Davis Hits, Tigers Dance
Ask any Princeton fan for his or her favorite two of those points. It won't be a tough choice.
Davis' jumper from just inside the 3-point arc on a play that began with Princeton down by one point and with 2.8 seconds to go lifted the Tigers to a 63-62 win over Harvard in an Ivy League playoff game at Yale's John J. Lee Amphitheater.
Davis' shot fell, and for an Ivy League-record 24th time, the Princeton Tigers are going dancing. Their seed in the NCAA Tournament will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. on CBS.
"I got a good screen from Will Barrett. Originally I thought they were going to deny me the ball, but I was able to get open," Davis said. "I took a couple dribbles, was able to fade. It felt good. It went in, I fell on the ground, and that was the worst decision that I ever made because everybody jumped on me."
It is the first NCAA Tournament for the current players and first for the program since 2004, ending the longest drought for Princeton since the Tigers didn't go from 1970-1975.
"We've won 26 as a program, but this is the first time that these guys get to go to the NCAA Tournament," Sydney Johnson, the Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green '40 head coach, said. "It's a very special moment for us."
Princeton was facing a team with a much longer drought, as Harvard made its only NCAA appearance in 1946. For most of the game, it looked as if that wait would come to an end.
But the same Princeton team that scored 51 points in a span of less than 18 minutes Tuesday at The Palestra showed itself again just in time.
Princeton trailed by six at 50-44 with 9:06 to go after Oliver McNally hit a pair of free throws for the Crimson, but the Tigers kept Harvard at 50 for four minutes while chipping away on the offensive end.
Brendan Connolly had a bucket to make it 50-46. Davis followed with another at the 6:23 mark to make it 50-48. And it was Davis again who buried a 3-pointer less than a minute later to give the Tigers a 51-50 lead with 5:50 left.
From there, it was a possession-by-possession game. Princeton held the largest lead from that point at 55-52, gained on a Dan Mavraides basket with 4:20 to go, but Brandyn Curry answered for Harvard with a game-tying 3-pointer on the next trip down the floor.
The teams traded baskets until Harvard's Curry had a possible game-winning layup with 11 seconds left to put Harvard ahead 62-61.
Davis brought the ball up court, and Johnson called the Tigers' final timeout with 2.8 left. Mavraides found Davis, and Princeton's NCAA Tournament fate rested on whether one attempt, at the end of a 30-game regular season that wasn't long enough to decide the Ivy League race, found the net.
Both Princeton and Harvard (23-6) finished as co-champions at 12-2 in Ivy League play, while this Tiger team, at 25-6, became the second-winningest club in program history with Saturday's win. Only the 1998 team, which finished 27-2 and pocketed Princeton's last NCAA Tournament win, had more victories. The 1967 team had as many wins, at 25.
The Tigers prevailed despite being outshot 51.1% to 41.8%, countering that with a 36-24 edge on the glass. Princeton capitalized on its tries from the line, making 14-15, while Harvard's 10 of 16 from the stripe was uncharacteristic for the second-best free-throw shooting team in the nation on the season.
Davis, a two-time All-Ivy League player who was left off this year's All-Ivy team, led Princeton in its biggest game of the season with 15 points as one of four Tigers in double figures. Sophomore Ian Hummer added 13, while senior Mavraides had 11 and Kareem Maddox statted a double-double with 10 points and 13 boards.
Keith Wright had 16 points to lead Harvard, ahead of McNally's 13 and Christian Webster and Curry with 12 each. Kyle Casey, who piled up 24 points against the Tigers in last Saturday's 79-67 loss in Cambridge, finished with seven points. Both Wright and Casey found foul trouble in the second half, picking up four each.