With Yale trailing by one, 54-53, in a back-and-forth Ivy League Tournament final battle Sunday, Yale junior guard and Ivy Player of the Year Miye Oni picked up his fourth foul and was promptly benched. Even on its home floor at John J. Lee Amphitheater, the Bulldogs looked like they’d been bit.
But they were about to bite back.
Yale outscored Harvard 31-20 over the next 9:41, all with Oni on the bench, en route to a staggering 1.41 points per possession and a 97-85 victory, clinching Yale’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in a four-year span.
The Elis’ overwhelming offense flowed through senior guard Alex Copeland, who notched 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field and seven assists in a game-high 38 minutes.
Harvard hung on as long as it did courtesy of junior guard Bryce Aiken at his dynamic finest. Aiken posted 38 points on 11-for-21 shooting, including several deep threes that kept the Crimson competing in a game that featured 10 lead changes and five ties. Ivy Rookie of the Year Noah Kirkwood posted 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting in 32 minutes.
But Yale shot at least 60 percent from the floor in both halves and simply would not be stopped on its home floor. Sophomore guard Azar Swain was particularly sharp, connecting on four of five three-point attempts. Oni finished with 17 points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field in 27 minutes, while senior forward Blake Reynolds pitched in efficiently with 14 points 6-for-7 shooting.
— Yale Men’s Basketball (@Yale_Basketball) March 17, 2019
— phills III (@tphillss) March 17, 2019
Two seasons ago, Harvard lost in the Ivy League Tournament to Yale after sweeping the Bulldogs in the regular season. Last season, Harvard lost as a No. 1 seed on the home floor of the No. 2 seed. This season, Harvard did both.
On the third anniversary of its win over No. 12 Baylor in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed, Yale drew a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a matchup Thursday at 12:40 p.m. on truTV with No. 3 LSU, 50 years after Yale defeated a Pete Maravich-led LSU squad in the 1969 Rainbow Classic, which Yale basketball legend Jim Morgan ’71 looked back on during a recent Inside Ivy Hoops episode.
As the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League Tournament, Harvard gets its second consecutive automatic NIT berth and will face Georgetown Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 on Georgetown’s campus at McDonough Arena.