Ivy League Playoff: A Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2011

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

This day seemed inevitable. From the first practice in October, these two schools were on a collision course; a date with destiny for the two most talented teams in the Ivy League. One with a storied tradition; one hoping to begin one. One looking to return to prominence; one looking to go where they had not before. One will be cutting down the nets; one will experience paradise lost. Princeton and Harvard–today at 4 PM at Lee Amphitheater on the campus of Yale and ESPN3.com on your computer screen. Round three, the playoff. The chance to dance.

How They Got Here

They both entered their first meeting on February 4 at Princeton on hot streaks. Princeton had won 12 of 13 and Harvard had won eight in a row. The game did not disappoint. Though both struggled from the field, it was close most of the way. Ian Hummer sealed the deal for the Tigers late with two free throws en route to a 65-61 Princeton victory. The loss continued a streak of Crimson frustration at Jadwin–now winless in their last 22 trips.

The prevailing thought was that neither team was likely to stumble before their rematch a month later in Cambridge and it would be that game that would decide the title. Wrong… and right. First to fall was Princeton, shooting 38% from the field, 19% from three, and watching Brown make 25 of 27 free throws, a recipe that resulted in a ten-point defeat. Harvard, not being able to stand prosperity, followed suit a week later, blowing a late lead, and suffering an excruciating one point loss at Yale (an omen perhaps?). It set up a must-win for the Crimson on March 5 at home. They thrilled their home crowd as they began the second half with a 21-12 run that turned a one point half time lead into a 58-48 advantage. Princeton would never get close. The weekend ended with Harvard clinging to a half game lead, pending the outcome of Princeton/Penn at the Palestra.

That game was played as if the Quakers couldn’t wait for the season to end and, despite protestations to the contrary, that the Tigers were looking ahead. Penn quickly scored the first two baskets of the second half and Princeton found themselves in an eight point hole. Time out. An agitated Sydney Johnson reminded his team what was at stake. An 11-0 run opened up a lead they would never relinquish. When the horn sounded, Harvard and Princeton were deadlocked at 12-2 atop the Ivy League.

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