Yale coach James Jones left the past behind.
■ The Ivy League title Yale had to split with Harvard last year after a wild finish to the season.
■ The one-game playoff that determined the Ivy represenative in the NCAA Tournament.
■ The postseason snub after losing that game to Harvard.
The disappointment of last season would do the Bulldogs no good this season.
“We graduated four seniors and the ghost of that loss at that point,” Jones said.
A chipped shoulder wouldn’t be his team’s fuel this season. Just its talent.
“It’s just that this team is good,” Jones said. “Not that last year’s team wasn’t, but this team is good.”
The Bulldogs had proven it with every step they had taken leading them into Lavietes Pavilion to meet Harvard on Saturday night.
They had beaten every Ivy League team they faced, starting the season 7-0 in the league for the first time in school history. Overall, Yale had won 11 straight games. Harvard could recognize the wave Yale was riding because for the past six years, the Crimson were the ones riding it.
“They’re definitely a team right now that has great momentum,” said Harvard forward Zena Edosomwan. “You can’t deny that they’re playing great basketball. They look very confident on the court. They look very together.”
For the past two years, Harvard was the immovable object on Yale’s path to the NCAA Tournament. The only thing the Crimson stood in the way of on Saturday was about a century’s worth of history.
The Bulldogs’ 67-55 win over the Crimson stretched their overall winning streak to 12 games, bringing them one win closer to tying the program’s longest streak. The Bulldogs (17-5, 8-0 Ivy) haven’t won 13 games in a row in more than a century, when their 1906-07 team did it.
To Jones and his team, the individual parts of the winning streak were more important than its sum.
“With all we’ve been through with this group over the last three, four years, nothing fazes them,” Jones said. “We’ve been through so much up and down, they’re just ready for the next one.”
But the streak only told part of the story. Yale’s margin of victory told the rest. The Bulldogs had been beating teams by nearly 13 points a night. Harvard found itself in a 37-26 hole at the half, and the Crimson spent the second half fighting in vain to escape becoming the 13th team to lose to Yale by double digits.
Playing for just the second time since a quadriceps injury forced him to sit out two games a week ago, Edosomwan still appeared on sea legs for most of the first half. He missed five of his first six shots before settling into a rhythm in the second half.
“I tried to hit the ground running,” Edosomwan said. “But things weren’t necessarily going perfectly in the beginning, missing some easy shots. I guess I kind of forced some things, but I think later I settled down and found myself a little bit.”
He finished with 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting with 10 rebounds, but by then it was too late. The Crimson shot 40.4 percent, as Corey Johnson (14 points) was the only other Harvard player to score in double figures.
“We go to [Edosomwan] a lot and we need to probably be more efficient with the outcome of what we’re getting after utilizing him so much and going to him so much,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker.
Meanwhile, Yale’s Justin Sears, fresh off earning Ivy League player of the week honors, was already on his way to a 21-point night, the sixth time this season he’s gone for at least 20. Makai Mason added 15 points.
Only two other teams in the nation besides Yale were still unbeaten in their conference: Stony Brook in the America East and Stephen F. Austin in the Southland.
“They’re a really balanced team,” Amaker said. “I don’t know that they’re playing with a chip. I just know that they’re good and playing well.”
For the third straight year, the Crimson (7-15, 2-6) watched Yale walk off their floor with a win. But more than that, with just six games left, the Crimson had to face the reality that they’ve been ostensibly eliminated from the Ivy League race while their rival was running away with it.
“This is new for our team and our program and this stage,” Amaker said.
“It’s hard. But you find different things, and different opportunities can present themselves.
“These are the kinds of moments where you find out a lot — how hard we’re still going to go after it and still compete, who’s going to work to get better. There’s a lot that can be learned and taken from these kinds of moments.”
Edosomwan added: “Obviously, the NCAA Tournament, the NIT, things that we’ve been accustomed to, that’s not happening currently, but at the end of the day we’re competitors and I’m going to go out and compete regardless.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.