In search of its first NCAA tournament berth since 1946, the Harvard men’s basketball team suffered a devastating one-point loss in yesterday afternoon’s Ivy League playoff after Princeton’s Douglas Davis sank a fadeaway jumper with 0.2 seconds to play.
With the Tigers down one and 2.8 seconds left to determine the recipient of the Ancient Eight’s automatic bid, Princeton coach Sydney Johnson designed a play for Davis coming out of a timeout.
Davis ran off a screen, caught the pass in the left corner, took two dribbles to his right, and let a 15-foot leaner fly that sailed through the net as the clock expired, securing the Tigers the 63-62 win at Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater and a spot in their 24th NCAA tournament.
“I got a good screen from Will Barret, and originally I thought they were going to deny me the ball, but I was able to get open,” said Davis. “I took a couple dribbles and was able to fade. It felt good and it went in.”
The Crimson, which captured a share of its first Ivy League championship in its regular season finale against the Tigers last Saturday, was seeking its first NCAA tournament appearance in 64 years.
And with the Crimson up by six, 50-44, with 9:06 to play, it looked like Harvard was on track to punch its ticket to the dance. But a 7-0 Princeton run over the next 3:16 of play – fueled by five points from Davis – gave the Tigers a one-point edge.
The Crimson regained the lead with 1:01 to play after Harvard’s sophomore Kyle Casey drove hard to the basket and finished a lefty layup. But Princeton’s Ian Hummer answered on the other end, finishing at the basket with 38 ticks remaining to put the Tigers ahead, 61-60.
The Crimson ran the clock down to under 20 seconds then swung the ball around the perimeter to Christian Webster. Webster found Brandyn Curry open under the basket for a two-foot floater, putting the Crimson up one with 11 seconds to play.
The Tigers pushed the ball up the floor and found Davis, who drove to the hoop and floated a layup at the basket. But Casey was there to reject the shot out of bounds, setting the stage for Davis’ last-second heroics.
“We’re certainly heart broken and devastated as you can imagine being on the end of that,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. “I thought both teams obviously could have very well have felt that they deserved to win this basketball game.”
Princeton, which trailed by seven at the half, was led by Davis’ 11 second-half points. Entering the contest averaging 11.8 points per game, the junior guard finished 4-of-14 from the field for a team-high 15 points.
But while it was Davis who delivered the knockout blow, it was the Tigers’ frontcourt duo of senior Kareem Maddox and sophomore Hummer who anchored Princeton throughout the contest. The pair combined for 23 points and 21 rebounds, helping the Tigers secure a 36-24 advantage on the glass.
“I thought that their ability to get on the backboard hurt us,” said Amaker, whose squad surrendered 14 offensive rebounds.
The Crimson was led by Curry, its sophomore point guard who notched 12 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Junior co-captain Keith Wright led Harvard in scoring with 16 points on 11 shots.
While the Crimson still holds out a slim hope for receiving an at-large bid, Coach Johnson was pleased that his squad will not have to wait to discover its fate.
“We’re going,” said Johnson. “We earned the automatic bid. We don’t have to worry about anything else. We’re going.”
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