It was all the way back in 1989 when Harvard last took a game at Princeton. After Friday night’s 58-55 loss, nothing has changed.
Even though the Tigers, as a program, have fallen far from its past position of dominance in the Ivies, the team still gives the Crimson trouble every time the squad comes to town.
Especially under Tommy Amaker. The coach likes to play fast—quick tempo, quick shots, and pressing defense.
Last year, Amaker did not have the personnel to run his system, but this year, he does.
Wins at Boston College, New Hampshire, and Dartmouth prove it. But whenever the team comes to Jadwin, things start to slow down—considerably.
“Obviously Princeton keeps things in low-scoring ways, so the numbers can be a little misleading in terms of the actual finishing numbers,” Amaker said. “But I thought we scraped and clawed defensively.”
The defense was there, but when it mattered most, the offense was not. Harvard could not get into its attacking groove, and was forced to play the Princeton way.
For 20 years, that hasn’t worked. But for the Crimson, there’s always next year.
The one thing that has worked for the Crimson at Jadwin Gym in recent history is not an offensive approach, but one standout scorer: senior guard Drew Housman. For four years, he has led the Crimson at the helm, trying to pull his team to that ever-elusive victory at Princeton.
Two years ago, he came incredibly close, willing his team to two overtimes and the brink of victory, only to fall, 74-68, in a double-overtime thriller. He scored 18 of the team’s final 20 points in regulation and both overtimes, en route to a career-high 33 in the losing effort.
Every time against the Tigers, he seems to find a hole and exploit it.
“They were really worried about our shooters,” Housman said. “We were really limited in our three-pointers, and that means they were definitely spreading it out to our shooters. So that leaves lanes for people like me to drive, and [I’m] just being aggressive.”
The history of Harvard playing at Princeton has been one of heartbreak, but Housman provides one bright spot.
His 16-point, four-assist performance is just further proof.
OVER AND OUT
Things could have ended very differently for the Crimson had senior guard Evan Harris not fouled out with four minutes to play.
Without his defensive presence, Harvard struggled to hold the Princeton big men in check, as Kareem Maddox, a tall forward shooting 83 percent from the line, got four easy ones off fouls from freshman Peter Boehm, who was forced to fill the void left by Harris.
“Evan fouling out didn’t help us, we’re not deep and big, so not having Evan with his experience and his size is a big blow,” Amaker said. “It was unfortunate that he was in position to make the foul.”
These four points were huge for Princeton, as Harvard tried to charge back and get a lead.
Each time Harvard got closer, Maddox had two more free throws to put the Tigers back up by three.
With Harris in, it might have been a different story.
Without, the team was left scratching its head, thinking what to do next.
—Staff writer Walter E. Howell can be reached at email@example.com.