A year after stealing the Ivy League title from Harvard with a last-second shot, Princeton gave the Crimson the crown and an NCAA berth, and took no joy in doing it.
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Ian Hummer had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Tigers to a 62-52 victory over Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, giving Harvard the league title and its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1946.
"It was an interesting game coming in," said Princeton senior forward Patrick Saunders, who scored 10 points. "We don’t have much love for either team. So it’s definitely nice to get a win but it’s kind of tough to swallow, knowing that our win puts Harvard in the tournament."
Penn (19-12, 11-3) needed to win the game to tie Harvard (26-4, 12-2) for the regular-season championship and force a one-game playoff for the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
However, the Quakers came out flat, fell behind by 17 points early in the first half and never got over the hump.
It allowed Harvard to celebrate a year after Princeton and Douglas Davis dashed their hopes in a playoff game with a last-second game-winner.
"We are thrilled and honored to have an opportunity to compete in the 2012 NCAA tournament," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said in a statement. "This is a tremendous moment for Harvard University, our basketball program and our community. Go Crimson!"
Davis felt the same as Saunders. He took no joy in helping Harvard. However, he didn’t want to help Penn, either.
"I didn’t feel right letting Penn win the Ivy League, or share the Ivy League title and win it on our home court," said Davis, who finished with 12 points. "This is a rivalry. Our rivalry with Penn goes way back. Harvard, they’re good, but our rivalry is with Penn, so yeah. Harvard, yeah, they won the Ivy League, but Penn wasn’t going to win it on our court."
Princeton (19-11, 10-4) had some anxious moments in the second half, when Penn got to within 34-31 with 12:25 to play.
Hummer then hit a 15-footer to ignite a 7-0 run and the Tigers closed out the game for their 17th straight league win at home.
Penn coach Jerome Allen wasn’t happy with the way his team played defensively and was disappointed to come up short of a title.
"From the start of the game, (Princeton) really didn’t have anything to play for other than to just be the spoilers," Allen said. "How can the team playing for nothing, play harder than the team that is supposedly playing for something. That’s really what blew my mind. OK, the ball wasn’t going in but defensively they just got whatever they wanted."
Princeton shot 58.3 percent (21 of 36) for the game, including nearly 65 percent in the first half.
Zack Rosen had 19 points on 8-of-24 shooting from the field for Penn. Miles Cartwright added 11 for the Quakers, who were held to 38.6 percent shooting from the field (22 of 57).
"We blew our opportunity," Rosen said. "That’s the bottom line. There is nothing past that to say."
Hummer’s jumper pushed the lead to 36-31 and T.J. Bray followed with a floater before Davis, playing in his final league contest, nailed a 3-pointer for a 41-31 advantage.
Rosen sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a basket by Patrick Saunders to close the gap to 43-37, but the Quakers never got any closer.
Princeton hit 11 of its first 15 shots and led by as many as 17 points in the first half before Rosen got the Quakers back in the game, scoring nine points in an 11-4 spurt to close the half.
Penn had to work for almost every point and Rosen, who had 28 points in the Quakers’ 82-67 win on Jan. 30, was the focal point of the Princeton defense.
Penn’s 17 first-half points were a season low and came on 8-of-24 shooting from the field.
The Tigers finished the first half 11 of 17, or nearly 65 percent. Seven of those 11 baskets were layups, while three others came from long range. Hummer led the way with eight points.