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Men’s basketball breezes past Harvard and Dartmouth in weekend sweep

Man in white jersey starts to shoot basketball in front of crowd.
Caden Pierce lines up a three-point shot against Dartmouth in Hanover.
Photo courtesy of @PrincetonMBB/X

Fresh off a big win against then Ivy League leading Yale (18–8 overall, 9–2 Ivy League), the Tigers men’s basketball team (21–3, 9–2) traveled north to play against Harvard (13–10, 4–6) and Dartmouth (5–19, 1–10) over the weekend. Coming away with two massive wins, the Tigers moved into a three-way tie with Yale and Cornell atop the Ivy standings with only three conference games to go.

Xaivian Lee scores 27 points as men’s basketball clinches Ivy Madness spot


Away on Friday night, the Princeton Tigers beat the Harvard Crimson in a close, but comfortable encounter, with a score of 66–53. More importantly, this game secured the Tigers a spot in the end of season Ivy Madness Tournament — the winner of which earns a guaranteed spot in the NCAA March Madness tournament.

“We’re obviously really excited to have clinched a spot in the postseason, but we also know that we can’t be content with just making it there,” sophomore forward Caden Pierce told The Daily Princetonian. “We know we can achieve bigger and better things.”

It was another strong performance for both Pierce and sophomore guard Xaivian Lee. Pierce ended the night with a double-double following 14 points and 11 rebounds, whilst Lee scored a game-high 27 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. 

In the opening minutes, Pierce hit two threes to put the Tigers up 8–2. With two more early triples by Lee and junior guard Blake Peters, the Tigers doubled Harvard’s score at 14–7. 

Harvard fought back to get within two of Princeton at 20–18. Princeton, however, shifted up a gear in the last few minutes as they went on a 9–0 run, capped off by two free throws from first-year guard Dalen Davis.

Going into the second half, the Tigers were up 43–31 as Lee led the Tigers with 22 points. Lee and Pierce continued to pile on the points for Princeton, as the Tigers maintained a 12-point lead following a Lee free throw in the first four minutes of the half. 


“Xaivian had it going tonight, however, he didn’t force anything, ” Pierce remarked to the ‘Prince.’ “He took what the defense gave him and played within himself. When he does that, he’s really hard to stop.”

Back-to-back three pointers by Davis brought Princeton’s lead to 16, as the first-year showed his potential in his current position as Princeton’s sixth man. 

Ever-trusted senior forward Zach Martini provided Princeton’s biggest lead of the game with a three-pointer to put Princeton up 19 with 9:49 to go in the second half.

The remainder of the game ended in calm fashion, as Princeton protected their lead while the clock wound down. Two free throws by Peters scored the Tigers’ final points of the game before a Harvard layup ended the game at 66–53.

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“[The team is feeling] super confident, I think we’re peaking at the right time.” Lee told the ‘Prince.’ “We’re only getting better and March is the right time to have all the pieces come together, so we’re excited to see how the season plays out and we’re just looking to get on a little roll like last year.”

Pierce’s 22 points carries Tigers to win at Dartmouth

On Saturday night, Princeton faced the Dartmouth Big Green in Edward Leede Arena. The Tigers won the game 68–56, with Pierce leading the way with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while senior guard Matt Allocco added 14 points and four assists. Coming off his big game, Lee made only one of eight attempts from three, but still managed 14 points and six assists. 

The team as a whole continued their poor shooting on the road, going 10–35 from three, but the Tigers’ number one ranked Ivy League defense was able to hold Dartmouth to just 56 points — below their 61 points per game average. 

“We just had to lean on what has brought us success to this point so far, which is our defense,” Pierce wrote to the ‘Prince.’ “We feel like even when our shots aren’t falling we can lock in on the defensive end and get stops to pull out the win.”

The game got out to a quick start, with Dartmouth hitting a three off the tip before Pierce and Martini scored to put the Tigers up early. Dartmouth started the game in zone defense, stumping Princeton’s attack and leading to fast break opportunities, but Allocco calmed things down by hitting three triples. In the midst of this sequence, Allocco hit his 100th career three-pointer.

Dartmouth guard Jaren Johnson beat the buzzer with a triple of his own to give the Big Green another lead. Davis drew two free throws to tie the game at 18 before a 7–0 run from Dartmouth. 

To stop the bleeding, Coach Mitch Henderson ’98 sent the team into a zone, which led to two straight turnovers from the Big Green. Lee drove in and drew free throws, but forward Isaiah Robinson responded with two quick drives to the basket. Princeton’s drought continued, but Allocco drew a three-point shooting foul to keep the Tigers in the game.

Pierce finally broke through, spinning home for a layup and Princeton’s first field goal in over ten minutes. Robinson pulled up for a midrange at the buzzer to put the Big Green up 34–30 going into halftime. 

After hitting a paltry 25 percent of their first-half threes, the Tigers woke up in the second, shooting 54 percent from the field and canning 33 percent of their triples to take the lead down the stretch.

“We also guarded better in the second half and we always feel that when we defend well, more shots will fall, and that was the case tonight,” Allocco said.  

Allocco came out of halftime firing, assisting Pierce on a triple, then drilling a midrange pullup to put the Tigers up one. After a quick 5–0 run from Dartmouth, Princeton’s defense toughened up. A steal from Lee and a Big Green turnover led to back-to-back fast break buckets for the Tigers. 

Lee hit Davis for a left wing three, and after a quick Dartmouth turnover, Davis jabstepped and hit another triple from the same spot. Lee connected for his only three pointer of the night to put the Tigers up 12. 

From then on, the Tigers went to the Lee-Pierce pick and roll, leading to an easy dunk for Pierce. The teams traded free throws and stalled possessions for several minutes. Another pick and roll sprung Pierce for an easy lay, and the next time down, Lee rejected the screen to lay it in himself. 

After a few garbage time buckets, Princeton took the win 68–56, bringing them to 21–3 on the season and 9–2 in the Ivy League. With Brown (9–17, 5–6) upsetting Cornell (20–5, 9–2) on Saturday, the Tigers vaulted into the first seed in the conference, tied at 9–2 with Yale and Cornell. 

“We are super excited for the opportunity we have next Saturday,” Pierce wrote. “It starts with taking care of business on Friday against Columbia.”

Princeton will face off against Columbia (13–11, 4–7) on Friday, March 1 in Jadwin Gym, before a meeting with Cornell on Saturday, March 2 — a game which could determine the one seed in the Ivy League Tournament. 

Alex Beverton-Smith is an assistant editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’

Ryan Kirby is a staff Sports writer for the ‘Prince.’

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