Harvard took care of the opening leg of its first full Ivy League men’s basketball weekend with an 82-76 victory over Princeton last night at Lavietes Pavilion.

But it didn’t come without angst.

The Tigers cut a 15-point lead to four with less than a minute remaining. Harvard forward Kyle Casey grabbed a big rebound in traffic after Princeton guard T.J. Bray missed a 3-pointer, and the Crimson (16-3, 3-0) used free throws in the closing seconds to grab their 18th straight victory at home.

Bray finished with a game-best 26 points for the Tigers (12-4, 0-2).

Guard Wesley Saunders powered Harvard, which lost center Kenyatta Smith to a broken foot for the season and played without forward Jonah Travis (concussion) and guard/forward Agunwa Okolie (knee). Saunders nearly finished with a triple-double, scoring 24 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing seven assists.

Guard Laurent Rivard went 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point line to score 18 points while the Crimson overcame 13 missed free throws.

“Our conference is a bear,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. “I don’t think anybody is going to feel like they have a chance when it’s all said and done if you can’t feel like you have a very good home record within our league. We knew how critical this was tonight.”

Princeton’s Bray made a 3-pointer to tie things at 42-42 just three minutes into the second half.

Harvard then scored 21 of the next 27 points, with Rivard producing 11 in a run that lasted seven-plus minutes. Rivard put the Crimson up nine with a 3-pointer right in front of Harvard’s bench. Later in the run, Casey grabbed a rebound and led Saunders with a good outlet pass. Saunders knifed across the lane and found Rivard for another 3-pointer to take a 13-point lead with 10:35 remaining.

“I thought it was going to be a good game,” Rivard said. “I just keep going to my spots and my teammates (kept) finding me.”

The Crimson nearly let the Tigers back into it because of uncharacteristic free-throw shooting. Harvard, which came into the game shooting 74 percent at the line, hit only 20 of its 33 free throws. The Tigers, meanwhile, were able to stretch out the last couple of minutes with fouls and timely 3-point shooting to make it interesting.