On Friday night the Harvard men’s basketball team failed to overcome Princeton in Jadwin Gymnasium as it tried to retain its grip atop the Ivy League standings. An inspired late comeback left them agonizingly close as they fell just short in the final two minutes, setting up a two-horse race for the finish line in the Ivy standings.
Looking back at the history books, this is hardly the first time that Princeton has emerged victorious. Harvard and Princeton have competed in men’s basketball since 1901 and in that time the men in orange and black hold an imposing record of 129-41 in the series. Of all those losses though, a few stand out in the memory of Crimson fans:
1. Princeton 63, Harvard 62. March 12, 2011
Playing at Yale for the infamous one-game play-off, Princeton was down, 62-61, with 2.8 seconds left on the clock and inbounded the ball to Doug Davis. As he fell down to his left, Davis put up an off balance shot that had no right to drop. But as the buzzer rang, it was Princeton who had won the playoff game, sending them to the NCAA tournament as Harvard was left still waiting for its first appearance since 1946.
2. Princeton 76, Harvard 48. February 7, 1998
The Tigers ‘97-98 squad was one of the greatest Ivy teams in recent history. The team ended the season leading the country in winning percentage posting a record of 27-2 (14-0 Ivy), including a twenty game undefeated streak, and with a final AP ranking of 8th in the nation. The Crimson returned from Jersey outgunned and outclassed on the receiving end of a twenty eight point drubbing.
3. Princeton 70, Harvard 62. February 11, 2012
Arguably the strongest Harvard team of all time was ranked 25th in the nation as it travelled to New Jersey as favorites for the first time in recent memory. However, under the bright lights of national television Ian Hummer was imperious leading both teams with 20 points as the Tigers prevailed with a late surge. The win reopened the Ivy race, dropped Harvard out of the AP rankings for good, and was unprecedented enough that Princeton fans stormed the court in celebration.
4. Princeton 87, Harvard 56. February 15, 1964
One of the most famous Ivy players in history, Bill Bradley was the top player in the country coming out of high school. Averaging 29.8 points per game over his four years of college in an era without the three point line, he holds numerous Ivy records that could only be broken if the next LeBron James chooses the Ivy league and stays for four years. A three time All-American, Olympic gold medalist and most outstanding player of the 1965 NCAA tournament by the time he graduated, Bradley put clear daylight between the two teams during his four years at Princeton, easily carrying his team past the Crimson during this game. He would later go on to win two NBA championships with the Knicks (having his number 24 retired) and serve as a democratic senator in New Jersey for eighteen years.
5. Princeton 54, Harvard 51. March 6 2010
Harvard’s best response to Bradley, Jeremy Lin, came forty years later and even he was unable to return to Cambridge with a win during his four years. He came closest his senior year as the Crimson led by seven at halftime. However, turnovers and missed free throws cost the team dearly in the second half as the Tigers scored the final four points of the game to extend their dominance in the rivalry.