Men's Basketball: Top two Ivy teams face off in Cambridge
“We just have to keep our heads up and focus on the next game,” junior guard T.J. Bray said. “Going undefeated in the Ivy League is a very rare thing so one loss doesn’t end our season. We’ve had a good week of practice and have put last weekend behind us.”
The Princeton-Harvard matchups the past few seasons have been critical for determining the outcome of the league. Last year at Jadwin Gymnasium, the Tigers handed the Crimson its first Ivy League loss in a 70-62 victory and knocked it out of the Top 25, but Harvard (13-7, 5-1) prevailed in the second contest at home. The 2010-11 season played out similarly, with both teams winning at home, and Princeton winning the one-game playoff, held at Yale, 63-62 for the Ivy League’s bid to the 2011 NCAA tournament.
If the Tigers are to pull off what they have been unable to do in the past few years — beat the Crimson in Cambridge — they will need to contain the considerable young talent that Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker has assembled. Point guard Siyani Chambers has been named Ivy League Rookie of the Week five times already this season and has just been named a nominee for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to college basketball’s top point guard. Wing Wesley Saunders is giving senior forward Ian Hummer serious competition for Ivy League Player of the Year, scoring a career-high 27 points in the Crimson’s loss to Columbia. Forwards Jonah Travis and Steve Moundou-Missi have both been key contributors trading minutes for Harvard.
Despite the Crimson’s youth, they have considerable experienced talent. Guard Christian Webster is the only senior on the roster for Harvard, while guard Laurent Rivard can provide a deadly shooting stroke from outside. Harvard leads the league in points per game, field-goal percentage and three-point field-goal percentage.
“Harvard has a lot of weapons both inside and out,” Hummer said. “Our team has a lot of capable guys that can play good defense. They’re quite big and cause a lot of trouble for everyone we play. It should be fun to watch because it’ll be good talent going against a good defense.”
Princeton will have to play strong backcourt defense to neutralize the Crimson’s high-octane offense and strong shooting. Bray will be key, but he will need support from the big men on the perimeter to take out the threat from beyond the arc. As is often the case for the Tigers, it will be to their advantage to slow down the game and get the Princeton offense up and running. Sophomore wing Denton Koon will need to continue his strong play from last weekend, when he led the team in scoring against both Brown and Yale.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have not lost to the Big Green (6-14, 2-4) in six meetings, and this group of seniors has never lost to Dartmouth. The Big Green has greatly improved its play this season from previous years, however, already besting its league record over the past two seasons by winning two league games. It also has three of the league’s top 10 rebounders. Still, Dartmouth remains the lowest scoring team in the league.
“Dartmouth has played some good basketball this year and taken many teams to the wire,” Bray said. “The Ivy League is too crazy this year to take anyone lightly.”
If Princeton can emerge from this weekend unscathed, the Tigers will have not only the record that they need to win the Ancient Eight, but the confidence as well. It will be a tall task, however, if Princeton is to defeat Harvard on the road for the first time since 2010.
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