Harvard clinches share of 4th Ivy title in row

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The Crimson often say the Ivy League is won on Saturday nights. And when Columbia came to Lavietes Pavilion for the final Harvard home game in 2013-14, that normally figurative saying turned literal.

A win Saturday night over the Lions would secure at least a share of a fourth straight Ivy League title, while a win and a Yale loss at Penn would guarantee an outright title and a third straight NCAA tourney berth.

The Crimson knew the stakes, and they played like it from the jump.

"We just came out ready," Wesley Saunders said. "I think we came out with a lot of energy."

Saunders came up with a steal early, pushed hard upcourt and then dropped the ball back to a trailing Kyle Casey, who gathered himself, launched from the middle of the lane and finished the highlight-reel dunk with two hands. Laurent Rivard shook his defender, found a pocket in front of the Columbia bench, called for the ball and then drained the shot.

And Siyani Chambers jumped the passing lane, picking off the toss and sprinting the length of the court for a layup.

That layup made it 22-4 Crimson, with just more than 10 minutes elapsed. It was just about as dominant a start as one team can have and highlighted all the Crimson's strengths (defense, 3-point and free throw shooting and a willingness to share the ball).

And while the Lions tried to fight back, the hill was too steep to climb, and the Crimson refused to make it any easier in an 80-47 win.

"I'm really proud of our guys. I'm really proud of this team, this group right now," Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. "I just thought that our defensive effort clearly was on full display, how we started the game with the pressure we were able to put on.

"I was very, very pleased with that with what was at stake for us tonight."

The capper came courtesy of the two-time co-captain, Rivard. With Harvard comfortably ahead, the St. Bruno, Quebec, native let a 3 fly from the top of the key. Swish. And to add insult to injury, Rivard drew a foul on his follow-through, getting clipped and sliding on his backside all the way to the 'H' at center court.

As the crowd serenaded the Crimson's all-time leader in games (119 and counting, passing Oliver McNally) and 3s made (276), Rivard calmly stepped to the line and completed the four-point play.

Rivard finished with a game-high 21 on six 3s and three free throws, ending his Harvard career at Lavietes with a flourish.

"If you can write a script, this would be one of the ones you could probably write," Amaker said. "It doesn't always happen that way, and you recognize that, but when it does, how wonderful and cool is it to see it and be a part of it?"

But Rivard and fellow seniors Casey (10 points, four rebounds) and Brandyn Curry (five points, three rebounds) aren't done just yet. Yale managed to hold off Penn, keeping its hopes of an Ivy share alive and amping up the game this coming Friday in New Haven, Conn., between the Crimson and the Bulldogs.

Though they are the first Ivy team since Penn from 1993 to 1996 to win at least a share of the title for four straight seasons, the Crimson aren't satisfied. They want more.

"We came into the weekend knowing that we had to win two games," Rivard said. "So far, it's worked out. We need at least another win. But we know we want two next weekend."

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