PHILADELPHIA, PA. 3/14/2015 – In a classic that was not decided until the final horn the Harvard Crimson earned an NCAA Tournament berth by winning the Ivy League Men’s Basketball Playoff game against the Yale Bulldogs 53 – 51 played at the Palestra. The Crimson broke the tie on a jumper by forward Steve Moundou-Missi with 9 seconds left to play. The Bulldogs had one last chance when guard Javier Duren drove the length of the floor and put up a shot that got to the basket, bounced off the rim, then fell away. Yale got a rebound but the follow-up shot was too late and off the mark. With the win Harvard earned their fifth straight Ivy Title, this year shared with Yale, and will go the NCAA’s for the fourth consecutive year.
“Our senior class, we talk about what our legacy should be,” said Harvard senior guard Wesley Saunders. “We wanted to cement our legacy and come out with a victory.”
The Crimson appeared to be in control behind the play of Saunders who scored 9 straight points to give his team a 36 – 32 lead at the thirteen minute mark. Saunders, who scored a game high 22 points and handed out 4 assists, accounted for 6 of the next 10 Harvard points to stretch the lead to the largest of the game at 46 – 37 with 6:19 to play.
The game was not over. Yale fought back behind a 12 – 2 run to take a 49 – 48 lead at the 1:47 mark when Bulldogs guard Makai Mason made a short jumper. The basket was answered by a traditional three-point play by Saunders who was awarded the basket after a review. Saunders converted and Harvard had a 2-point lead that was matched by two free throws by Duren to tie the game at 51.
With under a minute to play Moundou-Missi missed a jumper. Neither team could get a clean rebound and the ball went out-of-bounds. After a review the ball was awarded to Harvard at the 37 second mark setting up the key sequence.
The Crimson moved the ball around finally getting it to Saunders who drove into the paint. The Yale defense converged forcing Saunders to pass the ball back out to Moundou-Missi at the top of the key who made the winning shot. Saunders was confident that his decision would be the right one.
“I trust Steve to knock down that shot more than I do myself sometimes,” said Saunders. “I knew they were going to collapse when I got into the paint and Steve played off of my penetration and knocked down the shot.”
“I’ve always said about Wesley is that is not the points he scored, but the points he is responsible for, and today he put us on his back,” said Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker.
Yale still had that last chance as Duren, who scored 12 points in the game, took off and tried to tie the game once again, but the shot did not fall.
“I thought it was in, but the ball took a crazy bounce,” said Duren. “In a situation like that it is hard to get a better look. I tried to make a play, but the ball didn’t go in.”
Harvard will go into the next round of games with a 22 – 7 record. Despite the loss Yale (22 – 10) will most likely play in a post-season tournament. Both teams will know they gave the 5,256 in attendance a memorable 15th Game.
“Anybody who came to this game tonight would walk away wanting more,” said Yale Coach James Jones.
Written By: Glenn Papazian