Three Pointer: Yale shocks Harvard, moves into first-place tie

1. We have a race in the Ivy League. With a win on Saturday night, Harvard would have been two games up on the rest of the Ivy League; no team has overcome a deficit that large to earn even a share of the title since Penn in 2002. But over the past few seasons, every time one team is in position to break open the title race, something happens. Once again, “something happened” at Lavietes Pavilion tonight: Yale, which entered Lavietes Pavilion as a 13-point underdog, left it with a 74-67 upset.

This is the new reality of the Ivy League: Even great teams can’t expect to go 14-0 or even 13-1 any longer. Harvard is still the clear favorite to win the conference, but it now shares first place with the Bulldogs, and several other teams are good enough to knock off the Crimson — especially with six of its final eight games coming on the road.

“I don’t think our league gets enough credit for how difficult it is to play Friday-Saturdays, and how difficult it is for anyone to run away with this thing,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “Now, you’re seeing a lot of teams that feel like they have an opportunity to win our conference, and I think that’s a strong statement for the depth and difficulty of our league.”

2. Yale’s physical offense puts everything together. Harvard went through several rough periods offensively — including the opening 3:55 of the first half and the first 5:10 of the second, in which the Crimson was scoreless — but overall the hosts scored 67 points on about as many possessions, which is uninspiring but not abysmal. Yale committed 19 turnovers, but on its other 48 trips, it scored 74 points — an astounding 1.54 points per turnover-less possession.

As usual, the Bulldogs played a physical style of offense, scoring 24 points from the free-throw line and another 28 in the paint. Justin Sears and Armani Cotton each posted double-doubles, helping the Bulldogs rebound more than 40 percent of their own missed shots. And though the Bulldogs didn’t take a ton of outside shots, they made six of 10 threes, including big second-half buckets from Cotton and Greg Kelley that turned a three-point lead into nine. “They were physical, they were tough in the paint, their post guys gave us all that we could handle. I thought they were clearly the better team tonight,” Amaker said.

3. Which Yale team is for real? The Bulldogs are now 5-1 in the Ivy League, coming off of a great weekend in which they also hammered Dartmouth on the road. But they haven’t played at nearly this level for most of the year — they went 0-7 against top-200 teams in non-conference play and struggled to put away lowly Cornell at home last weekend. Based on its body of work this season, Yale still isn’t much of a threat to stick with Harvard over the final eight games … and yet, there’s a reason the Bulldogs were considered a title contender before the season, and they showed why on Saturday. With only eight games remaining, Yale doesn’t have to be great for too much longer — it just needs to stay in contention until the final weekend, when Harvard visits New Haven.

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