Saunder's big night helped lift Harvard past Princeton for 18th straight win at home (Gil Talbot).
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's basketball team built a 15 point lead and held on down the stretch as it defeated Princeton Friday night, 82-76, in front of a sold out Lavietes Pavilion.
The win was Harvard's 18th straight at home, matching N.C. Central for the sixth longest home win streak in the country. The Crimson also improved to 16-3 overall and 3-0 against the Ivy League, marking the fifth straight year the team has begun 3-0 or better in conference.
Wesley Saunders led Harvard at both the offensive and defensive ends, totaling 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting along with nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals. This was the fifth time this season he has scored at least 20 points, and fifth time he has dished out at least five dimes.
Laurent Rivard totaled a season-high 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond-the-arc, 3-of-4 from the line, as he moved into fifth place in Ivy League history with 247 career three's. Kyle Casey added 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting with five rebounds, and Siyani Chambers chipped in five assists.
Princeton (12-4, 0-2 Ivy League) was paced by T.J. Bray's 26-point outburst while Hans Brase added 20. Bray shot 9-of-13 overall and was 4-of-6 from three, with Brase going 8-of-14 from the field and 3-of-7 from deep.
Harvard forced Princeton to turn the ball over on its first two possessions and led 4-0 after a Steve Moundou-Missi dunk and Casey jumper. A pair of Brase three-pointers gave the Tigers their first lead, 6-5, and Brase followed a basket by Saunders for an 8-7 edge. Saunders came back on the next possession to regain the lead for the Crimson, and then caused a turnover which led to an Evan Cummins back-door cut, 11-8.
A third triple by Brase evened the score at 11 but only briefly, as back-to-back baskets by Saunders helped Harvard to a 17-11 advantage. A three for Rivard put the score at 22-17, before a pair of goaltending calls against Harvard pulled Princeton to within one, 22-21. A drive by Bray put the Tigers back in front, 23-22, and a three for Bray the next trip down the court made it a 26-24 margin. Rivard kept the fireworks going with a corner three for a 27-26 Harvard edge before Moundou-Missi and Saunders teamed up for four straight points and a 31-29 margin.
The Crimson went up 35-31 off a pair of Casey free throws and a Saunders jumper, but Ben Hazel beat the buzzer with Princeton's fifth trey of the half to cut Harvard's lead to 36-35 at the break. Saunders led the Crimson through the first 20 minutes with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with a team-high five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Brase, meanwhile, paced the Tigers with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including a 3-of-4 clip from beyond-the-arc.
Harvard's offense continued to run through Saunders in the second half as the junior scored six straight points to take a 42-39 advantage. Chambers put the Crimson up by four with his first make of the night, 46-42, and Rivard's third triple, assisted by Saunders, pushed the score to 49-42. A pair of layups edged the Tigers to within four, 50-46, but Rivard ended the potential run with yet another three-pointer, 53-46. On the ensuing possession Chambers came away with a steal and took it himself all the way to the rim, putting the Crimson in front by nine, 55-46.
Chambers hit 1-of-2 at the line to extend the lead into double-digits, 56-46, and after Casey came down the lane for a two-handed dunk the sold out crowd was on edge. Rivard brought everyone to their feet with his fifth triple, and another dunk by Casey made it a 13-2 Harvard run for a 63-48 margin. A layup by Bray made it a seven-point game, but Casey found Brandyn Curry cutting along the baseline for an easy lay-in and after a Saunders bucket, the lead was back at 11, 70-59.
Bray made it a five-point game with 1:45 remaining before Casey tipped in a missed Chambers free throw for a 73-66 edge. The margin was four after Brey hit another three, 75-71, but this time it was Saunders who halted the surge at the line, 77-71. The Crimson went to the line six more times over the final 27 seconds, and hit five of its attempts to walk away with the 82-76 win.
Game Notes: Harvard earned its 18th straight win at home, the sixth longest streak in the NCAA … Harvard has started 3-0 or better in the Ivy League each of the last five years … The Crimson pulled away in the second half with a 13-2 run to open a 63-48 lead … Wesley Saunders led Harvard in points (24), rebounds (9), assists (7) and steals (3) … Wesley Saunders has scored 20 points or more five times this season, 11 times in his career … Laurent Rivard scored a season-high 18 points and made five three-pointers to move into fifth place in Ivy League History (247) … Laurent Rivard has made five three-pointers in a game three times this season … Harvard has won four straight games at home versus Princeton … The game was the third sell out of the season for Harvard and the program's 19th in the last three years.