Princeton Finding Its Stride

Freshman Denton Koon has stepped up for the Tigers, who have won seven of their last nine. (Photo Credit: washingtonexaminer.com)

State of the Tigers, 2012

The Princeton Tigers are undefeated in 2012! The statheads out there will likely call foul and complain about “sample size,” given that Princeton has only played one game so far – a victory over Florida A&M on New Year’s Day. But that win, coming on the heels of a triple OT thriller over Florida State in Tallahassee, pushed the Princeton squad’s record above .500 for the first time all year. The Tigers

sit at 8-7, and have won seven of their last nine games after starting the season an ugly 1-5. With one home game against TNCJ left before a brutal five game road swing to start Ivy League play, let”s take a look at the keys to Princeton’s recent success and the potential problems that remain with the real season set to kick off in just a week and a half.

Princeton has a Point Guard!

One of the big question marks at the start of the 2011-2012 Tigers campaign was who would bring the ball up the court for Princeton. Would Doug Davis, a natural shooting guard, be forced to shoulder the load? Would Ian Hummer play some sort of awkward point forward? Could anyone on the team dribble the ball the length of the court?

Sophomore guard T.J. Bray has put an end to all those questions, emerging as one of the most integral

cogs in the Princeton machine. In his first year as a starter, Bray has played almost 34 minutes a game, just behind Messrs. Davis and Hummer and a full eleven minutes more than the next man on the Princeton roster. And Bray’s made the most of casino pa natet his opportunity. He has the most assists on the team, averaging just under 4 dimes a game with a respectable 1.6 assist/turnover ratio. He’s also been lights out from downtown, leading Princeton with a .417 clip on three point shots. And he’s second on the team, behind Hummer, in both steals and rebounds. Most importantly, he’s given the Tigers consistency at a position that was in sore need of some after the departure of Dan Mavraides.

The Tigers are Winning in Overtime

Princeton’s recent run of winning basketball technically began on Nov. 27, with a blowout win over D-II West Alabama in the last game of a disappointing TicketCity Classic tournament. But spiritually, the turnaround came two games later, when the Tigers went down the road and beat de dem neuen Online Portal im Netz. cross-town rival Rutgers for the second straight year, 59-57. The game was more than just a badly needed tally mark in the wins column for the Tigers; it was a reminder that the success of last year’s Princeton team was not yet wholly out of the grasp of the current incarnation. Last year, if you recall, the Tigers kicked off their season by playing David to Rutgers’ Goliath, with an overtime victory that set the tone for the rest of the season. Princeton wouldn’t lose an overtime contest the rest of the way.

Let’s return to this season. Following the close victory against Rutgers, Princeton has won both of its overtime games, including the aforementioned triple overtime victory against Florida State. The last game was especially heartening for a Princeton squad that let another ACC upset bid against NC State slip through its fingers in the final seconds earlier in the season. Princeton has lost to plenty of teams this season that it should have beaten handily. But the team has also shown signs that it can hang with anyone.

Can Princeton Hang with the Big Men of the Ivy League?

It’s been a tough few months for center Brendan Connolly, who head coach Mitch Henderson prophesized would be one of the Tigers to make The Leap this season. Connolly hasn’t started a game since November, and the only category in which he leads the team is fouls per game. The Tigers have been relatively effective with a three forward attack, essentially playing three rangy power forwards instead of a traditional 3 or a true center. But when league play rolls around and the Keith Wrights of the world set up shop in the paint, will Connolly be pressed back into action? There’s still time for the big man to turn things around, but so far the campaign has been disappointing, and the center spot remains the Achilles’ heel for the Princeton team.

Koon’s Korner

Finally, to end on a positive note, Denton Koon has officially arrived! The Prodigy from Liberty™ was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week on Monday, after putting up seven points and ten boards against Florida State and following it up with a career high 13 points against Florida A&M. Koon’s the first Tiger to get the ROTW nod from the Ivy League since Ian Hummer’s freshman season.

By the way, the only two Princeton losses in the last nine games also happen to be the only two games where Koon played fewer than ten minutes. Coincidence, correlation, or causation? We’re not sayin’; we’re just sayin’.

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2 thoughts on “Princeton Finding Its Stride

  1. ~Tigers have a *half-court* PG. Bray has done a marvelous job in every area but one: beating the full-court press. It remains a major concern and you can bet Ivy teams will put him to the test late in games.

    ~I have no idea why Koon barely played against Siena. Maybe if Saunders was hot from 3, but he went 0-fer. I hope Henderson learned his lesson on that one. May have cost us the game.

    ~I wouldn’t say that center is Princeton’s Achilles heel (that would be dribble penetration, both the lack of and inability to defend it). But it IS the key to a darkhorse title run because it’s an area in which we have the personnel to do much better.

    Brendan Connolly doesn’t have to be Chris Young. He just needs to play good defense (w/o fouling). Production-wise, 6pts + 4rebs in 20 minutes would be fine. If he can do that consistently, we might have a real shot an upset title run.

  2. I have been wondering when Gaffney would weigh in with his take on the campaign. Excellent analysis and, typically, well written. Bray has the ability to fill the few holes remaining in his game. Who better to teach him than Henderson and Earl? I recall them breaking a few presses in their time. Two months in but still no definitive answer to the Connolly question. The emergence of Bray as another scoring option takes some of the pressure off the inside game, but Brendan must be able to defend for long stretches against the Wrights and the Manganos without getting into foul trouble. Remember those 32 minutes against the Crimson, the reason, I am sure, Henderson expected so much from him. We don’t need him to be Young, or Maddox, but we do need him to be the Connolly of late last year.

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