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M. Cagers Duel Ivy Powers

Harvard Faces Tough Road Test Against Princeton, Penn

By Dov J. Glickman

Princeton is beatable. So is Penn, which sports a losing record for the first time in recent memory. Just ask Indiana and North Carolina--both of which defeated Princeton--or Villanova, Arizona, and Maryland, all of which have gotten the better of Penn this men's basketball season.

So this year's edition of Ivy League hoops' toughest weekend should be a breeze for the red hot Harvard Crimson, right?

The short answer is no. The Crimson does not possess the talent of such national powers as the Hoosiers, Tar Heels or Terrapins. But there are a few indications that Harvard's annual jaunt southward may go smoother this year than it has in the past.

"This weekend gives us a real chance to make a legitimate move in the Ivy League," Harvard point guard Tim Hill said. "If we can win two games, we'll be on top."

Expectations are running high for the Crimson (12-6, 5-1 Ivy), which has won six straight games, five of which were over league opponents.

While in previous years the best Harvard could hope to get out of a trip to Penn (7-9, 3-1) and Princeton (14-3, 4-0) was two narrow losses, this year's team is capable of beating the Ivy League's best.

The Crimson--which sports the league's leading offense, is strong inside and out--with all-time leading rebounder Kyle Snowden coming off a fabulous game against Yale in which he accumulated 25 points, 13 rebounds and three steals.

Snowden's partner under the basket, senior Chris Grancio, is a steady scorer and rebounder and has a knack for burning unsuspecting opponents from three-point land. Grancio leads the Crimson in three-pointers made--not too bad for a 6-8 post player.

Opposing defenders will also need to contend with the Crimson's hot hand, Mike Scott--who is averaging 16.7 points for the last four games--and Hill--who has dished out 34 assists in the last five contests and is very dangerous when he gets dribble penetration.

Throw in Hill's backcourt mate--perimeter threat David Demian--and the outside touch of sixth-man David Weaver, and it's no wonder the Crimson have run up the league's top scoring totals this season.

Of course, Princeton plays notoriously tight defense, but Harvard's backcourt leader is not intimidated.

"Princeton is trapping a little more and they might try to put on some ball pressure in the backcourt," Hill said. "But we're going to be strong with the basketball, play good team offense, and hit the open man."

On the other side of the ball, Harvard has held its last six opponents to 61 points or less, thanks in large part to Scott, who set a school mark with seven steals in a win over Yale Saturday night. But the key to the Crimson's success has been a cooperative effort.

"We have to play team defense and take care of the backboards to stop [Penn and Princeton]," Hill said.

Beyond that, Harvard will have to find a way to contain Princeton's weapons, forward Gabe Lewullis and guards Sydney Johnson and Brian Earl. Lewullis and Earl combined for 84 points in three games last week, and the lightning-quick Johnson ranks among Princeton's all-time scorers.

Tonight there will be no letting up as the Crimson encounter Michael Jordan (no joke) for the first time. The Penn freshman has been eating up the Ivies just like his namesake, garnering Rookie of the Week honors four times.

The Quakers also possess deadly outside shooters such as sophomore Jed Ryan and junior Garett Kreitz who can really spread a defense, and a powerful inside force in 6-7 Paul Romanczuk. After what should prove to be an exhausting night at the Palestra against Penn, Harvard must come to the Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton ready to hustle. Hill is not concerned, though.

"Once we get in our Ivy mode we'll be O.K.," he said. "Of course we will have to focus in on the second game [versus Princeton] when our legs will be a little tired."

If the Crimson cagers can pull off a sweep, they won't feel a thing.

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