Princeton 63 Harvard 62, on a last-second buzzer beat by junior guard Douglas Davis. Click here for a link to the Princeton Basketball website, which has all sorts of wonderful coverage, from video clips, photos, links to the eleven hundred articles on how the brainy schools can hoop it up and how the team that didn't prevail (because according to the Boston Globe's Bob Ryan, nobody lost) deserves an at-large bid, presumably over a team from a bigger-time hoops conference that just might have a representative on the selection committee. A great, gritty, exciting game that Princeton won, because, well, they held Harvard to under 70 points (a significant benchmark, because the Crimson were undefeated in the many games where they went over 70).
This last-second shot took me back to 1996, where the Tigers had a playoff with a Penn team that had defeated it without too much trouble twice during the regular season, including a victory less than a week before the playoff game. Well, Princeton beat Penn, went on to the NCAA tournament, and defeated defending champion UCLA on an exquisitely executed back-door play with less than a minute to go. That's the year that Coach Pete Carril retired.
It's not, of course, that we expect Coach Sydney Johnson to retire, but I do admire his game plan for this game. The Crimson beat the Tigers by a dozen up in Cambridge a week ago, enough to tarnish the confidence of even a 24-6 team that was league co-champions coming into this game. Princeton entered as the team with the veteran cast and the more vaunted tradition, Harvard the younger, arguably more talented upstart laden with freshmen and sophomores and the national-type of hype once reserved exclusively for Penn and Princeton. (It's not that Princeton and Penn don't get their love from the national writers, it's just that over the past couple of years they've been eclipsed, first by many outstanding Cornell teams and more recently by Harvard, its coach Tommy Amaker, and his ability to recruit). Coach Johnson's adjustments deserve mention because the Tigers figured out a strategy to control the tempo better and to eke out the victory.
It was a great game from start to finish, and both teams are to be commended for their outstanding seasons and effort yesterday. It was a championship game in every sense.