Princeton did not expect its second straight contest against an A-10 foe to go as well as the first. St. Joseph’s, picked preseason number 2 in the conference and winner of three straight versus the Tigers, promised much stiffer competition than the 13th-ranked George Washington Colonials.
Princeton’s expectations were fulfilled.
Phil Martelli’s club, behind Lamarr Kimble’s 22-point second-half explosion, raced past the Tigers, 92-82, Wednesday in an intensely fought and entertaining battle.
While the Tigers never held a lead, they remained very much within reach until the final six minutes. In the first period, 13 points from Devin Cannady and 10 more from the constantly improving Richmond Aririguzoh (henceforth “RA”) enabled the Tigers to reach the locker room trailing by a manageable three, 39-36.
Martelli’s roster is deep, quick and immensely talented. Their best all-around player is Charlie Brown, Jr., a rangy forward who reminds one of Harvard’s great Seth Towns. One minute into the second half, with the Tigers trailing by two, Brown hit the deck in a wild scramble for a loose ball. Leaving the game with the assistance of two trainers with an apparent right ankle sprain, Brown would not return. The Tigers were poised to take advantage of this unfortunate development.
But the Hawks, especially Kimble and Taylor Funk, responded admirably. They would not allow the Tigers to get within two again. Kimble and Funk combined for 32 of their 38 points in the second half to keep the Tigers at bay. Funk, who bedeviled the Tigers last year with 23 points, scored 16, the second of four Hawks in double figures.
Princeton generated 82 points on offense, enough to win most games. Devin Cannady’s 23, including a season-high six threes, was high for the home team. RA (14), Jose Morales (13) and Jerome Desrosiers (12) reached double figures.
RA continues to impress as he assumes nearly full-time duty in the five-hole in the absence of Will Gladson. He made all three of his field-goal attempts and was a perfect 8-for-8 on the free-throw line. For the most part, he has avoided foul trouble in recent outings, an issue that has plagued him in the past. It need hardly be mentioned how crucial foul trouble can be without Gladson’s help.
Morales, simply stated, is playing his heart out. He had his fourth straight solid game and now regularly plays 30-plus minutes each night. He added six assists, which is a measurable statistic, and a high level of intensity, which is not. Tonight, he took three long-range shots, something he seemed reluctant to do previously. This factor adds a dimension to the offense which will be valuable ahead.
Desrosiers turned in his best effort of the year, reminiscent of his production in last season’s Ivy race.
In 19 minutes he had a team high eight rebounds, seven at the defensive end, and canned 3-for-5 from deep.
The team’s problem continues to be defense. Giving up 92 points at home is unacceptable. Coach Mitch Henderson, of course, knows this better than anyone. He remains unreservedly high on this team’s prospects. He is quick to note that, other than Cannady and Stephens, no one on this squad has enjoyed a lot of playing time. Stephens, who was able to let the game come his way when he had Spencer Weisz, Steven Cook and Cannady around him, has tried to create scoring opportunities with the ball in his hands. The results have been spotty at best. When RA produces scoring from the five position and when Jaelin Llewellyn gets on the floor, Stephens will return to his very talented form.
This team will be able to put a lot points on the board, but the question will remain: Can they hold the other guys down?
Llewellyn may be days away from making his Tiger debut. The emergence of Morales gives Henderson the luxury of a high-quality three-player backcourt combination.
Shocking Development Department: I noted above the intensity of this game, featuring a lot of hard fouls and many loose-ball fights resulting in players knocking each other to the floor. Cannady was upended on a layup try, causing him to land on his back. Although he quickly bounced to his feet, he was in obvious pain as he stepped to the free-throw line for two shots. He short-armed the first attempt, resulting in his FIRST MISS of the season. On the next attempt, his perfect shooting form returned.
The Tigers will not return to Jadwin Gym for a month when they open the Ivy season against defending Ivy champ Penn on Jan. 5. First, though, they take on St. John’s at The World’s Greatest Arena Sunday at 1 p.m.