At halftime of the inaugural Ivy League men’s basketball final, Princeton held a narrow 31-29 lead over Yale in a tightly-contested defensive battle with a bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Princeton’s offense began the game out-of-sync, much like in yesterday’s semifinal. Princeton turned the ball over twice in the game’s opening possession, as Yale opened a 7-3 lead. Despite creating open looks, Princeton struggled to hit shots, both from the perimeter and around the rim. However, the Tigers stayed in the game by playing stout defense. Sophomore Myles Stephens and freshman Will Gladson both contributed vicious blocks, and Yale owned a mere 9-6 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the half.
From there, Princeton’s offense began to gather momentum. For Princeton, junior Amir Bell beat his man and hit a spin lay-up and senior Spencer Weisz followed with a three in transition to give them a momentary lead. Senior Steven Cook followed up with an emphatic slam, generating a foul and sending the crowd – a predominantly Princeton-friendly one – into a frenzy. Yale, however, would respond with a series of buckets of its own, to take a 19-14 lead at the eight-minute mark.
Princeton would ultimately fall down 23-16 before its offense ignited a 10-1 run, punctuated by a pair of Stephens buckets and a 3-pointer from Cook, bringing the score to 26-24 in favor of Princeton with under four minutes to play in the half. After a 3-pointer by sophomore Devin Cannady and a hook shot from Stephens, Princeton would bring the lead to 31-29.
Princeton also got into a little trouble early with Bell and Cook both picking up two fouls early in the half. However, other players stepped up when they needed to take time on the bench and kept Yale from pulling away. Once again the Princeton defense is making things difficult for Yale; after holding the Bulldogs to under 40 percent in the regular season meetings the Tigers defense currently is holding Yale at 40 percent and only 33 percent from deep. Meanwhile the Tigers are converting on 46 percent of their shot attempts.
If the second half plays out anything like the rest of this Ivy League Tournament, we will witness some exciting basketball. Given the stakes, expect high levels of intensity, no matter the result.