This Friday and Saturday the men’s basketball team hosted Ivy rivals, Columbia and Cornell, for a conference double-header. The Tigers managed to grab two crucial wins from the meetings, beating Columbia 88-83 and Cornell 74-60. This improved Princeton to an eight-game winning streak and a 10-1 record in the Ancient Eight.
The Tigers opened competition on Friday against Columbia. The game was crucial for both teams, as a win for Columbia would tie them with Princeton in the standings. On the other hand, the Tigers desperately need a win to keep pressure on Yale, who tops the Ivy standings. And both teams played as if the season was on the line.
After trading shots blow for blow in the first half, both teams were tied at 32 apiece before the Tigers broke the deadlock. Starting a 10-1 run, the Princeton squad ended the half on an emphatic note to take the lead 42-33. The lions responded by cutting the deficit to half early after the break. However, the Tigers returned with a vengeance. Another huge run, this time 11-0, saw the Princeton squad take a dominant lead, 57-41.
The largest lead of the night occurred after a nice bucket from junior forward Henry Caruso put the Orange and Black up 17 points, 61-44. However, the Columbia squad still had a lot left in its tank. With just less than three minutes remaining in the game, Columbia cut the deficit to just four points at 75-71. However, a crucial three-pointer from the junior forward essentially iced the game, as the Lions never came within five points afterwards.
The Tigers shot 63.3% in the field, including 13 of 21 three-point attempts. The junior trio of Spence Weisz, Steven Cook and Henry Caruso proved particularly critical for the close win, seeing as they shot a combined 24-31 from the field and led the team in points, rebounds and assists.
On Saturday, it would be Cornell that would strike first against the Tigers. Princeton missed its first six three-point attempts, which the Big Red eagerly capitalized on with an 11-4 run. However, the Tigers would soon return to their usual game, cutting the deficit to two points. The Princeton squad would respond with a run of their own to open a nine-point advantage towards the end of the half. However several late buckets by the Big Red, including a 35-foot buzzer beat, trimmed the advantage to just three points.
Princeton came out of the break with a 20-3 run to increase their lead to 20. Although Cornell fought late in the second half, they never brought themselves within double digits the rest of the night.
These wins proved crucial for the Princeton squad in their effort to upset Yale. The Bulldogs, who are 11-1, dealt the Tigers their sole Ivy League loss of the season. However, Princeton remains even in losses with the Bulldogs and holds one game as they have only played eleven so far to Yale’s twelve. Victories over the Lions and Big Red kept the title race alive and set the stage for a climatic season finale.
The season continues this week as the Tigers head out on the road to face Ivy competitors, Harvard and Dartmouth. Needless to say both games will be tough for the Tigers. But the team’s recent momentum proves that they can win crucial games and handle high-pressure situations. With the title race as close as it is, these next two games should be a thrilling sight.