Tigers’ hopes for a boffo season took another hit last night against the St. Joseph’s Hawks at Jadwin Gym. The visiting Big 5 quintet led for nearly the entire game, often by double digits. Princeton found its defensive energy in the second half as the Hawks were denied very many good looks. The Tigers clawed their way back, even managing a brief lead at 64-61 with under four minutes to go. St. Joe’s revved up its speed game once again, going on a 15-4 tear to close out the game, 76-68.
Clearly, the Tigers were struggling to overcome the loss of Hans Brase for the second time in two seasons due to knee problems. The news that senior forward, and last year’s first-team All-Ivy selection, Henry Caruso will not play again because of a toe injury hit this team like a sledgehammer blow. Caruso brought a toughness and grit to the floor and it showed in the stats. He was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder a year ago.
The starting lineup last night featured the veteran Pete Miler at the five and sophomore Myles Stephens in Caruso’s spot. Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook held their customary positions, but Devin Cannady started at point for the fourth straight game over the struggling Amir Bell. Will Gladson, Aaron Young and Alec Brennan are now components in the Tiger regular rotation. This is not the situation coach Mitch Henderson expected in November.
Spencer Weisz was perhaps the lone bright spot for the Tigers as he finished with eight assists, 11 rebounds and 10 points. He had no turnovers. He came tantalizingly close to what would have been the first recorded triple-double in Tiger history. This young man is writing a unique page in the Tiger record book.
The loss of Caruso and Brase was felt inside the paint as the Hawks outrebounded the Tigers by a 58-34 margin. Princeton expects to shoot better than 35 percent at Jadwin and 32 percent from beyond the arc. But the saddest note is the fact that the Tigers were held scoreless for more than three minutes after seizing the lead for the first time in 36 minutes. Missing 10 free throws did not help either.
Performances like this one suggest the Ivy race for the top four spots may involve at least six teams. Eight wins will definitely get you in the conversation.