Princeton’s roller-coaster regular season ended in calamity this weekend. In a season of ups and downs, the Tigers saved their worst for last, losing back-to-back games in convincing fashion at home to Brown and Yale. After surrendering an astounding 25 turnovers to Brown on Friday night, the Tigers completely collapsed on Senior Night, losing by 22 points on Saturday to Yale, 81-59. It was the most lopsided loss by a Princeton team at home to Yale in program history.
The Tigers entered the weekend with a chance to win an Ivy League regular season title. Given these stakes, one would have expected the Tigers to play with energy, determination and spirit, especially on a Senior Night in which one of the greatest players of recent times, Myles Stephens, was honored before a packed home crowd at Jadwin Gym. Instead, the Tigers looked confused, disjointed, and at times disinterested as they ended their regular season with a disheartening three-game losing streak. Throughout the weekend, the Tigers were outmanned, outplayed, outshot, and outhustled.
The weekend began with the news that Princeton’s leading scorer of late, Ryan Schwieger, would miss both games due to concussion-related symptoms. Keep in mind, only two weeks ago, the Tigers were shaken by the departure of their previous leading scorer, Devin Cannady, who voluntarily withdrew from the university for personal reasons. The Tigers initially held up well in Cannady’s absence by successfully adopting a “next-man-up” philosophy. Apparently, the added loss of Schwieger proved to be more than this young Tigers squad could bear.
In the two weekend losses, some familiar problems afflicted the Tigers. All season long, Princeton inexplicably has struggled to shoot the ball from distance, but without Schwieger and Cannady, the three-point shooting woes hit new lows. In the two losses to Brown and Yale, Princeton converted a ghastly 13 of 53 attempts from behind the arc, or 24.5 percent. Moreover, as has often been the case this season, Princeton struggled mightily to establish any rhythm on offense. As a result, the Tigers fell behind early in both games and never seriously challenged either opponent.
The most galling aspect of the weekend, however, was Princeton’s inability or unwillingness to fight back on Saturday night against a fired-up Yale squad. From the opening tip, Yale played with determination and spirit, as you would expect from any team fighting for a conference championship. Princeton couldn’t respond. The final margin of Saturday’s defeat – 22 points – was the largest in any Ivy League game this season. Let that sink in for a moment.
So where do things stand now for Princeton? The Tigers have a full week to pick themselves up and regroup as they head to New Haven for a rematch with Yale in the first round of the four-team Ivy League Tournament. Perhaps Ryan Schwieger will return for that game, which certainly should provide a much-needed boost to the Tigers’ anemic offense.
But make no mistake, the Tigers are going to need a lot more than the return of a player who began the season on the bench to compete on the road against a vastly superior Yale team. The Tigers need an edge coming into this game. Forget about a championship, these young Tigers need to play for respect and redemption. Yale embarrassed Princeton on its Senior Night and the Tigers need to make a statement in return to redeem their proud tradition of superiority on the hardwood.
It’s time for these Tigers to take some revenge.