Princeton’s up-and-down season continued its enigmatic pattern with another split at home, beginning with a lackluster 67-57 win over Dartmouth, followed by an historic loss at the hands of the Harvard Crimson, 59-47.
The Tigers hit the floor on Friday still reeling from the devastating OT loss in New Haven six nights earlier. Both teams had trouble getting out of the blocks, resulting in a rather desultory opening 10 minutes, and a one point Tiger lead, 10-9.
The Tiger defense got on track over the second 10 minutes, as Princeton took control of the game. The halftime lead of 30-19 reflected the defensive effort, a hallmark of the Tigers’ play in recent weeks. As the half ended, the Tigers were on a run that continued after the break and reached 14-0. With less than 5 minutes to go, the Big Green faced a deficit that reached as high as 18 points. Henderson cleared his bench near the end and Dartmouth closed to the final margin, 67-57.
Four players reached double-figures, not surprising for this team, except for the absence of TJ Bray among them. The Tigers’ bell cow did contribute a game-high 7 assists, as he moves up the career ladder in that category. Freshman Spencer Weisz continued his most impressive rookie season, adding another double-double effort with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds in 33 minutes of action.
Saturday night’s atmosphere brought back memories of the Tigers’ glory days. The annual Alumni Weekend celebration and the presence of Harvard in the building combined to attract the season’s biggest crowd, including a raucous student section. The prospects for an upset were bright, since Harvard was on a 24 year winless streak at Jadwin, a record of futility even longer than Columbia’s 20 year drought beginning in 1993. The Lions snapped that streak two weeks ago. An ominous sign?
Had someone told Mitch Henderson that his team would hold Saunders to 7, shut Rivard out and yield only 57 to the whole Crimson team, I am sure he would have liked his chances to keep the streak alive. When the Tigers built an early 12 point lead, the mood in the arena brightened considerably. But, we all know how deep and talented the Crimson are. They have many weapons and a lot of experience winning games. They executed down the stretch and the Tigers did not. With Yale’s loss at Columbia yesterday, Harvard has got a grip– make that a stranglehold– on another Ivy crown.
The key play occurred with 8 minutes left and Harvard leading 41-40. After a rare Tiger offensive rebound, Bray found Brase isolated on a back door cut to the basket. Hans leaped to make the go-ahead slam dunk, but found the back rim instead. The resulting “clank” was collected by the Crimson, who quickly converted it into a Brandyn Curry 3. Seconds later, Mondou-Missi nailed an emphatic dunk of his own and the momentum had shifted inexorably to the Crimson. The Tigers managed only a Weisz three over the next 7 minutes.
Freshman Weisz distinguished himself with 12 points and a team-high 7 rebounds as he once again played 33 minutes. His most impressive stat is found in the Harvard box score: Rivard’s 0 points on 0-4 FGA. The Tiger freshman was glued to the Crimson senior sharpshooter all night. Rivard had never failed to score in his illustrious career when playing as many as 34 minutes before Saturday.
The Tigers need to sweep their final five games to reach the 20 win mark for the second time in Henderson’s three seasons.