Our George “Toothless Tiger” Clark caught up with Princeton coach Mitch Henderson at Cameron Indoor Stadium just hours before Princeton’s tilt with Duke Tuesday. Listen to hear Henderson explain why he scheduled the game at Duke, break down Drew Friberg’s crucial second-half production in the Tigers’ comeback win over Iona, explain how Jaelin Llewellyn is unlike any freshman he’s ever seen and why Jose Morales is a “junkyard dog,” detail Richmond Aririguzoh’s development, the qualities his senior class has displayed, why Penn appears to have “that look” to him and much more:
The Tigers squared off against the Iona Gaels at 11:30 a.m. this morning in a nearly empty arena on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. Fellow Ivy League member Columbia defeated Iona in a very close contest at Madison Square Garden last weekend. After a tough 85-81 victory the Tigers proved by transitive property, at the very least, that they can play with Columbia.,
If a nonconference contest is ever a “must win” game this was clearly the case for both teams. Iona (2-7) came in on a four-game losing streak, strange territory for the three-time defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champions. The Tigers, at 4-4 but facing Duke and Arizona State later this month, needed to win a game in which they figured to have a chance.
The Tigers returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 2000 to play the St. John’s Red Storm in the Holiday Festival. For decades, the Holiday Festival was the premier event of the preseason, played between Christmas and New Year’s, employing an actual tournament format.
The final in 1964 was one of the most memorable games in that entire season, matching Bill Bradley’s Tigers against Cazzie Russell’s Michigan Wolverines. Bradley canned 41 before fouling out with the Tigers holding a 12-point lead. The five-minute ovation he received was unmatched in Garden history. Alas, the Wolverines fought back, winning 80-78.
In Dec. 1997, Princeton beat Drexel and Niagara to win the Festival title on its way to a 27-2 record and an eighth-place national ranking in the final AP poll of that season. Current Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was a Tiger co-captain.
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.
On the most consequential night of the still young Ivy League season, the Tigers did their part by extending their modest winning streak to three games. Although their effort will be overshadowed by Cornell’s near-miss at Syracuse in the Boeheim Bowl and Yale’s big win at Miami, the Tigers’ play against the A10’s George Washington deserves some recognition.
Princeton won, 73-52, but the final score is a misleading indicator of the proceedings. The outcome was very much in doubt after 12 minutes of play in the second half. While Princeton held single-digit leads through much of the game, the Colonials “hung around,” as we say, appearing poised to make a run at any time.
Princeton’s second straight game against an 0-6 opponent, this time the Maine Black Bears, offered the Tigers a chance to work on some of the bothersome trends that emerged in the first four games.
Shooting has been a real, although unexpected, issue throughout the roster except for Devin Cannady. Maine, coached by former Tiger women’s coach Richard Barron, has found it difficult to find its footing in Barron’s first season after several years at the helm of the Maine women.
The Tigers, getting a tremendous lift from Devin Cannady’s season-high 28, controlled this one throughout, leading by as many as 19 before closing the door at Maine, 73-59. Cannady was 7-for-10 from the field, 5-for-8 from beyond the arc and a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. Several of his long-range bombs drew “oohs” and “aahs” from the Bangor fans.
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’ second Division I tilt, a home contest against Fairleigh Dickinson Wednesday, ended in a depressingly similar way to last week’s game at Lehigh.
Princeton held a 56-53 advantage at the 9:12 mark of the second period. The Tigers would not lead again. FDU went on a 20-7 run over the next eight minutes, coasting home with a convincing 77-66 road win. Tiger skipper Mitch Henderson alluded to the game as a “second punch in the face” for his club, per the Trentonian. For the second year in a row, the Knights have outscored the Tigers by 15 in the second stanza, although last year’s 22-point halftime advantage saved the Tigers.
The game started promisingly for Princeton, as Devin Cannady returned to the starting lineup, appearing to have recovered completely from what was described as a “high hamstring pull.” Cannady hit his first four threes from NBA range. His 15 points sent the home team into the locker room with a 34-30 lead.
The Tigers’ Division I debut at Lehigh can best be described as forgettable. The Mountain Hawks, surely one of the Patriot League’s elite squads, soundly thrashed Princeton Friday, 72-57.
Last season, at Jadwin Gym, Lehigh raced out to a 22-point lead at the end of what some believe to be the worst half of basketball in the Mitch Henderson era. Princeton came back to make a game of it but could not get over the hurdle the team made for itself.
This year, the scenarios were reversed. Despite woeful shooting (7-for-25, 1-for-12 from beyond the arc) the Tigers displayed tremendous defensive energy, holding Lehigh to 28 first-half points. The Hawks held a very manageable two-point margin at the break, 28-26.
Disaster struck in the first four minutes of the second period when Lehigh went on a 16-3 tear to lead, 44-29. Realizing the Tigers probably could not hit the lake from a rowboat, Lehigh coach Brett Reed deployed his team in a zone, daring the Tigers to make threes. Reed was right. The Tigers shot 4-for-32 from deep.
For the last three years, I have attended Cornell’s season opener against the Binghamton Bearcats. Both schools are a manageable drive north on I-81 from my home near Scranton. Each of these games has offered an interesting sideline, a story within the story, beyond the final score.
Two years ago, Brian Earl was making his head coaching debut at Cornell. At the same time, Binghamton’s shooting guard, J.C. Show, a product of my local high school who had been mildly pursued by Earl’s Tigers, took the court for the first time since transferring from Bucknell. Show’s 26 points helped Binghamton spoil Earl’s first game, while rather thoroughly mixing my emotions.
Last year, the teams tipped off in Ithaca. For the first time, Jimmy Boeheim, son of the Hall of Famer, appeared in a Cornell uniform. His parents and I were there to witness the event. The elder Boeheim first came to my attention when he played for the Scranton Miners in the old Eastern League in the 1960’s. His gritty, baseline-to-baseline combativeness won the hearts of thousands of fans in blue collar Scranton. When I encountered him at a concession stand during halftime, his reaction was typical coach Boeheim: “Get out of my way … ”