For m. hoops, Princeton actually does matter

The waiting game began as soon as the Dartmouth game ended.

The Bulldogs were waiting for a final from the Columbia-Princeton game. A Columbia win would have given Yale a share of the Ivy League title, and the Bulldogs stayed in their uniforms with the hopes of cutting down the nets at the John J. Lee Amphitheater if the right final score arrived from New York City.

Across the campus, cell phones, campus phones, computers — all methods of communication were employed to find out the score of the Princeton-Columbia game. In the Lee Amphitheater, the first word had Columbia ahead 38-31. Minutes later, it was 44-44, and finally, the disappointing outcome: Princeton 49, Columbia 48.

With wins over Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend, Yale improved to 11-3 in Ivy League play. But in order to get a share of the Ivy League championship, the Bulldogs need Princeton to lose a game, and after the Columbia win, there is only one more opportunity for the Tigers to slip up — Tuesday at Pennsylvania.

This weekend, the Tigers came perilously close to dropping a game, but were able to rally for a pair of wins. Friday night, they overcame a nine point deficit against Cornell to pull out a 61-57 win in Ithaca. In New York the next night, a 3-pointer by Mike Bechtold with 34 seconds left gave the Tigers their first lead of the game against the Lions, 49-48. Columbia’s Craig Austin missed a jumper in the waning seconds that could have given the Lions the victory.

The Bulldogs are not without hope, though, as the Tigers will have to beat Penn on the road in order to win the title outright. A Quaker win will leave a three-way tie between Penn, Princeton and Yale. Then, a two-game playoff — first Yale versus Princeton, then the winner versus Penn — would determine which of the co-champions would earn the Ivy League’s automatic NCAA berth.

For Bulldog fans, there is reason to expect a Penn victory. In the first two meetings between the rivals, the Quakers laid a hammering on the Tigers, 62-38 in Princeton. The Quakers, after suffering an 83-78 loss to Yale, are winners of eight in a row and have posted a 10-3 record this year at the Palestra.

The Tigers, though, have won six straight since that loss to Penn. With their wins this weekend, they have also shown a knack for clutch performances.

The two teams square off Tuesday night at 8 p.m. The game will be on DIRECTV, and, just like the Columbia-Princeton game, the Bulldogs will be following this one closely.

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