The Tigers entered Saturday afternoon’s contest at Monmouth as a two-point favorite. The visitors covered, but barely.
Chalk up Princeton’s 60-57 comeback victory to senior leadership, particularly to Devin Cannady. His 18 second-half points, 21 overall, proved just enough to propel the Tigers past the Hawks, in what has become a spirited intra-state rivalry. King Rice’s club, off to a horrendous 0-6 start, was especially anxious to right the ship.
This one was almost the polar opposite of the game two years ago on the same floor. The Hawks survived an amazing 96-90 shootout which was as exhausting to watch as it was to play. The Tigers stumbled out of the gate as the Hawks grabbed an early 10-2 lead after four minutes, extending that margin to 18-7 eight minutes in. A Myles Stephens three drew the Tigers within five, 20-15, midway through the first period. Both teams stalled leading to a four-minute scoreless stretch. The Tigers could manage a paltry five points in the final 10 minutes. Monmouth was not much better, but went into the locker room holding a 27-20 lead.
The Tigers’ three-point shooting drought continued in the first half. The team shot 4-for-17, while Cannady was a most uncharacteristic 1-for-6, after a 4-for-4 start against FDU on Wednesday.
Things were no better as the second period unfolded. Trailing by 10 with nine minutes remaining, the Tigers called upon Cannady for some of that senior leadership. The call was answered. Cannady’s eight points over the next five minutes sparked the Tigers to a 15-4 run and their first lead, 52-51, with 3:38 to go.
The captain broke a 55-55 tie with a clutch three inside of 40 seconds. Two Monmouth free throws got the Hawks within one. Forced to foul, the Hawks regrettably sent Cannady to the line. He nailed both to ice the hard-fought and much needed 60-57 road win.
The way this win was accomplished may prove far more significant than the win itself. Cannady’s huge second-half sent a clear message to his teammates. Reminiscent of Casey Stengel’s advice to his Yankee teams of the 1950s: “Get me to the ninth and I’ll think of something.”
Jose Morales deserves mention for his tireless effort at both ends of the floor. Shaking off the effects of a shoulder injury, which appeared to have been aggravated on Wednesday, he gave the Tigers the spark that Henderson’s club needed very badly. Morales, with 10 points, joined Cannady and Stephens (13) in double figures for the Tigers.
Princeton returns to Jadwin for a Saturday matinee against George Washington.