Men's Basketball: Harvard hands Princeton second Ivy loss
Nine minutes into Friday’s contest, Princeton and Dartmouth found themselves deadlocked at 19 points apiece. Neither team had led by more than five points, and three early three-point plays had kept the Big Green alive in a game that would soon slip out of reach. Sophomore forward Denton Koon’s first three-pointer of the night broke the tie and sparked a 15-3 run, helping Princeton wrestle away a 14-point advantage by halftime. When the dust finally settled, Koon emerged with 12 first-half points while his Tigers had hit five of their seven attempts from downtown.
Princeton’s shooting cooled off after the break, but the team compensated with its continued physical play inside. The Tigers pulled down 18 boards to the Big Green’s 10, helping them make up for their uncharacteristic 10 second-half turnovers.
Koon continued to pile on the points alongside junior forward Will Barrett and freshman forward Hans Brase until a late three-pointer from junior guard Chris Clement extended the lead to a staggering 25.
Princeton’s substitutes finished out the game while Dartmouth used the final five minutes to chop their deficit to 17. The Big Green held the lead for exactly 21 seconds following a layup on the night’s opening play.
Koon finished with 18 points on a 7 of 12 shooting night, marking the third straight game in which he led all Tiger scorers. The performance also stretched Koon’s streak of double-digit scoring and fifty-plus percent shooting to seven games, while his team had done so for five consecutive contests.
Koon and the rest of his squad found more resistance the next night in Cambridge, where Princeton battled Harvard for a seat atop the Ivy League. After a close twenty minutes of early play, the Tigers’ worst half of shooting (31 percent) in their last 30 periods prevented them from dethroning the conference-leading Crimson.
In the most pivotal game of their season thus far, the Tigers endured twelve lead changes before halftime — xthe most in a single half of any Princeton game this year. Koon, who would be bottled up for the lowest scoring total of his last 13 games finished the first period with just two points after sinking one of three field goals. The half was Koon’s first in five games with a shooting percentage below fifty, as well as the first time in six games he had attempted at least one three pointer without making any.
Senior forward Ian Hummer combined with Barrett and Brase for 22 first-half points to combat the minor hiccup in Koon’s hot streak, however, and the game remained even in nearly every statistical category. Princeton lost the rebound and turnover battles 10-13 and 5-7 respectively, while just barely outshooting Harvard 52 percent to 50 percent. The Tigers connected on three of five three-point attempts while the Crimson hit three of their six. Not surprisingly, the close figures left Princeton trailing by just four points at intermission, 32-38.
But the Tigers, who had relied on their impressive shooting marks for seven games straight, went ice cold after halftime. The team hit only nine of its 29 second-period shots, while posting a grisly one-for-six line from outside the arc. Brase, who chipped in double-digit scoring in both games this weekend, attributed the late-game shooting struggles to a hurried offense and a lack of necessary ball movement.
“In the first half I felt like we were more patient on offense and let the shots come to us,” he said. “In the second half, we settled a little for some tougher shots and were stagnant on offense once they went to their zone.”
Barrett, who echoed Brase’s sentiments regarding the sluggish second-half offensive attack, added that much of the credit should be granted to Harvard for a well-executed game from start to finish.
“Everyone in the league put a bullseye on us and we’ve been getting every team’s best game,” he said. “All we can do is continue to work hard and fix the mistakes we’ve been making.”
Barrett and his team will have a chance to correct those mistakes for a full week before their rematch at Columbia this Friday.
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