Harvard (9-1 Ivy) beats Yale at Lavietes

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- It was Greg Mangano versus Brandyn Curry, with first place in the Ivy League on the line.

Of course, that's a little disingenuous. Mangano is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound center who leads the Ancient Eight in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Curry is a 6-1, 195-pound point guard who's fourth on his own team in scoring.

So they weren't necessarily going head to head when Yale Bulldogs came to Lavietes Pavilion to take on Harvard Crimson. But when the final buzzer sounded, they'd played the biggest parts.

Things started about as well as they could have for Yale. Mangano blocked Crimson star Keith Wright's shot in the post on the first offensive possession and then drained a 3-pointer on the other end.

He had seven of the Bulldogs' first nine points, looking strong early.

Then it was Harvard's turn. Oliver McNally hit his first three shots -- including two 3-pointers -- to spur the hosts on a 30-10 run, capped by a Curry floater over a charging defender on the baseline to open up a 20-point lead.

But Yale didn't wilt.

The Bulldogs scored the last 11 points of the first half to cut it to 35-26 at the break. Harvard didn't hit a field goal for the final 3:57 of the first half, and the drought continued in the first 2:26 of the second half. By that time, the Bulldogs had gone on a 14-2 burst to cut the lead in half.

"That was a bad ending," McNally acknowledged, "but I still think we outplayed them in the first half. They're a good team with some weapons. We kind of forgot about that last couple minutes and tried to move on to the second half.

"We thought we were playing better overall and we were gonna be fine."

Coach Tommy Amaker said the Crimson talk a lot about three words: concentration, composure and confidence. They displayed all three in the second half, led especially by their point guard.

"Brandyn is a great player," his backcourt mate McNally said, "and when he attacks like that. … It's great to have him like this, when he's attacking and really just making plays, whether it's for himself or for his teammates."

Curry scored nine of the Crimson's first 12 points in the second half, hitting a pair of free throws, tossing in a running layup, popping a jumper off a screen and drilling a corner 3 off an inbounds pass.

"I was just being aggressive," Curry said. "That's one thing coach talked about, 'Just go out there and be aggressive offensively, just make plays for the team.' He said, 'Don't not look for your offense, as well, because it makes us a better team.'

"I just had openings and I just went for it, pretty much."

The Crimson are glad he did, because thanks to his run early in the second half they survived the furious Yale run and improved their hold on first place in the Ivy League with a 66-51 win, their 27th straight at Lavietes.

"Brandyn hasn't scored a lot this year for us, he's been our playmaker," Amaker said. "And you know what, he made plays tonight but it was for himself as opposed to for others."

Curry was 4-for-5 shooting, including 1-for-1 on 3s, in the second half, and finished 6-for-9 with 18 points, 5 assists and only two turnovers.

"It's the mark of a really good player and a good point guard," Amaker said. "You have to pick your spots as a point guard that can score. And he can score. It was nice to see him find a rhythm and be offensively aggressive and [make] plays."

Wright was equally impressed.

"Tremendous," the senior co-captain said of Curry. "He's our floor leader, our floor general, our quarterback. I told him this weekend, I said 'You just need to be aggressive.' Teams aren't expecting him to drive the ball and have that scoring mentality that he had in that second half especially, so he played tremendously. I'm proud of him."

And while Mangano was a force, leading Yale to within four at one point, and finishing with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, it wasn't enough.

Wright played hard, hanging tough on the Bulldogs big man and finishing two rebounds shy of a second straight double-double (10 points, 8 rebounds). But it was Curry who made the difference.

"That's the beauty of this team so far this season, is that we've had great balance," Amaker said. "And I love that about our team. We don't have a go-to guy, we refer to the go-to guy as the open guy. And we like that brand of basketball."

"We're a deep team," Wright echoed. "One thing Coach says to us every so often is 'It's amazing what we can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit.' We're a scary team like that, where we have so many weapons and on any given night someone can come out and score close to 20 points, like Brandyn did."

Curry's aggressiveness gave Harvard a sweep of archrival Yale and improved its Ivy-leading record to 9-1 (23-3 overall).

"This was a huge game," Curry said. "So I'm glad we were able to take care of business. We knew it was gonna be a tough two games this weekend, so I'm glad that we were able to buckle down and get the two W's."

Like a true floor leader, though, Curry already had his eyes on the next target.

"We've got another tough week ahead of us next week with Penn and Princeton coming here, so we've just gotta get back at it in practice this week," he said.

That's aggressiveness the Crimson could get used to.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.