Yale defeats Harvard, clinches share of first Ivy title since 2002

Javier Duren notched a winning stat line: 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block at Harvard.(ivyleaguesports.com)
Javier Duren notched a winning stat line: 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block at Harvard.(ivyleaguesports.com)

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.

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Yale-Harvard: The matchups that matter most

It used to always be this simple. Two teams — archrivals head and shoulders above the rest of the league — battle through the long slog of a 14-game tournament, rising above the Other Six to meet in an epic finale. With condolences to the P’s, this season, we return to that reliable formula under the New World Order as, for the second consecutive year, Harvard and Yale enter the final weekend as the only two teams still with a shot at the Ivy title.

Let’s take a look at the key matchups in this winner-take-all grudge match (though Brown and Dartmouth may have a few things to say about that on Saturday):

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Five keys to the game for Yale vs. Harvard

Can Justin Sears lead Yale to its first NCAA tourney berth since John F. Kennedy was president? (Yale Athletics)
Can Justin Sears lead Yale to its first NCAA tourney berth since John F. Kennedy was president? (Yale Athletics)

The winner of Yale-Harvard in Boston Friday night will subsequently be just one further win away from a NCAA tournament berth. Harvard went dancing last year, while Yale hasn’t since 1962. For the Elis to finally get that March Madness monkey off their backs, here’s what they have to do:

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Yale explodes in second half, defeats Princeton

NEW HAVEN – Yale found a gear which it probably didn’t know that it had Friday night and a scoreboard-watching crowd added to the excitement at Payne Whitney Gym.
The Bulldogs were down to Princeton 47-39 with 13:41 remaining and then all of a sudden they went on a 42-13 offensive tear to defeat the Tigers, 81-60.
Princeton was defenseless against the onslaught. Justin Sears refused to be denied during that stretch, which James Jones characterized as, along with an earlier season win over Lafayette, the best stretch in a game of the season. Sears finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds and seemed to be all over the court.

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Yale will need help in the Ivy title race

Sure it was a strange game, but Yale survived and beat Princeton by a healthy margin on the road. They easily dismantled Penn the night before.
Harvard had more than trouble at home with Columbia on Friday night and was behind Cornell at the half on Saturday.
If the Ivies were decided by margin of victories, Yale would win the crown in March. Harvard has struggled with Columbia, Princeton and Brown. Yale has gone through its Ivy schedule with relative ease.
Notwithstanding Yale’s win last year at Harvard, the Crimson represent a bad matchup for the Bulldogs. The Crimson are good at locking down Justin Sears, rebound better than Yale and invariably win the point guard battle.
So what is the point? Simple: Yale will need some help to win the Ivies. That help should have come in the form of Brown in Providence, but Harvard came home there with an unlikely win.

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Coach James Jones breaks down Yale’s breakdown

James Jones' Bulldogs scored just 11 points in the first half of their loss to Harvard. (vnews.com)
James Jones’ Bulldogs scored just 11 points in the first half of their loss to Harvard. (vnews.com)

IHO caught up with Yale coach James Jones after the Bulldogs’ 52-50 loss to Harvard Saturday night, which allowed the Crimson to tie Yale atop the conference standings.

IHO: Did Harvard do anything special to stop [Justin] Sears, who only had nine points?

JJ: Nothing really special, but they did get him out of the box.

IHO: How do you account for a 16-11 halftime score?

JJ: Both teams came out and let the moment get the best of them.

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Yale holds off Columbia, 63-59, Justin Sears dominates

Even Justin Sears' stat line doesn't do justice to how clutch he was at Levien Gym Saturday. (Fred Beckham/AP)
Even Justin Sears’ stat line doesn’t do justice to how clutch he was at Levien Gym Saturday. (Fred Beckham/AP)

Last year, Yale made the trek to Columbia and got blown out. But that was on a Saturday night, after the long ride back from Cornell.

This year Yale got Columbia on a Friday and made the best of it with an exciting 63-59 win, which left Yale as the only undefeated Ivy, a strange stat for just three games into the Ivy season.

Justin Sears was far and away the best player on the court, with 28 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two steals, two assists and zero turnovers, in addition to a game-saving block of an attempted three-pointer by Columbia standout Maodo Lo.

Javier Duren made clutch free throws down the stretch.

Yale got off to a slow start but still led 35-32 at the half. The Elis built a large lead to start the second half, but Columbia fought back with a barrage of threes, to cut the deficit to 58-57. The Lions were unable to take the lead as Yale closed them out from the charity stripe.

The game was played before a near sellout and very vocal crowd.

Yale made the ride to Cornell last night and Columbia faces a Brown team reeling from a player defection (leading scorer Leland King) and a squandered lead at Cornell.

It is tough to believe that the Elis can run the string undefeated in a very competitive Ivy League.

Things we learned about the Ivy League in a crazy day

Justin Sears notched 27 points and nine rebounds in Yale
Justin Sears notched 27 points and nine rebounds in Yale”s 69-65 win over Brown. (ivyleaguesports.com)

Since I practice law by day, let”s enter into a few stipulations:

1. Yale is what we expected Yale to be. The UConn win was no fluke.
2. Harvard is not that good. Losing to Holy Cross, BC and Dartmouth at home just doesn”t work.
3. No team is going undefeated in the Ivies.
4. A three-loss team may casino win the Ivies.
5. Princeton and Columbia will each beat either Yale or Harvard at least once.
6. The home team always has trouble in the Yale-Brown games.

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“A signature win” for Yale basketball

Yale's victory over UConn marks a signature win on the Elis' resume. (yalebulldogs.com)
Yale’s victory over UConn marks a signature win on the Elis’ resume. (yalebulldogs.com)

Yale had a Montague, but UConn had no Capulet to defend. And as such, Yale defeated UConn, 45-44, at Gampel Pavilion, in a stunner to most of the 9,538 in attendance.

Jack Montague hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 1.7 remaining on the clock to give Yale the win. Montague was 50-95 in threes entering the game but had not made one against the Huskies. The Elis were only 3-for-21 from three for the game.

If there was any doubt about how good, tough and athletic Yale is, it was answered by the middle of the first half, when the Elis held a 22-9 lead over the defending national champions.

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Yale defeats defending national champ UConn, 45-44

"Well that was pretty wild!," Jack Montague tweeted after the game.
“Well that was pretty wild!,” Jack Montague tweeted after the game. (yalebulldogs.com)

Yale hadn’t beaten UConn in 28 years. UConn had won 68 games in a row against in-state rivals.

But it took only one play to flip that script.

Trailing 44-42 with 3.2 seconds left on the game clock, Yale inbounded the ball. Just a second and a half later, junior guard Jack Montague nailed a three-pointer that clinched the Elis the win, only the second for an Ivy over a defending national champion since Princeton trumped UCLA in 1996.

Leading the way for the Bulldogs (8-2) was junior forward Justin Sears, who notched 12 points and 15 rebounds, just 10 fewer boards than UConn (3-3) posted as a team. Senior guard Javier Duren also contributed 15 points.

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