Prior to last season, trips up to Cambridge, Mass., for the men's basketball team had been relatively easy. Princeton had not lost at Lavietes Pavilion since 1990. Tied atop the Ivy League standings last year, the Tigers looked primed for their 10th straight win against the Crimson.
But history was not on Princeton's side in 1999. Harvard outlasted the Tigers in overtime, 87-79, and relegated them to second place in the league — where they would remain for the rest of the season.
"That was the best game I've been a part of — best game I've played in," Harvard forward Dan Clemente said. "It was the best win I've ever had in my career."
Friday night at 7:30 p.m., the Tigers (15-9 overall, 7-2 Ivy League) will be in second place looking up — and in search of some revenge against the Crimson (10-13, 5-5).
Princeton will then head to Dartmouth (8-15, 4-6) Saturday to face a Big Green team that has struggled this season but has enough talent to be dangerous.
Public Enemy No. 1
Task number one for the Tigers against Harvard will be shutting down the hot-shooting Clemente, who is averaging 19.1 points per game on the season. Princeton held him to only 11 points in the teams' first matchup of the year Feb. 12.
"He's a real tough player — he gets his shots off," senior forward Mason Rocca said. "We've got to keep a guy on him all night long."
In addition to containing Clemente, the Tigers will be looking for another standout offensive performance from sophomore center Chris Young, who exploded for a career-high 30 points against the Crimson on 10 for 11 shooting two weekends ago. Young dominated Crimson big man Tim Coleman, who netted six points in 23 minutes and gives up two inches and 40 pounds to the Tiger star.
Both Harvard and Dartmouth are looking to play the role of spoiler as they face the first and second-place teams in the league. The Crimson and Big Green may represent the last chance for a Penn loss.
"This is a big weekend for both Penn and us," Rocca said. "If [Penn] wins both games, then chances are that they'll win both at home next weekend — and win the Ivy title."
Dartmouth has already been mathematically eliminated from the Ivy title race, despite posting victories over Yale and Brown last weekend behind a solid performance from junior guard Greg Buth. Buth exploded for a career-high 36 points against Yale and poured in 25 the following night against the Bears.
In order to remain in the Ivy race, Harvard must sweep the weekend. If the Crimson gets swept and Yale also loses at least one game this weekend, Penn and Princeton would be guaranteed to finish first and second in the Ivies for the seventh time in the past nine seasons.
Needing some help
But with the season winding down, the Tigers would rather not settle for second place — hoping one of their opponents can find some magic and blemish the Quakers' perfect league record.
Even though the league race is now out of the Tigers' control, head coach Bill Carmody may be a little comforted by the fact that his team — which at one point looked like the orthopedic ward at Princeton Medical Center — is relatively healthy again. Only Rocca will be used sparingly because of his tendonitis.
"You only have 10 days left in the season, so you want to make sure you play hard and give everything you have," Carmody said. "We're relatively healthy, so we just hope we can continue where we left off this past weekend."
NEWS AND NOTES: Freshman guard Spencer Gloger rebounded from ankle and hand injuries to put up impressive numbers last weekend, scoring over 20 points in back-to-back games against Columbia and Cornell. He is two three-pointers shy of breaking the freshman record in that statistic, held by Brian Earl '99.