Halfway through its Ivy League conference schedule, Princeton men’s basketball has found itself in a rut.
Traveling to New England this weekend, the team lost two games on consecutive nights, bringing its losing streak to four games and its conference record to 3–5. Princeton (11–12 overall) was athletically overmatched Friday night against Harvard (12–11, 7–1), losing 66–51, and was inexplicably defeated Saturday by Dartmouth (5–16, 1–7), which is situated at the bottom of the Ivy League standings.
Princeton got off to a fast start Saturday, taking an early 17–13 lead on the back of strong perimeter shooting. From there, however, the Tigers struggled to score against a long and athletic Harvard defense. Princeton scored just three points in the final 10 minutes of the first half, as Harvard raced off to a 35–20 halftime lead. Princeton was unable to generate a serious comeback effort, as Harvard cruised to a 66–51 victory. Somehow, that score fails to fully capture how outmatched Princeton appeared to be, as Harvard manhandled the Tigers despite missing star point guard Bryce Aiken and losing starting forwards Chris Lewis and Seth Towns for large stretches of the game due to foul trouble.
Guard Christian Juzang led Harvard offensively with 20 points, while no Princeton player scored more than 10. Princeton junior guard Devin Cannady was uncharacteristically quiet, scoring just seven points and shooting 1–9 from three-point range.
A priori, Saturday’s matchup against Dartmouth appeared to be a valuable opportunity for Princeton to end its losing skid. This assumption proved false, as Princeton fell 72–56 to a Dartmouth team that entered the game with just four wins all season and a 0–7 Ivy League record. Princeton raced out to an early 9–2 lead before its offense stagnated once again, allowing Dartmouth to crawl back into the game. At the half, Princeton led 26–25. The game remained closely contested more than halfway through the second half; Princeton led 52–50 with seven minutes remaining. From there, however, Princeton suffered a total defensive collapse. Dartmouth finished the game on a 22–4 run to secure a 72–56 win. Dartmouth guard Taylor Johnson ignited the run, scoring 13 of Dartmouth’s final 22 points. Johnson led his team in scoring with 21 points in total.
Once again, Princeton shot poorly, making only 39.7 percent of its field goals and 26.7 percent of its three-pointers. Cannady led the team with scoring with just 12 points, and junior guard Myles Stephens added another nine.
With the losses, Princeton fell to 3–5 in Ivy League play, putting it in a three-way tie for No. 5 with Columbia (6–15, 3–5) and Cornell (9–12, 3–5). The team’s recent struggles have left Princeton faithful wondering what happened to the team that won the Ivy League last year and defeated preseason top-10 USC (17–9) earlier this season. If the Tigers want to finish in the top four of the Ivy League standings and qualify for the Ivy League Tournament, much less compete with conference leaders Harvard and Penn, they will need to answer this question — quickly.