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It's a heartbreaker for Harvard at the buzzer, Princeton wins 63-62

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  March 11, 2011 07:01 PM

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Douglas Davis hit a jumper right at the buzzer for Princeton and the Tiger fans went crazy as Harvard goes down in defeat: Princeton 63, Harvard 62, the final in an instant classic.

Just when it looked like Brandyn Curry would lead the Crimson into its first NCAA tourney berth since 1946 when his drive to the basket in traffic gave Harvard the lead. Princeton took the ball with two seconds left, and got the ball to Davis who hit the winning jumper with 00:02 seconds left that sent the Crimson fans into shock and caused the Tiger fans to mob the court here at Yale.

"They faded Davis in the corner, and I was late getting there," said distraught Harvard guard Oliver McNally after the game. "Then he took it and dribbled toward the middle and went up, and I... was undisciplined, and I jumped when I shouldn't have and he made a tough shot, a good shot..."

"The end was a dagger," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said after the game. "Your heart just sinks. I congratulate both teams. They were fortunate and we were not today."

Davis had 15 points to lead the Tigers (25-6), who will represent the Ivy League for the 24th time in the tournament after overcoming an eight-point second half deficit.

"It felt good. It went in." Davis said. "I fell on the ground and that was the worst decision I ever made, because everyone just jumped on me."

Amaker said his team was heartbroken after the loss but he didn't feel like the game slipped away from them.

"We're certainly heartbroken and devastated, as you can imagine being on the end of that," Amaker said. "But both teams could have felt they deserved to win this basketball game. I think that would be a fair statement... Certainly we had a lead, and they inched their way back in it. We honestly felt it wasn't going to be a game where either team ran away with it, not the way that both of us played all year, especially against one another... give them credit, they kept their poise and composure. Made some really good plays to put themselves back into contention and certainly got it at the end."

Amaker said his team's poor free throw shooting and defense under the backboard hurt their chances today.

"Their ability to get on the backboard hurt us," Amaker said. "You look at the numbers there. And I thought, it's amazing, we've been one of the better foul shooting teams in the country all year, and that was an area that certainly didn't help us this afternoon."

Amaker was asked what he had to say to his team after the game.

"I told them I was incredibly proud of them and so impressed by their total effort today and all season long," Amaker said. "I'm proud of our program and we will be playing more basketball this season."

Keith Wright scored 16 points for Harvard (23-6), which still has a chance for an at-large bid.

Ian Hummer's basket in the lane gave Princeton a 61-60 lead with 37 seconds left. Harvard chose not to call a timeout and Brandyn Curry found himself open for a layup that gave Harvard the lead with 11 seconds left.

The Crimson led 38-30 early in the second half after a pair of baskets from Wright.

But Princeton cut it to 40-38 thanks to Hummer, who had five points during the Tigers' 8-2 run.

Wright, who did not have a foul in the first half, picked up fourth with just over 7 minutes left in the game and Harvard leading 50-46.

Davis hit a long two-pointer and followed that with a 3 to give the Tigers a 51-50 lead.

A 3-pointer by Harvard's Brandyn Curry tied the game at 55.

The Crimson were outrebounded by Princeton 36-24, and the Tigers had 14 offensive boards.

Princeton has now won 26 Ivy League titles, but it was the first for coach Sydney Johnson, a 1997 Princeton graduate who played on two of those championship teams and took over as coach in 2007.

"This is the first time that these guys get to go to the NCAA tournament, and it's a very special moment for us," Johnson said.

The Ivy League has never sent two teams to the NCAA tournament in one year, but Harvard is hoping to get an at-large bid in the expanded 68-team field.

"I don't know how that process works," Amaker said. "The powers that be will make those cases and those decisions."

Harvard and Princeton split their regular-season meetings. The Tigers won at home 65-61 on Feb. 4, and Harvard beat Princeton 79-67 last weekend to earn a share of the conference title.

The league played the game on Yale's campus, about 130 miles from each school.

Before the game, Harvard and Princeton students chanted "Yale sucks!"

Game notes courtesy of The Ivy League:

The 2011 Playoff was the eighth in Ivy League menís basketball history. Princeton has been involved in all eight playoffs, winning four (1963, 1981, 1996 and 2011). Todayís win evens the Tigersí Ivy playoff record at 4-4 (.500).

Princetonís 63-62 victory was the third one-point win in League playoff history. The Tigersí were on the losing end of previous two -- 1959 (Dartmouth 69, Princeton 68) and 1980 (Penn 50, Princeton 59).

The game-winning basket by Princetonís Douglas Davis went through the hoop with 0.2 remaining on the clock.

With the win, Princeton earned its 24th trip to the NCAA Division I Menís Basketball Championship and first since the 2003-04 season. The 24 appearances now lead the Ivy League, breaking a tie with Penn, which has 23 NCAA Tournament appearances.

Advancing to the 2011 NCAA Tournament ends Princetonís longest NCAA Tournament drought (seven years) since a similar seven-year drought from 1969-76.

Since 1939, the Ivies have combined for a 40-77 (.342) record in 67 appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

Princeton holds a 127-39 all-time series lead over Harvard. The two teams split their regular-season meetings on Feb. 4 at Princeton and March 5 at Harvard, with each team winning on its home floor. This was the first time in the 110-year history of the Princeton-Harvard series that the teams met on a neutral court.

There were 10 ties and 10 lead changes in todayís game.

Harvard earned a share of its first-ever Ivy League menís basketball title since the League officially began play in 1956-57 with a March 5 win over Princeton. With its March 8 win over Penn, Princeton earned a share of its League-leading 26th Ivy title and its first since the 2003-04 season. This yearís Ivy championship ends what is tied for Princetonís longest drought -- six seasons -- between Ivy titles. The Tigers went without a league crown from 1970-75, also a six-season span.

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The play-by-play recap:

2d half, 00:02: Brandyn Curry with a layup gives Harvard a one point lead, 62-61. Princeton ball.

2d half, 2:22: Brandyn Curry just hit one of two from the line to give Harvard a one point lead, 58-57.

2d half, 3:17: A huge tip in by Keith Wright after an Oliver McNally drive to the basket briefly gave Harvard the lead, but Princeton came right back and it's now tied 57-57. Curry hit a huge three prior to that play. The pace is now getting close to frantic.

2d half, 5:13: Princeton shut down Brandyn Curry under the basket on a drive by the guard and hit a jumper on the transition to take a 51-50 lead.

2d half, 10:30: Harvard guard Oliver McNally just drove the basket, scored and was fouled, after hitting the foul shot, the Crimson lead 48-42. McNally just grabbed a loose ball back on the defensive end. The bad news for Harvard, Keith Wright just picked up his third foul on the latest transition.

2d half, 11:33: Princeton cut the lead, but it's Harvard who's playing strong under their own basket to grab key rebounds and push the ball back at the Tigers. Keith Wright just powered in two for the Crimson. The forward has 13 points to lead Harvard. Christian Webster has 12.

2d half, 15:55: Princeton putting some pressure on Harvard to start the second half, holding strong on defense under the basket, they've got a chance to cut the deficit to to three when the take the ball in next. Harvard still on top, 40-35.

Halftime: Brandyn Curry is doing his best Rajon Rondo impression as he said he would on Wednesday. Curry just fed guard Laurent Rivard under the basket for a quick two that puts the Crimson up 32-25, their biggest lead of the game as the first half comes to a close.

1st half, 5:51: Medway's Kyle Casey just finished off a monster alley-oop dunk fed from Curry that puts the Crimson up 25-20. A 7-0 run for Harvard. It's nip and tuck here with the guards doing most of the damage for Harvard. Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster have six points each, and Oliver McNally has five points.

1st half, 10:59: Momentum shift. Princeton jumps on top 16-13. Harvard guard Christian Webster had the ball stripped and that led to four unanswered points for the Tigers.

1st half, 13:59: Harvard jumps out to an early lead as Oliver McNally just hit a jumper from the corner to put the Crimson up 11-6. Brandyn Curry has been pushing the Harvard offense and has four points thus far. Both teams missed several shots in the early going.

And we're underway at Yale where Harvard is talking on Princeton, with both teams vying for a chance to NCAA dance.

Tthe 2010-11 co-champions are meeting for the third time this season here at Yale's John J. Lee Amphitheater in a one-game playoff to determine the League's automatic bid recipient for the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.

It's a loud, wild and crazy college hoop sceen here at a jam packed Lee Amphitheater to start the game.

We'll be providing updates throughout.

Princeton is the home team by virtue of its better record against the next highest team in the standings. Harvard and Princeton split their regular-season series and Princeton was 2-0 against third-place Yale while Harvard was 1-1 against the Bulldogs.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this update.

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