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PRINCETON, N.J.—The stage was set and lights were on, but the Harvard men’s basketball team didn’t show up in top form.
In the first matchup between the two Ivy League favorites, Princeton got the upper hand, defending its home court with a 65-61 victory Friday night at Jadwin Gymnasium.
Led by Douglas Davis’s six points, the Tigers (15-4, 3-0 Ivy) used a 19-2 run between the end of the first half and the start of the second to take a commanding 11-point lead.
Thanks to strong post play from junior co-captain Keith Wright and some timely shots from freshman Laurent Rivard down the stretch, the Crimson (15-4, 4-1) managed to pull within two, but was never able to even the score.
“Certainly a disappointing loss for us,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought it was a tremendous effort by both teams. It showed how much they really wanted to win the game here [Friday] evening.”
The Crimson got off to a strong start, and—led by sophomore Christian Webster’s nine points—opened the contest on a 15-4 run.
But Harvard’s 11-point lead just six minutes in would prove to be its largest of the game.
Tiger Dan Mavraides pulled his team within five, scoring Princeton’s next eight points off two three-pointers and a pair of free throws.
After Crimson sophomore Jeff Georgatos followed with layup, Mack Darrow struck from deep on the Tigers’ next possession, bringing the home team within four, 19-15.
Harvard’s lead hovered around four for the remainder of the period, but a late Princeton run game the Tigers the momentum heading into the break.
With 52 seconds left and the Crimson up six, the Tigers fed the ball to forward Kareem Maddox in the post. Working on the 6’5” Rivard, the 6’8” Maddox turned and scored on the freshman for two of his 14 points.
With the shot clock turned off, Harvard let the clock run down, but with four seconds left, sophomore Brandyn Curry fired a tough shot that clanged off the rim.
Davis pulled down the rebound and raced the other way. With .5 seconds left on the clock, Davis let a running jumper fly from the perimeter that missed its target, but Rivard was whistled for a foul on the shot.
Davis knocked down his three free throws, and Princeton went into the break down by just one.
“I thought that was a huge play,” Amaker said, “I thought we didn’t execute very well at the end of the half. I mentioned to our guys, I thought that was where the game was won and lost.”
The Tigers picked up from where they left off to start the second, opening the frame with a 14-2 run. Davis sparked the run with a corner three pointer on the Tigers first possession. Princeton continued its attack from the post, getting layups from Maddox and sophomore Ian Hummer.
Darrow capped off the run with a trey from the top of the key to put the Tigers up, 43-32, forcing Amaker to take a timeout.
“Guys just came out and really just dug in,” Princeton coach Sydney Johnson said. “It was a pretty special thing to see—at least during that stretch—how passionate we were.”
Over the next 10 minutes of play, the Crimson relied on Wright to keep the team afloat, as the forward notched 12 of Harvard’s next 16 points to pull his team within six with 4:17 to play. Wright finished with a team-high 16 points and 11 rebounds for his eight double-double of the season.
“I thought Keith gave us really solid play,” Amaker said. “I thought he turned it up and gave us great energy and finished around the goal.”
The Tigers built their lead back up to eight with 1:35, but the visitors made one last push.
Rivard ignited the comeback attempt, stroking a deep ball to cut the deficit to five.
Using a full court press, Harvard forced a turnover on the ensuing possession, but Curry returned the ball to Princeton on a weak pass that was picked off by Hummer.
Harvard intentionally fouled Hummer, and the sophomore missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Crimson secured the rebound and got the ball to sophomore Kyle Casey, who exploded to the basket and drew a foul with 39 seconds. Casey made one-of-two to get Harvard within four.
The Crimson sent Tiger Dan Mavraides to the line, and Mavraides hit one of his two attempts.
Rivard followed with another deep three off a botched play, making it 61-59 with 18 seconds.
The Crimson sent Mavraides back to the line, but the forward sank both attempts this time around to make it 63-69 with 12 seconds remaining.
Harvard fed Casey in the post for an easy slam to get back within two with six seconds. The Crimson tried to force a turnover off the inbounds pass, but the Tigers got the ball to Hummer, who was quickly fouled with four seconds left.
But Hummer iced the game, sinking both of his attempts to give Princeton the 65-61 win.
—Staff writer Martin Kessler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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