Exclusives: Princeton wins 2004 Ivy basketball title
March 8, 2003
Mens basketball marches on
Ivy-champ Tigers earn a trip to the N.C.A.A. tournament
By Brett Tomlinson
The goal seemed close enough to touch, or at least close enough
to talk about. Mens basketball needed wins against Harvard
and Dartmouth, the Ivys two worst teams, to clinch a league
championship in the seasons final weekend. But Coach John
Thompson 88 and his players never wavered from the intense
focus that he called the hallmark of this years team. Well
pick our heads up at the end, he said.
True to the seasons form, the wins did not
come easily. The Tigers needed a late three-pointer by Scott Greenman
06 to break a tie with Harvard and help secure a 6051
win in Cambridge March 5. The next night, Princeton survived an
emotional surge in the second half of Dartmouth coach Dave Fauchers
final game to beat the Big Green 6459. Securing an N.C.A.A.
tournament bid did not sink in immediately, according to center
Judson Wallace 05. When we got in the locker room, we
realized what we had accomplished, he said.
Princetons starters did most of the heavy
lifting in the championship run. Will Venable 05, who scored
12 points at Harvard and 11 at Dartmouth, emerged as an indispensable
leader on both ends of the floor, with a knack for making big steals
and last-second layups. Wallace topped 20 points nine times during
the season (all Princeton wins), and Andre Logan 05, whose
injury history made him a preseason unknown, contributed 8.3 points
and 5.8 rebounds per game in Ivy contests.
When the Tigers needed an extra hand, a trio of
freshman reserves provided timely contributions. Luke Owings 07
chipped in 11 points to help the Tigers top Cornell February 28,
and Harrison Schaen 07 played a significant role in both of
Princetons wins against Harvard. Max Schafer 07 made
his biggest impact as a starter, filling in for injured guard Ed
Persia 04 in the final two weekends of the season.
Schafer, who struggled with his shooting early
in the year (two for 17 in the first 10 games), gradually picked
up the nuances of the Tigers offense. The coaches helped
me out with my decision making, picking my spots, he says.
As his playing time increased in the Ivy season, so did his production.
He contributed eight points and four assists in his first start
against Columbia February 27, and his three-point shooting climbed
to a respectable 31.7 percent.
Thompson credits Schafer and the other freshmen
with giving Princeton (197, 121 Ivy) the depth it needed
to thrive in the Ivys 14-game tournament. But
he adds, Its not a matter of freshmen and sophomores
anymore. Were just 15 guys, trying to fight, trying to win.
is PAW's sports editor.