Princeton forces Ivy playoff with win vs. Penn

March 8, 2011 8:38:45 PM PST
Princeton and Harvard are set for their toughest test yet: A one-game playoff for the Ivy League championship that sends the winner to the NCAA tournament.

The Tigers forced a tie for the title and the playoff with a 70-58 win over Penn on Tuesday night. Princeton and Harvard will play Saturday at Yale's John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Conn., in a one-game playoff for the league's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

It will be the seventh playoff in Ivy history, and the first since Yale, Penn and Princeton were tied at the end of the 2001-02 regular season - the only three-way tie in conference history.

Kareem Maddox scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half for the Tigers (24-6, 12-2 Ivy).

Coach Sydney Johnson embraced his team and coaching staff as the final seconds ticked off the clock. He glanced at the scoreboard, pumped his fist and rubbed his head as he walked toward Penn's bench for congratulatory handshakes.

Princeton hopes a bigger one awaits.

Harvard (23-5, 12-2 Ivy League) has not appeared in the NCAA tournament since 1946, and it was the only Ivy League school that had not won a championship since the conference was formed in 1956-57.

Princeton has not played in the NCAA tournament since 2004.

The teams split a pair of games during the regular season. The Tigers, who have the third-highest win total in team history, won 65-61 on Feb. 4. Kyle Casey scored a season-high 24 points to lead Harvard to a 79-67 victory over Princeton on Saturday.

Princeton orange was scattered around the bleachers of the famed Palestra for the biggest Ivy League game of the season.

Of course, that distinction now shifts to the neutral site at Yale. The Ivies would consider Harvard and Princeton co-champions, but the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament would go to the winner of the one-game playoff.

The Tigers started an 11-0 run midway through the second half to the delight of the hundreds of fans dressed in orange.

Princeton ran plays for easy baskets inside to chip away at an eight-point deficit but pulled away with 3s. Patrick Saunders started the run with a 3, and Douglas Davis and Saunders hit consecutive 3-pointers for a 55-42 lead.

The Tigers pushed the lead to 14 points.

Johnson led the Tigers to a share of their 26th Ivy League title. Princeton ends a six-season drought without an Ivy League title, an eternity for a program that went to the NCAAs six times in the 1990s.

Ian Hummer scored 14 points for Princeton and the Tigers made 8 of 16 3s.

Tyler Bernardini led Penn (13-15, 7-7) with 18 points.