Another disappointing weekend for Princeton’s Tigers, this time at home. Trying desperately to shake off the effects of a disastrous 0-3 start to the Ivy campaign, Princeton relished the prospect of entertaining Columbia, which hadn’t won at Jadwin in 20 years, and Cornell, the Ivy cellar dweller.
Against the Lions, Hans Brase got off to another fast start, leading the Tigers to an eight point lead at intermission, 33-25, as order appeared restored in the Princeton universe. The euphoria proved to be nothing more than a mirage, however, as the Tigers’ woes in the Ivy League continued. The gritty Alex Rosenberg, although not shooting particularly well, kept the Lions in the game by getting to the line and converting 8-8 on the evening.
When Columbia finally got its first lead, 42-40 with 13 minutes left, the Princeton faithful got a little restless. The Tiger defense stiffened, however, holding the Lions to two points over the next eight minutes. The suddenly anemic Tiger offense could muster only seven of its own, giving Princeton a very unsteady 47-44 advantage with about 5 and a half to go.
Rosenberg drew the Lions even at 47 with a tough lay-up and one on Will Barrett’s 4th personal. The Tiger three point specialist went to the bench. He would not return.
Tiger rookie Steven Cook, making only his second start, this time in place of the injured Jimmy Sherburne, got the Tigers back in front when he drained a huge 3 at the end of the shot clock. Neither team could score over the next 3 minutes, until the Tigers’ redoubtable senior captain, TJ Bray, posted up for a lay-up to make it 52-47. With two minutes to go, the Tigers were poised to grab their first League victory. The Lions were having none of that.
Isaac Cohen canned a big 3 at 1:27, 52-50 Tigers. Bray missed for the Tigers, Maodo Lo for the Lions. Chris Clement rebounded the Lo misfire but stepped on the baseline, turning it over at the 30 seconds mark. Meiko Lyles, realizing his stat line was empty and not pleased at the prospect, launched a 3 point effort from somewhere near the Lion bench. Naturally, in this nightmare season, it found the bottom. Lyles’ only score for the game gave the Lions the lead for good.
On the other end, Columbia was waiting for Bray’s effort for the lead. He would not get a second chance. Game over.
Despite holding an opponent to 53 points, the Tigers meager second half output– 19 points on 33% shooting– was just not enough, as the home team fell to 0-4 in the Ivy League.
The atmosphere in Jadwin on Saturday night was festive, nevertheless, as the welcome mat was out for the winless Cornell Big Red and for more than 50 of Pete Carril’s former players, in town for a nostalgic reunion with the 82 year old Hall Of Famer.
Anxious to perform well before such an august assemblage, the young Tigers put on quite a show.
Freshman sensation Spencer Weisz led the Tigers with 18 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in a 28 minute audition for the role of “T. J. Bray” in next season’s cast.
Next year was clearly on Mitch Henderson’s mind on this night, as fellow freshmen Steven Cook and Pete Miller joined Weisz on the floor for several significant stretches. In all candor, Cook appeared somewhat hesitant in his first two starts, making himself an afterthought on the offensive end. Obviously getting more comfortable as the game wore on, Cook contributed 13 points, including 3 treys, and 5 rebounds in a team-high 33 minutes of action. On one breakaway off a Cornell turnover, Cook froze his defender and stunned the partisan crowd with a breath-taking behind the back move resulting in a spectacular lay-up. The delighted Tiger fans rose as one to welcome the new kid to the party.
Leading by as many as 25, the Tigers cruised to a much-needed victory, 69-48.
Henderson’s crew will have precious little time to enjoy this one, since they return to the road this week for the usual hostile receptions at Brown and Yale. After Harvard’s loss last night, a 3-4 record after the first half of its Ivy schedule would revive the Tigers’ title chances, if only slightly. In any event, Henderson must be pleased to see the development from his freshmen.
On the injury front, Jimmy Sherburne suffered an ankle injury in practice, forcing him to sit out the weekend. Junior Denton Koon is clearly hampered by a bad knee. He is scheduled for an MRI this week, and could be shut down for the remainder of the year.