaker signed on the dotted line and made all of the preceding 10 events possible?

    The AQ

      • The AQ certainly does have a point. Tommy Amaker is responsible for all ten of Harvard’s “all-time” moments, although Joe Carrabino and James Brown might not agree.

        Furthermore, if the most important day in the history of Harvard basketball was the day Amaker signed on the dotted line, then the truly most important event in the history of Harvard basketball was the moment that Tom Stemberg ’62 called Bob Scalise to say, “If you can get admissions to play ball, I’ll fund the hiring of a big time coach.” Scalise had the ambition and Stemberg had the money.

        *THAT* was the “all-time” critical moment in the development of the modern Harvard approach to athletic admissions and a national-caliber basketball program.

  2. Great job on the list! The win vs. New Mexico in 2013 (#2 on list) is my all-time top game. Top moment was when Rivard hit the 3 to take the lead vs. Michgan State (#6 on list).

    Two favorite pre-Amaker era moments are the 89-86 loss to Amaker’s Duke team in February 1984 (http://bit.ly/1IT29VG) and the last-second overtime win vs Penn in January 1987 (http://bit.ly/1UtEwqy)

  3. And then, tell me again, who won the playoff for the NCAA spot? (And, for all practical if unofficial purposes, the Ivy Championship playoff.)

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