Princeton men’s basketball goes back to work

The Tigers’ annual January reading period and their forced three-week hiatus come to an end this weekend with visits from the Yale Bulldogs and the Brown Bears to Jadwin Gym. This is a good time to assess the season to this point and offer some predictions for the remainder of the Ivy campaign.

After a 2-6 start, the Tigers rebounded nicely, winning five of the final six out-of-conference games to conclude that portion of their schedule at 7-7. Princeton was bitten by the injury bug for the third time in as many years.

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Princeton’s 12-day road trip ends on a high note

The Tigers capped off a hugely successful 12-day swing to the West Coast and beyond with a workmanlike 77-63 victory over the host Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Monday to conclude their their three games in the Diamond Head Classic. Only a two-point loss to Middle Tennessee State  in the tourney opener marred the Tigers road trip record of 4-1. Princeton finished its out-of-conference schedule at 7-7.

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Princeton splits two nail-biters in first two games of Diamond Head Classic

The Tigers came into the opener of this Christmas tournament hosted by the University of Hawaii as slight underdogs to the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State, winners of games in the last two NCAA tournaments, including a monumental upset over Michigan State in 2016.

In a game the Tigers led by as many as seven and never trailed by more than four, it took a big-time play by the Raiders’ great guard, Giddy Potts, to break the last tie with two seconds to go. The final: Middle Tennessee State 69, Princeton 67.

Once again the Tigers played quite well from the outset, leading 28-23 at the break. This was perhaps as good as the defense has shown over a 20-minute stretch all season. The Raiders are very well-coached, boasting a deep, talented roster, featuring size, strength and speed. They fully expect to make another deep run for Conference USA laurels.

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Fresh off USC win, Princeton to square off in Diamond Head Classic

The Tigers take Hawaii … and are slated to face Middle Tennessee State at 5:30 p.m. EST on Friday in the Diamond Head Classic.
(Princeton Men’s Basketball Facebook page)

On Friday, the Tigers open play in the Diamond Head Classic on the beautiful island of Oahu in the 50th state. Their first foe in a “three games in four days” format is the very strong Conference USA representative, Middle Tennessee State, a frequent Big Dance contestant.

Coming in with a record of 7-2, including wins over SEC teams Mississippi and Vanderbilt, the Raiders have their own version of the big three, Nick King, Giddy Potts and big man Brandon Walters. These three play a lot of minutes and score a ton of points. Middle Tennessee State is currently ranked 67th by the esteemed Ken Pomeroy, high enough to warrant a 65 percent chance to beat the Tigers (128th) on a neutral court.

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Princeton upsets USC, 103-93, in overtime for biggest Ivy nonconference win of the season so far

The Tigers’ opponent was the preseason top 10 Trojans of Southern California, playing what the Los Angeles Times suggested was a tuneup game. The Tigers may have been offended by this evident lack of respect.

In any event, they responded with their best showing to date, dealing the Trojans a 103-93 beating in overtime. While the #2bidivy movement may not be relevant this season, the Tigers’ performance Tuesday night (and Wednesday morning Eastern Time) at Southern Cal shows why a second NCAA Tournament bid is inevitable.

The Tigers were in control for much of the second half after trailing by three at the end of the first period, 36-33. With under a minute to go in regulation, Princeton still held an 81-74 lead. Trading free throws for threes, the Trojans pulled within two with five seconds to go. A costly Tigers turnover on the inbounds pass resulted in a Trojans lay-in to tie the game at 86-86 at the end of regulation. Frankly, at that point, it looked like the visitors had run out of ammo.

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Struggling Princeton falls to 2-6 after loss to George Washington

The Tigers took another body blow last night, losing 70-61 to the Colonials of GWU in the nation’s capital. The Colonials made the visit as uncomfortable for the Tigers as a grilling by the House Intelligence Committee without the ability to invoke attorney-client privilege! The game was dominated by the home teams’ much taller front court and by the tremendous quickness of guard Jair Bolden, who lead all scorers with 27 points.

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