Princeton Men’s Basketball Falls to Harvard Despite Freshmen’s Best Efforts

T.J. Bray '14 led Princeton with 17 points in his final game against Harvard. The Tigers' freshmen combined to score 25 points in the 59-47 loss. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

T.J. Bray ’14 led Princeton with 17 points in his final game against Harvard. The Tigers’ freshmen combined to score 25 points in the 59-47 loss. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

While individually none of them led the scoring for Princeton, collectively the men’s basketball freshmen accounted for more than half of the offensive production in the Tigers’ 59-47 loss to Harvard on Saturday night, a positive sign in an otherwise disappointing Ivy League season. Princeton, which was 12-2 in nonconference play, dropped to 3-6 in Ivy games.

The Harvard loss was a classic tale of two halves, as the Tigers won the first half but ultimately could not compete following halftime and fell to the Crimson in their home gym for the first time since 1989.

Senior guard T.J. Bray is had another big game offensively (17 points), which has become the norm — he has scored in double figures 17 times in 19 games played. But the freshmen also played key roles in the most anticipated match up on Princeton’s schedule.

The home Harvard game has consistently attracted more fans than any other for the past several years, and Saturday night was no different. “They’re always great for this game,” Bray said. “They really get up for it.”

Despite Princeton’s 3-5 Ivy record coming into the game, tip off saw a packed student section and the Tigers gave the fans a much closer than anticipated competition, coming out stronger than they have in previous games and opening up a 12-point lead midway through the first half. After closing out the half with a buzzer beater from freshman forward Spencer Weisz, the Tigers went into the locker room with a 29-24 lead.

But in contrast to the first half, they came out slow in the second half and watched the lead they had built up slowly start to slip away. After Hans Brase ’16 missed a dunk attempt with 8 minutes left that would have reclaimed the lead for the Tigers, Harvard opened up a 44-40 lead, made a defensive stop and another field goal, squelching the Tigers’ momentum.

A three-pointer from Weisz right out of the timeout and a block from freshman forward Pete Miller on the next play breathed some life back into the Tigers. Though it was not enough to ultimately propel the Tigers to victory, the freshmen made big plays at key moments that kept the Tigers competitive late into the second half.

Weisz finished with 12 points, and Miller and freshman guard Steven Cook had seven and six, respectively. While Cook played big minutes in the Yale/Brown weekend and Weisz has become a consistent part of coach Mitch Henderson ’98’s rotation throughout the season, seven was a career high for Miller.

“I thought our freshmen were very good,” Henderson said. “I’m hard on Pete sometimes, but I think seven [points] and five [rebounds] — we’re counting on him for it, [and] we’ve got to keep going to him because he’s doing some really good things. I thought both Steve and Spencer were also very good.”

Quick Takes

Women’s basketball (17-6, 8-1 Ivy) beat Harvard 69-64; the win, coupled with Penn’s loss at Dartmouth, gave Princeton sole possession of first place in the Ivy League standings. Senior forward and co-captain Kristen Helmstetter led the team with 17 points and six rebounds.

Wrestling (11-4, 3-2 Ivy) tied for second in the Ivy League Saturday, falling to Penn in the final match of the season. The Tigers got match victories from senior Garrett Frey, junior Adam Krop, and sophomore Abram Ayala. The Tigers return to the mats at the EIWA championships in Philadelphia March 8 and 9.

Women’s water polo (10-0) remained undefeated after going 3-0 in the MAAC/CWPA Crossover tournament this weekend. The Tigers finished Sunday with a 13-5 victory over Iona during which sophomore Ashleigh Johnson recorded nine saves and three steals in the cage. Senior Molly McBee led the team with four goals and four assists.