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Harvard beats Yale 70-58 to earn NCAA berth

(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

By PAT EATON-ROBB

Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) 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.

Yale had one second-half run. The Bulldogs cut it to 59-51 on Brandon Sharrod's free throw with 3 1/2 minutes left after drawing Moundou-Missi's fifth foul.

But Chambers answered with a 3-pointer on the other end. Another 3 by Laurent Rivard pushed the lead back to 12 at 65-53 and Yale was forced to foul.

"We had our chances, even with a 17-point lead," Yale coach James Jones said.

Harvard scored the first nine points and held Yale without a field goal for better than four minutes. A layup from Sears broke the drought, but only interrupted the early Harvard run.

Sears, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds in Yale's upset of Harvard last month, kept the Bulldogs within striking distance, scoring 13 first-half points. His dunk on a wrap-around feed from Brandon Sherrod cut it to 27-19.

But back-to-back 3s from Brandyn Curry gave the Crimson a 36-23 lead at the half.

The Crimson stretched the lead to 48-31 early in the second half on a dunk by Wesley Saunders, who finished with nine points. It was 53-35 after a free throw by Moundou-Missi with just over nine minutes left.

The Crimson's 12 conference wins tie the program record it set in 2011 and 2012. They will have a change to make it 13 on Saturday at Brown. Harvard had outscored Ivy League opponents by more than 16 points a game.

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.

Harvard's Curry and Kyle Casey missed last season after withdrawing from school amid a cheating scandal that involved more than 100 students. Casey greeted chants of "Cheater! Cheater!" directed at the two of them by saluting the Yale student section.

The smaller Harvard student section got the final laugh, chanting "This is our House!" as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

Updated March 7, 2014

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