CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- While other upstarts have climbed into the rankings, Princeton has quietly toiled away this season, content to simply keep winning.
Now, the Tigers have something they've been chasing for more than three decades.
Freshman forward Niveen Rasheed had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Princeton beat Harvard 78-66 on Saturday to win its first outright Ivy League title since 1978 -- wrapping up a berth in the NCAA tournament.
"We knew our goal going into this season, we wanted the Ivy League, but we knew it was going to be hard," Rasheed said. "Just to win this game on their court, it's probably the best feeling that's ever happened to me and I am just happy to share it with this group of girls."
The Tigers (25-2, 13-0) broke open a close game midway through the second half, using their stingy defense and an 8-0 run to put the Crimson (19-8, 10-3) away. When the final buzzer sounded, they rushed the court to celebrate.
"Hopefully, it shows the seeding committee that we've beaten people," Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. "I think to beat people over a consistent period is very difficult, especially when you play on back-to-back nights."
Lauren Edwards added 17 points for Princeton, and Devona Allgood had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Emma Markley had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Harvard, her seventh double-double of the season. Victoria Lippert added 15 points and Brogan Berry had 14.
The Tigers shot 45.5 percent from the field while holding Harvard to 39 percent.
The Tigers' leading scorer and rebounder, Rasheed had only eight points after a frustrating first half. She got going after the break, though, scoring on a backdoor cut with 4:45 remaining to give the Tigers a 64-58 lead.
Harvard was unable to respond.
Behind the Princeton bench was a large caravan of fans -- a class of 1938 graduate among them -- covered from head to toe in bright orange. They've waited a long time to see the Tigers compete in the NCAA tournament and will finally get their chance.
"We're a team of 12," Banghart said. "We're not a team of five and then a second five, we're a team of 12. They're as competitive as can be. I mean, in shootaround they're competing."
Princeton came close to making the NCAA tournament in 2006, when it ended the regular season tied atop the Ivy League standings with Dartmouth. The Tigers lost in a one-game playoff.
"I think one of the most special things that makes this team very, very unique is whether it's UCLA, Rutgers, Brown, home, away, they don't care," Banghart said. "They care a lot more about the Princeton across their chest and it's a testament to the work ethic and the fight of these kids. I'm just so proud of them."
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