Men's basketball ends regular season with blowout loss to Yale, sets up tournament rematch| Mar 10, 2019
Princeton men’s basketball (16–11, 8–6 Ivy) has one week to get its act together.
At Jadwin Gymnasium on Saturday night, Yale (20–7, 10–4) defeated Princeton 81–59. Next Saturday, Princeton will face Yale again — this time in the semifinals of the Ivy League basketball tournament in New Haven.
With its win, Yale earned the Ivy League regular season title, an honor it split with Harvard. The Crimson beat the Columbia Lions 83-81 in overtime, also on Saturday night. Harvard (17–10, 10–4) took the tournament’s number one seed on tiebreakers. Princeton earned the third seed, and Penn (19–11, 7–7) finished fourth, after beating Brown in a de facto play-in game.
“It’s a second chance. We’d love to be doing what they’re doing right now,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said after the game, as Yale celebrated in the Jadwin visitor’s locker room. “But we’ve got a chance to go up there and play them [again].”
The Tigers celebrated Senior Night before the game, honoring their three seniors — guard Myles Stephens, guard Elias Berbari, and forward Noah Bramlage. Absent was senior star Devin Cannady, who took a voluntary leave of absence from Princeton midway through the season.
“This group has had to do more than any group I’ve ever had in terms of off the court stuff, including not being here with one of their teammates they started the season with,” Henderson said. “For us to be qualified for the tournament, that’s a testament to the leadership of the team in keeping things together.”
Stephens was one of the lone bright spots on the court for the Tigers. He recorded 13 points and 9 rebounds, before being greeted with a loud ovation as he exited the game, with two minutes remaining. He also limited Yale’s Miye Oni, who attracted several NBA scouts to Jadwin and scored 35 in the teams’ previous matchup, to just 12 points.
“We’ve relied heavily on his defensive prowess [and] his ability to get easy baskets,” Henderson said about Stephens. “He had 13 and 9 tonight, that seemed like a normal evening for him.”
Stephens moved into tenth-place on Princeton’s all-time scoring list this weekend. The Lawrenceville native said he has enjoyed the opportunity to play minutes away from his hometown.
“Definitely a bit emotional before the game,” Stephens said. “Four years here is a long time. Especially as a student-athlete, you spend so much time coming down here every day lifting and conditioning and practicing.”
Princeton played its second straight game without sophomore guard Ryan Schwieger, who has been out with a concussion. Henderson was uncertain about Schwieger’s status for the tournament next weekend, but he added the team remained hopeful.
The Tigers again started slowly, and Yale led 34–27 at halftime. The Bulldogs went on an offensive outburst early in the second half, and the game quickly turned into a blowout.
While their superstar posted a relatively quiet performance, Yale thrived with a balanced scoring attack. Four Bulldogs scored in the double digits, and forward Blake Reynolds led the way with 20.
Five years ago, Princeton’s season would have been over. In the age of the Ivy League tournament, however, the Tigers have an opportunity for redemption.
Princeton, which ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak, will need to find a way to beat the cream of the Ivy League crop. They were 0–4 this season against Harvard and Yale, the tournament’s top two seeds.
When asked how Princeton could get over the hump against Harvard or Yale, Henderson had a simple answer.
“Play better,” he said. “And we will. We’re going to work really hard at it.”
Stephens echoed the sentiment.
“We’re not done yet as seniors, so we’re going to attack the week with the same mentality we’ve attacked the season.”