Princeton traveled to the Jersey shore Tuesday night for a battle with intra-state rival and mid-major titan Monmouth. Picked to win the MAAC this year, the Hawks came into the game at 9-2.
Princeton got off to the hot start it desperately needed after a tough home loss last week against another flock of Hawks, St. Joseph’s. Leading by as many as 13 points in the first half, the Tigers showed how they can adjust in the face of a worsening injury situation. One must say the Tigers enjoyed their best night offensively since the preseason of 2015-16. Steven Cook (30) and Devin Cannady (26) each set career scoring marks, propelling the Tigers to a 90-point explosion, the first time the Tigers reached the 90-point mark, only to lose, in 60 years.
The Hawks, outplayed much of the evening, exploited two great runs to hold off the Tigers, 96-90. It took Monmouth (10-2) 15 minutes to find its footing in the first half. A 14-3 run to close out the first period gave the home team its first lead, 39-38, at the break. Frankly, the Tigers (4-6) were relieved to be that close since Spencer Weisz spent most of the period on the bench with three personals.
Showing great heart, the Tigers would not go away, employing signature ball movement and opportunistic shooting, particularly from three-point range, to grab what appeared to be a solid lead, 66-58, with about nine minutes left.
Justin Robinson, however, had other ideas. He got hot and the Hawks engaged their uptempo offense to perfection over the next five minutes. The resulting 16-0 run turned a winnable game into another disappointing evening for the Tigers. Robinson, the MAAC Player of the Year favorite, and Je’lon Hornbeak combined for 52 points, pretty much matching the Tigers’ Cook and Cannady.
Employing a small lineup for lengthy stretches, the Tigers had some rebounding difficulties, particularly on the offensive glass, where the Tigers managed just four caroms. When you shoot the ball as well as the Tigers did last night you don’t need to worry too much about offensive rebounds. Obviously, 90 points wins most games. Junior guard Amir Bell had a productive night with six assists in 24 minutes, but his shooting woes continue. Sophomore guard Myles Stephens played 35 minutes for the first time, showing that he can produce enough to minimize the effects of losing Henry Caruso.
The Tigers conclude the road portion of their out-of-conference schedule on Thursday night against Bucknell in Lewisburg. No game prior to the Ivy season may be classified as a “must win” contest but this one comes pretty close. The Tigers need something good to happen against a quality opponent and they will find one in the Bison. You can stream the game on the Patriot League Network at 7:00 PM.