Following a tight first half that ended with the hosts holding onto a 23-22 advantage, Harvard scored nine of the second half’s first 11 points to take a commanding eight-point lead. The Tigers, however, did not give up and cut their deficit to four points inside the final five minutes. At this point Harvard’s freshman Kale Catchings caught fire from behind the arc nailing a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions that helped put the game away. Catching had 12 points and five rebounds on the night, while senior Bryce Aiken added 22 points. Senior Myles Stephens led all Tiger scorers with 21 points and six boards. With the win, Harvard moves into a first-place tie with Yale in the Ivy League standings at 9-3 and improves to 16-9 overall. Princeton, meanwhile, drops to 16-9 overall and 8-4 in Ivy League play.
The 6-6 Catchings had a great impact on how the second half, in particular the final five minutes, played out. His two previously mentioned triples extended a four-point lead to eight. On both connections, he showed a nice touch and the poise to take a big shot. On the next possession, he displayed solid upper body strength and finished a tough driving layup in traffic, with the release of the shot coming on his way down, to extend the lead to nine points. His physicality showed when he bodied his way for all five of his rebounds and created multiple extra possessions in the second half. His rotations on defense were very good and twice he got into the passing lane for a pair of second half steals. In all, he scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in the second half.
Aiken had another solid night for the Crimson. After checking into the game at the first media timeout he took the reign offensively for his team. His ability to get to the rim using dribbles and up-fakes was on full display despite some early misses. He showed the ability to create space for his shot off the dribble by stopping on a dime. His leadership down the stretch was a key to Harvard closing out Princeton tonight. Despite beating multiple Tiger double teams down the stretch, he did not force an off balanced shot and showed full confidence in his teammates. On one occasion he found Catchings for his first triple and on the second he trusted the young freshman to make a big play by giving him the ball in the final seconds of the shot clock. Defensively, he had a solid night and was actively trying to deny the ball from Stephens, forcing several turnovers and recording one steal.
The Tigers’ Stephens gave his best effort and attempted to keep the visitors close on the night. Particularly impressive was the control he exhibited on the offensive end of the floor. He recognized opportunities to get to the rim and exploited them at a high level on both sides, while displaying his upper body strength. He also took advantage of his size and posted up on the Harvard guards when denied catches on the perimeter and finished nicely with his back to the basket on both fadeaways and dives. On the boards, he did a solid job as well finishing with six rebounds and bodying away Crimson players to allow his teammates to rebound. He relished the opportunity to guard Aiken and was defending him aggressively, forcing a 9-of-21 shooting night from the Crimson star. He used his length well to affect Aiken’s shots and recorded one block.
Tigers’ sophomore guard, Ryan Schweiger came out of the gates very aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. Following his career-high 26 points in last night’s victory at Dartmouth, he finished with just 10 points but showed a lot of his good qualities. His ability to get to his spot through contact was on display as well as his sharp and decisive movement off the ball and around picks. He got his share of open looks as a result but struggled more than usual to connect on those shots. There were times in the game where he forced the issue and had unforced turnovers. Defensively, he used his length well and was very active in the passing lanes. His defense on Noah Kirkwood was particularly impressive as he was able to slow down the promising Crimson freshman, limiting him to nine points and three made field goals. He did a great job forcing Kirkwood to give up the ball by beating him to the spot and playing active defense with his hands.
Up Next: Harvard will embark on a season-ending two-game road trip that will start with a visit to Cornell (13-15, 5-7). Princeton will return home to host Brown (18-10, 6-6).