GAME NOTES: The Princeton Tigers and the Harvard Crimson square off at Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday night, with first place in the Ivy League on the line.
Princeton opened a four-game road trip on Friday night with a convincing 73-55 win over Dartmouth to improve to 12-8 overall and 5-1 in league play. The Tigers have now won six of their last seven games, and they have been solid away from home (5-3).
Harvard (14-7) is the only team in the league putting together a better season than Princeton, as it sits a half game ahead of it in the standings at 6-1. The Crimson bounced back from a Feb. 10 loss at Columbia (78-63) by posting a 73-54 victory over Penn on Friday night to improve its home record to a stellar 10-1.
Princeton has owned the series with Harvard, 128-40, which includes a solid 16-9 mark at Lavietes Pavilion. The teams split a pair of meetings during the 2011-12 campaign, with each winning at home.
The Tigers held a 14-point lead at the half at Dartmouth on Friday and they cruised from that point on, leading by as many as 25 points. They were nothing shot of outstanding at the offensive end of the court, draining better than 56 percent of their field goal attempts, including 8-of-14 from 3-point range. Denton Koon paced the squad with 18 points, Ian Hummer finished with 14 points, five assists and three steals, while Hans Brase (12 points) and Will Barrett (11 points) each grabbed six rebounds. T.J. Bray added nine points and six assists to round out a great effort by the starting five. Princeton has a modest offense by Ivy League standards, shooting 46.6 percent from the field for 64 points, but it has risen towards the top of the standings thanks mostly to its top-ranked scoring defense (57.4 ppg). Hummer is one of the league's top performers, averaging 15.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 4.5 apg all while shooting 52.1 percent from the field. Koon (10.6 ppg), Barrett (9.0 ppg) and Bray (9.0 ppg) are strong secondary scoring options.
The Crimson also pieced together a fantastic all-around performance in their Friday night blowout win, as they shot 52.3 percent from the field while holding Penn to less than 35 percent shooting. They also held a commanding 22-7 scoring advantage at the foul line. Wesley Saunders not only led all scorers with 23 points but he contributed five assists and three steals as well. Kenyatta Smith also filled the stat sheet in the triumph, scoring a career-high 20 points and blocking a school-record 10 shots. He also just missed a triple-double by hauling in nine rebounds. On the season, Saunders in the league's top scorer, netting 17.0 ppg with an outstanding .561 field goal percentage. The super sophomore also adds 4.2 rpg, 3.8 apg and 2.0 spg. Siyani Chambers is a great floor general, scoring 13.0 ppg and handing out 6.1 apg. Laurent Rivard chips in 10.4 ppg for Harvard, which boasts the Ivy League's top-ranked scoring offense with 70.4 ppg on nearly 49 percent field goal shooting.
Both teams have shown plenty of promise and will likely duke it out for first place in the Ivy League the rest of the way, but in this matchup, Harvard gets a leg up thanks to the home court advantage.