For the eleventh straight season, the Harvard men’s basketball team was swept on its weekend road trip to perennial league powers Penn and Princeton, likely prolonging Harvard’s Ivy title drought for another year.
By virtue of its 78-51 loss to the Quakers on Friday and a 70-59 loss to Princeton Saturday, the Crimson (12-10, 5-5 Ivy) now sits in fifth place in the standings.
Harvard—who has never won an Ivy League championship in men’s basketball— had started the weekend third in the Ivy League behind only Yale and Princeton (12-9, 7-2).
Despite a 19-point performance at Penn (19-6, 6-3 Ivy) and a 23-point effort against Princeton from junior guard Pat Harvey, poor second-half defense let the Crimson down on both nights. In the first halves this weekend, the Crimson defense limited Penn and Princeton to just 48 total points and under 40 percent shooting. In the second halves, those statistics ballooned to 100 total points and 60 percent shooting.
With its Ivy title chances now far out of reach, the Crimson will close out its home schedule against Cornell and Columbia this weekend before making a season-ending road trip to Brown and Yale.
Princeton 70, Harvard 59
After hitting his fifth three-pointer of the first half to give the Crimson a 30-20 lead, Harvey had to be liking Harvard’s chances to pull off an upset at Jadwin Gym.
The Crimson had just completed a sterling half of play on both sides of the ball. Harvard held Princeton to a modest 43 percent shooting—with no Princeton player converting more than two field goal tries—while outrebounding the Tigers, 13-10. The Crimson also converted on half of its shots, including six-of-11 from beyond the arc.
Harvey’s 17 points at the break were three times more than the next closest scorer, and junior guard Elliott Prasse-Freeman chipped in three points, three assists, and four rebounds.
“We went into halftime feeling like we did a good job,” Harvard Coach Frank Sullivan said. “I was really pleased with our field-goal defense.”
But while all the ingredients for an upset were present at halftime, Princeton’s offense generated several open looks for senior forward Mike Bechtold in the second half. The 6’6 Bechtold took full advantage of Harvard’s defensive breakdown, scorching the Crimson for a team-high 21 points.
After a layup by junior guard Brady Merchant gave Harvard a 36-31 edge with 14:41 left to play, Bechtold took over. Three three-pointers, a layup and one steal later, Bechtold had sparked a 14-6 Princeton run that erased Harvard’s lead and placed the momentum firmly in Princeton’s favor.
“This is the third consecutive year that one of their players stepped up big,” Sullivan said. “Two years ago it was Chris (Young), last year it was (Ahmed) El-Nokali, and tonight it was Becthold.”
The Tigers scored an impressive 47 points in the second half, more than twice their first-half output.
“Princeton executed their half-court play in the second half when it really counted,” Sullivan said.