The exciting ending came down to the last play. After Princeton guard Dan Mavraides knocked down two free throws with four seconds to put the Tigers (10-11, 5-3 Ivy) up 56-55, Crimson junior guard Jeremy Lin brought the ball up the court for Harvard (10-13, 2-7 Ivy). Lin passed halfcourt and dished the ball to senior guard Drew Housman on the left side of the court. Housman—the game’s leading scorer with 16 points—pulled up for the game-tying attempt several feet behind the arc, but his shot was too strong and bounced off the far side of the rim.
“I told Drew it was a great shot,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “I told him it was tremendous job by Jeremy making the decision, knowing we had enough time to get that pass in and we will take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”
With the final shot failing, Princeton completed a season-sweep of Harvard, after winning 77-71 in Lavietes Pavilion earlier this month. But while that game was characterized by an effective Tigers offense and some porous Crimson defense, the visitors put in a much better performance on that end. While Princeton had just six turnovers in the first game and shot 56.8 percent from the floor, it coughed the ball up 15 times Friday and shot 46.2 percent on the game, including just 8-of-20 after halftime.
The Tigers’ struggles kept Harvard close, but the Crimson came up just short in forcing one more Princeton turnover that may have changed the outcome of the game.
With the visitors trailing, 52-51, after a layup by freshman forward Keith Wright with 1:10 to go, the Crimson seemed set to play more solid defense to get the ball back with a chance to take the lead. And with 37 ticks left, freshman Oliver McNally knocked the ball out of Princeton forward Kareem Maddox’s hands. But the ball bounced off McNally and out of bounds. The referees ruled that it was a change of possession, so the 35 second clock restarted, forcing Harvard to abandon its defensive game and foul.
“We made a point of emphasis to get after them, get in the passing lanes,” Housman said. “We felt we should have gotten one more when Oliver fell out of bounds, that was a tough break.”
Mavraides then hit two foul shots to put his team up by three. Freshman forward Peter Boehm answered by driving to the hoop for an open layup, only to see the shot miss. Mavraides made one of two on the other end, then Housman was fouled, making both shots to close within two at 55-53 with 12 seconds left. Mavraides went back to the line and again just made one of two, with McNally tacking down the defensive board and racing coast-to-coast for a layup with five seconds left to make it 56-55 and set up the endgame scenario.
With Housman’s miss, an intense second half that featured four ties and seven lead changes was completed to the delight of the home fans. Harvard had a five-point lead early on at 31-26, but a six-minute drought on offense soon saw the Crimson down 41-36 with just over 10 minutes to play. But the team snapped out of it and would tie things up at 43-43 with seven minutes left on two free throws by McNally. It would grab the lead twice after. that, the last time when Housman beat his man and stepped in for a layup to put his team up 49-48 with 3:32 left.
A minute later, Maddox would answer with two free throws, and the hosts would not give that up despite tenacious fight from Harvard.
“We always have room to improve, that is obvious,” Amaker said. “I do think that the effort and energy we played with to give ourselves a chance tonight was tremendous.”
The Crimson could have been severely undermanned near the end after both Wright and Lin left the game in the second half due to ankle injuries, but they each only missed a few minutes after some work on the bench and were back without missing much of a beat.
“They’re both pretty tough guys,” Housman said. “They did whatever they had to do on the sideline, and they definitely battled down the stretch for us.”
—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.