The Princeton men’s basketball team (18–8 overall, 9–4 Ivy League) completed the season sweep of the Harvard Crimson (14–13, 5–8) on Friday afternoon, prevailing 58–56 in a lower-scoring matchup than many had anticipated.
The Crimson entered their senior night facing elimination from the Ivy Madness tournament with a loss. The matchup featured two Ivy League Player of the Year candidates: Harvard forward Chris Ledlum and Princeton senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan — the recipient of the award last year.
“It’s always fun going against the best guys in the league, but [me] and the team are focused on the result,” Evbuomwan told The Daily Princetonian, when asked about the matchup with Ledlum.
Ledlum had been a tough cover for the Tigers when the two teams last faced off to open up this season’s Ivy league play in December 2022. Ledlum led Harvard that night with 22 points, scoring just above his season average of 18.9 points, the second highest in the Ivy League. He also posted a game-high 13 rebounds, a category in which he also ranks second in the Ivy League.
“We’re going to try and keep him off the boards and keep him from getting too many good looks, but he’s a really tough kid to guard,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 told the ‘Prince’ ahead of Saturday’s game.
The extra defensive attention certainly paid dividends for the Tigers in the first half, as they held Ledlum to just seven points in the first 20 minutes of play. With Ledlum neutralized, the rest of the Crimson offense seemed to waver. Managing to connect on just one of their 12 three-point attempts in the half, Harvard finished with just 23 total points, their lowest first-half total of the season.
The Crimson’s offensive woes coupled with effective shotmaking from the Tiger backcourt duo of junior guard Matt Allocco and senior guard Ryan Langborg helped the Tigers take a 37–23 lead going into the break.
It was much of the same to start the second half, as a 5–0 run gave the Tigers a 19-point lead, their largest of the game, with 17:33 remaining. No lead, however, has been safe for the Tigers this year. The squad entered this game coming off of a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Yale Bulldogs (19–7, 9–4) where they squandered a 19-point second-half lead.
While it seemed like the Harvard offense was allergic to the basket, they found their spark on the defensive end. The Crimson caused six Princeton turnovers in the second half, while giving up only one and increasing their possessions.
The Crimson also refused to give up any free points, as they did not send the Tigers to the free-throw line until the final minute of the game. Their defensive success, coupled with a 19-point night from guard Evan Nelson, helped the Crimson come all the way back. A layup from Nelson cut the Tiger lead to just two with 5:06 remaining.
The Tiger defense did get it together, however, as they allowed only seven points from the Crimson in the final five minutes of play.
While the Crimson had a few chances to tie the game late, the Tigers prevailed as first-year forward Caden Pierce calmly stepped up to the line and hit two free throws with 0:04 remaining to ice the game.
The Tigers will suit up next on March 4 for their final regular season game and a senior night celebration. The Tigers will be honoring three senior starters: Evbuomwan, Langborg, and forward Keeshawn Kellman, all of whom have been crucial towards the team’s success, particularly in the last two years.
“I’m looking forward to the game and finishing out the regular season strongly,” Evbuomwan told the ‘Prince’ ahead of the matchup with the Penn Quakers (18–8, 9–4). The game may very well decide who wins the 2023 Ivy League regular season title and takes the No. 1 seed entering Ivy Madness.
Diego Uribe is an assistant Sports editor and News contributor for the ‘Prince.’
Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.