Saturday night in the Ivy League … you just never know!
The Tigers canned 13 three-pointers Saturday evening against the visiting Harvard Crimson. They needed every one of them, plus two Richmond Aririguzoh free throws with 3.9 seconds to go, to hold off the relentless Crimson, 70-69, before the largest home crowd in recent memory.
Princeton (9-8, 4-0 Ivy) raced out of the blocks, perhaps sensing that Harvard (13-6, 2-2) might be a little sluggish after an overtime affair in Penn’s steamy Palestra Friday night. Flexing their three-point muscles early, the Tigers got six threes from four different players to take a 31-17 lead at the 8:44 mark of the first period.
At that point, the Tiger offense sputtered almost to a stop, giving the feisty Crimson an opportunity to close the gap. And close the gap they did. Noah Kirkwood, who appears to be embracing his status as Harvard’s “go-to guy,” and senior big man Chris Lewis spurred a Crimson surge resulting in a 12-2 run to close out the first half. The Tigers could manage just one Jaelin Llewellyn two-pointer in the final eight minutes. Ominously, RA went to the free throw line three times in this stretch but came up empty. The Tigers’ 14-point lead shrank to four, 33-29, at the break.
Things went swimmingly for the home club to start the second half. Finding the going very tough inside thanks to Harvard’s imposing front line, Princeton was able to kick out for a number of wide open three-point looks. In a happy repeat of their first-half success, four different Tigers found the range from beyond the arc, this time making seven in the opening 13 minutes.
Holding the Crimson pretty well in check, Princeton restored a double digit advantage, 48-38, after seven minutes. A gorgeous RA feed to Jerome Desrosiers for a two-handed dunk gave the Tigers a 12-point lead, 59-47, with nine minutes to go. Having come back in the first half already, Harvard was not going away easily. Lewis and company cut the lead to five at 59-54. Drew Friberg’s long three, the Tigers’ final one of the evening, pushed the margin up to eight.
RA and Chris Lewis traded layups making the score 64-56 with six and a half minutes remaining. The Tigers would not score from the field again. In fact, neither team would score over the next two minutes. RA did make two free throws to put the Tigers up by 10 at the 4:22 mark.
A Lewis layup ended the Crimson drought a minute later. The Crimson, of course, came storming back. In the next two minutes, Harvard scored seven points while the Tigers could manage only an Ethan Wright free throw. Schwieger made one of two from the charity stripe to make the score 68-65 with 41 seconds remaining. Four Harvard free throws, two by Christian Juzang and two by Kirkwood with 15 seconds left brought the Crimson all the way back to a 69-68 lead.
The Tigers headed upcourt determined to get the ball to RA down low. They did, but RA’s point-blank effort was blocked by Chris Lewis. RA grabbed his fifth offensive board of the evening and went up again. This time Justin Bassey was whistled for a foul. RA calmly swished both two put the Tigers back in the lead, 70-69. The clock read 3.9.
When a Crimson desperation three missed its mark, the Tigers held on to secure a most important home win. Princeton sits on top of the Ivy standings, tied with the Yale Bulldogs.
Wright was once again outstanding. For 32 minutes of work, the sophomore compiled a very impressive stat line: 5-for-8 from the field (4-for-5 from deep), four rebounds, three steals and only one turnover. RA added 10 points and seven rebounds. Jerome Desrosiers enjoyed his best night of the season, scoring 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field (3-for-3 from beyond the arc) in just 17 minutes. Drew Friberg and Jose Morales each canned two bombs. Overall, the Tigers made 25 of 53 shots, 13 of 23 from deep, assisted on 14 shots and turned the ball over a manageable nine times.
Next up for the Tigers is a weekend on the road, first to Cornell Friday, then the all-night bus ride to Columbia.