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Sports

Historic Basketball Victory

3.6.11

In the biggest basketball game Harvard has ever played, the Crimson  men made history with a convincing win over Princeton, 79-67.  The Tigers came to Cambridge with only one Ivy loss, to Brown, while Harvard had sustained two league losses on the road at Princeton and Yale.  But no one defeated the Harvard men at home this year. By hanging a second defeat on Princeton,  the Crimson clinched at least a share of the Ivy League championship, raising their Ivy record to 12-2, a half-game ahead of Princeton's 11-2. Princeton plays Penn on Tuesday, March 8. Should Penn win, Princeton's record goes to 11-3 and Harvard will be outright Ivy champions; if Princeton wins, the Tigers will share the league title with Harvard and the two teams will meet in a one-game playoff at a neutral site to win the Ivy spot in the NCAA tournament.

Harvard had been the only college never to win an Ivy men's hoops title (though its women have garnered 11) in the 55 years since the league came into being. Hence, as the New York Times reported,  the stakes were huge on the regular season's final weekend. The adage is that to be a true champion, you have to dethrone the king of the hill, and Harvard did exactly that, dispatching the two colleges that have dominated Ivy hoops: Penn (26 Ivy titles) and Princeton  (25).  On Friday night, the Crimson pulverized the Quakers, 79-64, having opened a chasm-like 22-point lead in the first half, setting up the most eagerly awaited game in the progam's history. Tickets for the Princeton game sold out weeks in advance.  An adrenaline-amped crowd at Lavietes Pavilion rocked the small arena with deafening cheers and, after the final buzzer, charged the court en masse to mob the Harvard team.

The game lived up to all the anticipatory excitement. In an electrifying first half that saw the lead change 18 times and the score tied nine times, both teams came out with guns blazing from the opening tip.  Harvard went into the locker room with a 37-36 lead after Laurent Rivard ’14 sank three free throws after being fouled outside the arc. In the second half, the Crimson gradually pulled away, building a lead of as much as 12 points, with sophomore point guard Brandyn Curry (10 points, 10 assists) masterfully orchestrating the attack. Kyle Casey ’13 netted a season-high 24 points to lead the offense and slammed home a resounding dunk on a baseline drive that became a three-point play and shifted the second-half momentum. Tenacious defense included standout work by forward Keith Wright ’12, who rejected six Princeton shots. The outcome might signal a new era in Ivy hoops. At any rate, as the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan  stated in a column on Harvard's landmark weekend, "There is no way to exaggerate the scope of Harvard's achievement these past two nights."  His conclusion: "Harvard is coming, and Harvard will not be stopped."

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