M. BASKETBALL | Showdowns with Harvard, Dartmouth loom

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Photo by Charlie Croom.

A Harvard-Yale sporting event always features a lot of anticipation and excitement, but in a matchup of two of the Ivy League’s best men’s basketball teams, there are more than just bragging rights on the line.

The Bulldogs (11–9, 4–2 Ivy) will head to Cambridge for a Friday night matchup with the Harvard Crimson (16–4, 5–1) before meeting the Dartmouth Big Green (5–15, 1–5) on Saturday in Hanover, NH. The Bulldogs are in third place in the Ivy League standings, one position behind Harvard, and are 4–6 on the road this season.

“We need to be able to play for forty minutes against the best teams in the league, head coach James Jones said. “We need to make sure that we can take care of the ball and not have lulls and not have sequences where four or five possessions in a row, we don’t get a good shot.”

The Crimson are coming off an intense road trip against “the Killer P’s.” In Friday’s matchup at Princeton, the game came down to the final seconds, as Princeton’s Ian Eggleston hit two free throws with four seconds remaining to preserve the Tiger victory. If that wasn’t exciting enough, one night later, Harvard and Penn battled ferociously, forcing the game into double overtime. Trailing by one with 11 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Harvard turned to McNally, who sank a jump shot to pull out an 83–82 Harvard win. The matchup with Yale will be the Crimson’s third game in a row against an Ivy League team that is in the top half of the conference.

Despite losing guard Golden State Warrior Jeremy Lin to graduation, the Crimson return a deep and talented team. Forward Keith Wright leads the Crimson with 15.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and will present a tough matchup for Eli center Greg Mangano ’12. Crimson guards Christian Weber, Laurent Rivard and Oliver McNally are also in double figures in scoring.

In addition to Harvard’s solid scoring options, the meeting will showcase two of the best defenses in the Ivy League. Harvard leads the Ancient Eight in opponent’s points per game, while the Bulldogs lead the League in opponent field goal percentage. And in a game of two solid offenses and good defenses, mistakes could prove the difference. Harvard and Yale are first and second in the Ivy League, respectively, in turnovers per game.

For the Elis, a Saturday trip to Dartmouth will follow the Harvard game, and it may end up being what the Bulldogs need. One night after what is sure to be an intense and emotional game in Cambridge, the Elis will take on one of the Ivy League’s cellar dwellers. The Big Green have the Ivy League’s worst scoring margin at -10.7. In comparison, the Bulldogs enter the weekend with a +1.4 scoring margin. Dartmouth’s lone Ivy win came at home against Cornell two weeks ago. As Harvard’s travel partner, they made the same trip to Penn and Princeton but could not find similar success as they lost both games by 31 and 15 to Penn and Princeton, respectively. The Big Green are led by Jabari Trotter, R.J. Griffin and David Rufful who are all averaging just over eight points per game.

Two wins would guarantee that the Bulldogs move up into at least a tie for second place in the Ivy League. Princeton leads the conference at 5–0.

The Bulldogs will meet Harvard at 7 p.m. Friday night in Lavietes Pavillion in Cambridge, Mass. The game at Dartmouth is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday night.

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