NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Harvard became the first team to reach the NCAA tournament, and the Crimson did it on rival Yale’s court.
“You couldn’t ask for much better,” said senior guard Brandyn Curry, who had 14 points in in the 70-58 win over the Bulldogs on Friday night that secured the outright Ivy League championship. “It means a lot to come back after everything and win here, in this place.”
Curry was on this same floor three years ago, when Harvard lost to Princeton on a buzzer-beater in a conference playoff game. That was the last time someone other than Harvard represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament.
This year, the Crimson jumped out to a 16-2 lead. They never trailed and led by 18 in the second half.
Siyani Chambers scored 17 points and Steve Moundou-Missi added 16 for Harvard (25-4, 12-1), which won its seventh straight since losing its only conference game last month, to Yale in Cambridge.
“I thought we made a concerted effort to respond (to that loss), and we’ve been on a mission since then,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
Harvard, which had already secured at least a share of the Ivy title for the fourth straight year, will make its third straight trip to the NCAA tournament, after a drought that dated to 1946.
“All the hard work we’ve put in, it’s paid off,” Curry said. “We know that we’re going now.”
Justin Sears had 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs (15-12, 9-4). He was 11 of 16 from the floor. The rest of the team was 7 of 34.
Harvard shot 57 percent, while holding Yale to 36 percent. The Bulldogs missed all 14 of their 3-point attempts.
“We had our chances, even with a 17-point lead,” Yale coach James Jones said.
The Crimson are hoping to at least match last year’s NCAA tournament performance, where they upset third-seeded New Mexico in the first round.
“I think all coaches and programs are striving to be in a position where maybe you’re the favorite or you’re that type of team; you’re a contender on a consistent basis,” Amaker said. “That’s what we’ve talked about being.”
Yale came into the game still clinging to its own title hopes. The Bulldogs would have had to sweep Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, and also needed Harvard to lose Saturday at Brown. Even that would only have forced a one-game playoff.
Yale still leads the series 116-74, but hasn’t had even a share of the conference title since 2002.
The loss leaves Yale coach James Jones one win shy of the school record. He is 205-220 in 15 seasons in New Haven.