CAMBRIDGE (AP) – Kyle Casey scored a season-high 24 points to lead Harvard to a 79-67 victory over Princeton on Saturday night and guarantee the Crimson at least a share of their first-ever Ivy League title.
Harvard would win the conference championship outright if Penn beats Princeton on Tuesday night. If the Tigers win, they will share the title with Harvard and the two teams will meet in a one-game playoff for the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Harvard (23-5, 12-2 Ivy League) has not appeared in the NCAA tournament since 1946, and it was the only Ivy League school that had not won a championship since the conference was formed in 1956-57.
Dan Mavraides scored 25 points for Princeton (23-6, 11-2).
Oliver McNally scored 15, Keith Wright had 13 and Brandyn Curry scored 10 with 10 assists for Harvard, which won its 17th straight home game.
The Crimson had lost five straight to Princeton, including a 65-61 win on Feb. 4 that set the Tigers up to cruise to the Ivy title. But they lost to lowly Brown two weekends later, giving Harvard another chance at the conference championship; one week after that, the Crimson lost at Yale, and Princeton was in control again.
Should Princeton beat Penn on Tuesday, the Ivies would consider Harvard and Princeton co-champions, but the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament would go to the winner of a one-game playoff, likely at a neutral site on Friday or Saturday.It would be the seventh playoff in Ivy history, and the first since Yale, Penn and Princeton were tied at the end of the 2001-02 regular season — the only three-way tie in conference history.
There is also a chance that the Ivies could get an at-large berth, though that’s never happened before.
Harvard led 37-36 after a first half that had 17 lead changes — 14 of them, along with four ties, in the first eight minutes.
Mavraides had 18 points at the break, and Casey had 17.
But Harvard pulled away in the second, taking a 47-42 lead on Casey’s thunderous dunk and a foul shot with 16:46 left. Matt Brown hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring to make it 56-47 and it was still a nine-point game, 67-59, with 4:50 left when Curry converted a three-point play off a drive.
Princeton cut the deficit to six points on Matt Darrow’s three-point play with 96 seconds left. Curry drove and left it off the rim, but Laurent Rivard drew a charging foul on Doug Davis and Harvard made all six free throw attempts down the stretch to ice it.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)