Big-time basketball returned to Jadwin Gym Feb. 13, when 5,775 fans streamed into the stands to watch Princeton and Cornell, the Ivy League’s top two men’s teams, in a key mid-season matchup.
On the court, defense dominated the action, and Princeton trailed for most of the game — though never by much. The hundreds of undergraduates in the arena’s northwest corner erupted when the Tigers briefly grabbed the lead in the second half, but Cornell recovered, hanging on to a slim advantage in the closing minutes.
With eight seconds left, the Tigers trailed by three and had one last opportunity to tie the score. Princeton guard Douglas Davis ’12, who scored nine of his game-high 20 points in the final 3:20, shed defender Louis Dale near mid-court, but the window of opportunity closed when Jeff Foote, Cornell’s 7-foot center, stepped out to the 3-point line with his arms raised and ready.
Davis passed to Pawel Buczak ’10, who returned the ball almost immediately, giving Davis just enough time to launch a deep 3-pointer. The shot struck the back of the rim, and the Big Red survived with a 48-45 win.
Afterward, Davis was upset with the outcome, but he marveled at the near-sellout crowd, a sight he’d seen only in photos. Coach Sydney Johnson ’97 said his team ought to take pride in the 5–0 start in Ivy play that made Princeton-Cornell a big game. “The next step is to win a game like that,” Johnson said. “Terrific atmosphere; the wrong team won. That’s all it is.”
Princeton continued its impressive Ivy stretch three days later, beating Penn at the Palestra, 58–51. The Tigers also routed Yale by 24 points Feb. 19, draining 13 of 19 3-point attempts. But the team’s shooting cooled Feb. 20 against Brown, and the Bears took advantage, edging Princeton, 57–54.
The Tigers had a chance to rejuvenate their Ivy championship hopes at Cornell Feb. 26, but the Big Red won another close game, 50–47. Princeton beat Columbia Feb. 27, and Cornell locked up at least a share of the Ivy title when it topped Penn the same night.With a 17–8 record and three games remaining, Princeton had a chance to reach 20 wins for the first time since 2003–04.