The Harvard men’s basketball team—which captured its first Ivy League title on Saturday—must win one more game to earn its first berth in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament since 1946.
In the last regular-season contest, Princeton beat Penn (13-15, 7-7 Ivy), 70-58, on the road yesterday to force a one-game playoff with co-Ivy champion Harvard on Saturday.
Riding on that game at Yale—selected as the neutral host for the play-in contest—is the league’s guaranteed spot in March Madness. The losing team will almost certainly not receive one of the tournament’s at-large bids.
Regardless of the outcome of the next game, the Crimson (23-5, 12-2) and the Tigers (24-6, 12-2) will share this year’s Ivy League title.
After defeating Princeton on Saturday, the Crimson was a half-game ahead of the Tigers in the Ivy League, and a Princeton loss yesterday would have sent Harvard to the tournament.
The Quakers kept the game close throughout the first half, but Princeton capitalized on Penn’s poor second-half shooting to take the must-win game.
For the first 21 minutes, a win seemed possible, as the Quakers built a 27-19 lead at the Palestra. But with a strong second-half performance, the Tigers pulled away from Penn, shooting 78 percent from the field and 4-5 from behind the arc.
“They had a tough first half, but the second half was unbelievable,” said Harvard junior co-captain Oliver McNally. “[Princeton forward Kareem] Maddox really dominated the game in the second half.”
Harvard dropped its first game against Princeton this season, 65-61, on Feb. 4. But after Brown upset the Tigers three weeks later, the Crimson again had a shot at the league title. Harvard evened the season series with its 79-67 win over Princeton last Saturday to take its share of the Ivy crown.
Despite Princeton’s strong second-half performance, the Crimson—who watched the game at Lavietes Pavilion—said that it will not change its preparations going into the weekend.
“Princeton did exactly what we thought they were going to do,” McNally said. “We were fully expecting them to win, so nothing’s really changed.”
—Staff writer Martin Kessler contributed reporting to this story.
—Staff writer E. Benjamin Samuels can be reached at email@example.com.
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