With time winding down and the game tied at 69, Princeton needed someone to step up and score the decisive basket. Enter junior guard Amir Bell. Bell’s drive to the basket and floater with 1.1 seconds left put everyone in Jadwin Gymnasium on the edge of their seats. When the ball came through the hoop, the arena erupted.
Bell’s shot secured an exciting Princeton (21-6 overall, 14-0 Ivy League) win over Harvard (18-9, 10-4) on Friday night to clinch the No. 1 seed for the Tigers in the Ivy League Tournament. This was the Tigers’ first outright Ivy title since 2004. Their latest title in 2011 was shared with Harvard. It also completed the season sweep over Harvard for the first time since 2010, an important psychological boost going into the Ivy League Tournament.
Bell wasn’t the only standout performer. Although Bell’s last-second shot stole the show, senior forward Steven Cook shot lights out going 13-16 and scoring 30 points, tying his own career high for points in a game.
As is standard in the Ivy League, Princeton had a quick turnaround before its next game playing host Saturday night against Dartmouth (7-20, 4-10). This was the Tigers’ last home game of the season, which meant it was time to honor the seniors: forward Alexander Lee, forward Hans Brase, guard Khyan Rayner, forward Pete Miller, forward Spencer Weisz and Cook.
Once the game started, Princeton got out to a hot start, scoring 52 points in the first half. The Tigers never looked back, winning 85-48 over the Big Green. Weisz and sophomore guard Myles Stephens lead the Tigers with 13 points apiece.
The win over Dartmouth completed Princeton’s perfect Ivy League season, as they finished 14-0 in the conference. This is the sixth time in Princeton’s history that the men’s basketball team has completed an undefeated season, and the first time since 1998. The last Ivy League men’s basketball team to accomplish the feat was Cornell in 2008.
On the national scale, the Tigers joined University of Vermont as one of only two teams to finish their conference play undefeated. In addition, Princeton led the nation with the fewest turnovers in regular season play.
In past years, the Tigers’ regular season championship would have meant that they would now be making preparations for the NCAA Tournament. However, the Ancient Eight added a post-season tournament to determine a conference representative for the NCAA Tournament for the first time this year. With this move by the Ivy League, every conference in NCAA Division I basketball determines the automatic bids awarded to a conference by a tournament. Princeton will play Penn in the first round Saturday at The Palestra in Philadelphia at 1:30 p.m.
Despite not being guaranteed an NCAA Tournament bid, the Tigers celebrated their season by cutting down the nets at Jadwin Gymnasium.
In an interview after Saturday’s game, Weisz said, “I’m so proud of all the guys on the team. Winning this title is for all the alumni that came before us. We finally were able to bring the Ivy League trophy back where it belongs.”