Web Exclusives: Princeton wins 2004 Ivy basketball title

March 8, 2003

Men’s 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. Men’s basketball needed wins against Harvard and Dartmouth, the Ivy’s two worst teams, to clinch a league championship in the season’s final weekend. But Coach John Thompson ’88 and his players never wavered from the intense focus that he called the hallmark of this year’s team. “We’ll pick our heads up at the end,” he said.

True to the season’s 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 60—51 win in Cambridge March 5. The next night, Princeton survived an emotional surge in the second half of Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher’s final game to beat the Big Green 64—59. 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.

Princeton’s 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 Princeton’s 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 (19–7, 12–1 Ivy) the depth it needed to thrive in the Ivy’s “14-game tournament.” But he adds, “It’s not a matter of freshmen and sophomores anymore. We’re just 15 guys, trying to fight, trying to win.”

Brett Tomlinson is PAW's sports editor.