With less than 10 seconds remaining and Princeton trailing, 62-61, in its Ivy League playoff game against Harvard, Douglas Davis ’12 had a chance to be the hero. He drove toward the middle of the lane, detoured right, and pushed forward for a layup attempt, drawing contact and falling to the ground. Harvard's Kyle Casey blocked the ball out of bounds, and no foul was called.
“I was upset [about the no-call], but that’s part of the game,” Davis said. “You’ve got to keep moving.”
After a timeout, Davis had another chance, receiving an inbounds pass with 2.8 seconds left. He took two dribbles, faked, leaned away from the defender, and this time got the shot off, launching a 16-foot jumper that Tiger fans won’t soon forget.
“It felt good, it went in, and I fell on the ground,” Davis said. “That was the worst decision I made, because everybody jumped on me.”
The shot – and the crowd of Princeton students who descended on Davis to celebrate – capped an exciting, back-and-forth neutral site game at Yale’s Payne Whitney Gymnasium, played to decide which of the Ivy co-champs would represent the league in the NCAA Tournament. The gym was split in half between crimson and orange-and-black, the sides split neatly by the half-court line.
Harvard was attempting to earn its first NCAA bid in 65 years, and much of the pregame coverage focused on that fact. But for Princeton, a longtime Ivy power, the playoff paved the way for another kind of “first.”
“We’ve won 26 as a program, but this is the first time that these guys get to go to the NCAA Tournament,” head coach Sydney Johnson ’97 said. “It’s a very special moment for us.”
The game in detail
After a hectic opening stretch for both teams, Harvard began to settle into its offense and took a 13-8 lead when Brandyn Curry scored on a give-and-go pass from Keith Wright.
Princeton climbed back with an 8-0 run that started when Kareem Maddox ’11 made a bank-shot from the right side, drew a foul, and hit the free throw. Dan Mavraides ’11 followed with a steal and a fast break layup to tie the game. Mavraides then put Princeton ahead, 16-13, with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The game stayed close for the middle portion of the first half before Harvard made a burst of its own, a 7-0 run capped by Casey’s dunk with 6:15 on the clock. That put the Crimson ahead 25-20.
The Tigers received a lift from an unlikely source – center Brendan Connolly ’13, who averages less than three points a game. He powered to the rim for a layup, drew the foul, and made the free throw, narrowing the gap to two points. When Harvard extended the lead again, Connolly made two more foul shots, cutting the lead to 29-25. Harvard added three unanswered points and entered halftime with a 32-25 lead.
In the second half, the Tigers began to show the offense that had led it to a share of the Ivy title. Maddox was assertive in the lane, scoring five early points. Ian Hummer ’13 added two baskets inside, and Mavraides made a hesitation dribble, followed by a powerful drive for a layup. But with the Crimson still shooting well, the Tigers could not seem to climb closer than three points.
Davis changed that, hitting back-to-back shots – a long jump shot followed by a 3-pointer – to put Princeton ahead, 51-50, with 5:51 left. That set up an exciting final stretch in which both teams hit clutch shots and neither led by more than three points.
Key shots in the last four minutes included a 3-pointer by Curry (55-55), a two-handed putback by Wright (57-55), an awkward scooping layup by Maddox (57-57), and a scrambling layup by Casey (60-59).
Hummer put Princeton ahead on a layup with 0:38 left, but Harvard responded with an impressive drive by Curry, who put the Crimson up 62-61, setting up Davis’ late heroics.
Maddox finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Davis led the Tigers with 15 points, followed by Hummer with 13 and Mavraides with 11.