clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ivy League Title: Harvard Gets Big Lift from Saunders to Defeat Yale

Harvard got some help to get to a playoff against Yale on Saturday. And then they got a lift from their best player to send them back to the NCAA Tournament.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In case you forgot, Wesley Saunders reminded all of us why he was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2014. Yale's Justin Sears might have borrowed the title this season, but Saturday, Saunders stole it back for 20 minutes.

The senior guard for Harvard scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, and made the crucial assist to Steve Moundou-Missi for the game-winning basket, as the Crimson closed out Yale in Game 15, 53-51.

The win, only necessary because Yale lost to Dartmouth in its final Ivy League game to require a playoff game for the title, sends Harvard into the NCAA Tournament for the fourth year in a row, and gives Saunders a chance to put on a show again on a bigger stage.

Yale led Harvard at halftime, thanks to strong rebounding by the Bulldogs. Despite being outsized, Yale was able to lengthen possessions and prevent Harvard from doing the same.

But the tide turned in the second half as Harvard began to turn up the pressure on the Bulldogs, perhaps sensing that their lone chance at the NCAA Tournament was slipping away. Saunders led the breakout, and went 8-for-15 from the floor in the game.

The game swung in the Crimson's favor with 14 minutes remaining in the second half. Saunders nailed a 3-pointer to grab the first lead for Harvard in over 10 minutes. The Crimson held on less than a minute later, Saunders found the net true again from 3-point range, putting Harvard up by four.

As the run continued, Harvard managed to extend the lead to eight points before Yale woke up behind Sears and the MVP of the previous meeting between these two, Javier Duren. The two helped the Bulldogs to briefly regain the lead with 1:26 remaining.

But before you forgot that Saunders was out on the floor, he drove the basket and got an amazing continuation to help add three more points to his total.

And when someone is so hot for an entire half, he is going to be the focus of the defense. With the clock winding down, and overtime looking like a distinct possibility, Saunders again drove and when two men collapsed on him in the paint, he found Moundou-Missi for the wide-open jumper.

Just think about it for a second what was on the line there. If Moundou-Missi misses the shot, Saunders will be vilified for not taking the shot with how hot he had been from the floor. And still he gave up the ball -- the absolutely correct move in this case, and has his team back dancing.

Sears led Yale with 13 points and three steals. Moundou-Missi had 11 points and nine rebounds in the win.