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Max Johns in Saturday's game against Columbia

Photo Credit: Jack Graham / The Daily Princetonian

Men’s basketball (15–8, 7–3 Ivy) finished off their weekend with the highest-scoring conference game so far this season, beating Columbia University (7–17, 2–8) 79–61. Princeton still sits at second in the Ivy League, tied with Harvard (14–9, 7–3), and one win behind first-place Yale (18–5, 8–2).

Sophomore guard Ryan Schwieger, fresh off of Friday’s win over Cornell (13–3, 5–5) in which he scored a career-high 23 points, again led the team in scoring with 20. Sophomore forward Jerome Desrosiers recorded his first double-double: 14 points and 10 rebounds.

One minute into the game, Columbia took the lead with a layup from Randy Brumant. Princeton’s senior guard and captain Myles Stephens responded in style with a dunk, bringing the game to 2–2. The game continued back and forth over the next four minutes, with the lead changing three times.

Columbia took back the advantage at 13:40 after Gabe Stefanini hit a three and brought the Lions to 13 points, compared to the Tigers’ 11. First-year guard Ethan Wright hit a solid three pointer at 12:07 — his first points of the game — to bring Princeton back into the lead at 14–13. The two teams continued to battle for the lead for almost the entire remaining half.

Columbia saw its final, and longest, lead of the game at 4:23, after Stefanini hit a layup and brought the Lions to 26–21 over the Tigers. Princeton pulled ahead with less than two minutes to go after a three-pointer from Desrosiers, followed by two foul shots from first-year guard Max Johns. The lead changed five times in the first half.

The second half was not so competitive. Although Columbia got the first points of the half with a jumper from Patrick Tapé, Princeton quickly increased their lead and was ahead by 9 points at 17:26, 40–31. Back-to-back three-pointers by sophomore forward Sebastian Much and Schwieger put the Tigers up 54–40 with 11 minutes to go, a lead that Columbia was unable to shake for the remainder of the game.

More points from Schwieger, Desrosiers, and Stephens kept Princeton’s lead above 10 for the next few minutes. Wright hit a three with six minutes to go, bringing Princeton to 16 points over Columbia, 66–50. Significantly, a pair of good free throws from Stephens at 3:53 brought Princeton to 71 points, the highest scored in a conference game so far this season.

Columbia’s Brumant scored the Lions’ last points with two foul shots only seconds later, capping the team at 59. Schwieger built on Stephens’s momentum, dunking at 2:51 and hitting a three a minute later with the last points of the game. The game finished out 79–61, a crucial win for the Tigers as the Ivy League tournament draws nearer.

Head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 was happy about the win, describing how the team came together to finish the weekend strong.

“It didn’t feel like a huge victory,” he said at the post-game press conference. “But more than a three-point lead in this league is like a blowout.”

The coach praised the underclassmen who were crucial to Saturday’s victory. “When we were down four, we had three freshman and two sophomores on the floor, and we got the lead back,” he noted. “We’ve needed them too… obviously, with what’s happened with our team in the last few weeks.”

The road to the championship is not easy for the Tigers. Three of the four remaining games are against the only opponents Princeton has lost to this season — Harvard, Brown (17–9, 5–5), and Yale. To qualify for the tournament Princeton must remain in the top four in the Ivy League.

When asked if the team has a chance to slip and fall like they did this time last year, the coach replied, “I don’t see that happening with this group. There’s something moving and I think they’re focused. They know they want it.”

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