The Chairman’s big night at Jadwin … and the Tigers’ big win

The theme for Saturday night’s visit by the Columbia Lions to Jadwin Gym was “HISTORY.”

The Tiger faithful gathered to celebrate history, honoring at halftime the 50th Anniversary of the 1965 Final Four team, captained by the incomparable Bill Bradley. Sensing the significance of the occasion, Columbia’s Maodo “The Chairman” Lo determined to make a little history of his own. More on that below.

The 1965 Tigers reached the Final Four in an Eastern Regional matchup facing the Providence Friars at their place. The night before the final, the Friars celebrated their win in the semis by cutting down the nets in what remains the most egregious example of early chicken counting in this writer’s memory. (The back-slapping of James Jones and his staff in the last minute at Harvard Friday night is a recent contender.) Stung by the snub, the Tigers thrashed the Friars, 109-69. A request for the previous evening’s nets was declined.

Read moreThe Chairman’s big night at Jadwin … and the Tigers’ big win

Princeton falters at Payne Whitney … again

Mitch Henderson fell to 2-6 all-time against Yale as Princeton's head coach Friday night in New Haven.
Mitch Henderson fell to 2-6 all-time against Yale as Princeton’s head coach Friday night in New Haven.

The Princeton brand took another body blow last night in New Haven, rekindling memories of the shocking collapse two seasons ago. At that time, the Tigers entered the final full weekend of the year needing a sweep to clinch another Ivy title or just one win to force a playoff with eventual winner Harvard. A shocking upset Friday night at Yale, followed by a listless walk-through at Brown the next night, sent the Tigers home with its season in tatters. That team voted to stay home in the postseason, turning down overtures from the CBI and CIT.

The stakes were not nearly as high this year as the Tigers embarked on the annual dogsled trip to New Haven and Providence. The young Tigers were aiming to leave a calling card at Payne Whitney, showing coach James Jones and the Bulldogs what they might have to face in the years to come.

If, in fact, that is what happened, you could not blame Jones if he let loose with a few guffaws after the dud Mitch Henderson lobbed his way.

Read morePrinceton falters at Payne Whitney … again

Princeton has itself a wacky Empire State weekend

Bill Courtney said "Stop" to Princeton's 50-37 lead in the second half. Cornell responded with a 25-2 run to defeat the Tigers. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Bill Courtney said “Stop” to Princeton’s 50-37 lead in the second half. Cornell responded with a 25-2 run to defeat the Tigers. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Another wild and wacky weekend in the Ivy League began for the Tigers in the recently friendly confines of Levien Gym at Columbia. The typical back and forth of the first half quickly gave way to a Tiger offensive outburst turning a close game into something of a rout. Spurred by super-sub Ben Hazel’s second-half heroics, the Tigers cruised to a relatively easy 74-62 victory. A Harvard win in New Haven on Saturday together with the anticipated Tiger success over a demoralized Cornell quintet reeling from Penn’s come-from-behind victory would create a three-way race for the Ivy title with Princeton very much a contender. The Crimson did their part, but the Tigers self-destructed in Ithaca.

Read morePrinceton has itself a wacky Empire State weekend

Princeton falls to Crimson, squashes Big Green

Spencer Weisz notched 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals against Dartmouth. (nj.com)
Spencer Weisz notched 16 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals against Dartmouth. (nj.com)

PRINCETON, N.J. – The Tigers’ Saturday night win over a travel-weary Dartmouth squad made the weekend a qualified success. Last year’s 0-4 Ivy start squelched the Tigers’ title hopes, casting their 8-2 finish as a clear case of “too little, too late.” But at 2-1 now, Princeton’s destiny remains within its control.

A year ago, Harvard snapped a losing streak at Jadwin that reached back 23 seasons. The historic win, 59-47, was made even more impressive by the fact that senior three-point specialist Laurent Rivard was held scoreless for the only time in his distinguished career by the Tigers’ Rookie of the Year, Spencer Weisz. Rivard was on hand to watch his successor, Corbin Miller, come off the bench to torch the Tigers for 19 points including five three-pointers in the first half. Miller’s fireworks spurred the Crimson to a 39-29 lead at the half. Wesley Saunders, with a lot of help from Jonah Travis and Siyani Chambers, made the lead stand up in the hard-fought 75-72 Harvard win. Travis contributed 14 from the bench, giving the Crimson 33 from non-starters.

Read morePrinceton falls to Crimson, squashes Big Green

Penn lost more than Princeton won, but the Tigers will take it

Henry Caruso notched a career-high 23 points to lead the Tigers past Penn. (goprincetontigers.com)
Henry Caruso notched a career-high 23 points to lead the Tigers past Penn. (goprincetontigers.com)

Last night’s renewal of the storied rivalry between the Tigers and Quakers was, in some respects, typical of the more memorable contests in a series which contains more than 200 editions. We saw an intense physical battle in which most every shot was bitterly contested and we saw one team overcome a huge second-half deficit to achieve an improbable win. But this game was lost by Penn, not won by the Tigers.

To the chagrin of the partisans of both squads this game established beyond much, if any, lingering doubt that neither belongs among the league’s elite quintets. I am sure that Mitch Henderson and his staff enjoyed the come-from-behind win over the Quakers for only a little while before the sobering reality of the game hit home. The Tigers struggled at home to beat a team whose lone “quality” win came at the expense of Navy. The Quakers managed to squander a late 15-point lead by some of the sloppiest play since Dartmouth threw away a seven-point lead in the last two minutes of regulation at Harvard last year resulting in an overtime loss.

Read morePenn lost more than Princeton won, but the Tigers will take it

Princeton routs Lipscomb, Amir Bell steps up

The Tigers got what they needed last night at Jadwin: a struggling team on the road. The lopsided matchup resulted in a 77-54 Princeton win in a game dominated by the home team almost from the first tap. Senior designated shooter Clay Wilson had a holiday party for himself, canning five three-pointers and four free throws for a game and career high 19 points.

Amir Bell, the Tigers’ heralded freshman point guard, played perhaps his best overall game, leading the Tigers in minutes played (34) and assists (five), while adding 11 points and two steals. Best of all, he kept his personal fouls to a manageable three. Many observers believe Bell may hold the key to the Tigers’ success in league play, especially if he can continue to score in double figures every night.

One ominous note – senior captain Denton Koon was not on the bench, although nothing official has been released by the basketball office. An October knee injury sidelined the versatile 6-foot-8 Missouri native whose status going forward is now doubtful at best.

The Tigers put out the welcome mat for Liberty on Monday evening before taking a break for Christmas.

Princeton can’t hang on at California

Princeton played its best half of the season at California Saturday evening, shooting a sizzling 62 percent from the field, including 8-for-14 from three-point range, to lead 37-28 at intermission.

The second half was far more typical of the Tigers’ season, however, as the Golden Bears stepped up the defensive pressure and unleashed NBA prospect Tyrone Wallace, who scored 20 of his game-high 23 points after the break. The game was closer than the final score (67-57) suggests.

Terrific ball movement gave the Tigers numerous open shots early in the game. Four different players accounted for the first seven shots, all good, giving the Tigers a lead that reached 11 points.

Read morePrinceton can’t hang on at California

The Ivy League isn’t struggling, but Princeton is

Mitch Henderson is looking to right the ship for the 3-7 Tigers. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)
Mitch Henderson is looking to right the ship for the 3-7 Tigers. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)

Princeton turned a nine-point first-half lead into a 14-point deficit at the end of last night’s clunker in Jersey City. Desi Washington, the Peacocks’ leading scorer, returned after missing eight games due to a wrist injury. Washington dominated this one, scoring 18 to lead both teams in the 60-46 St. Peter’s victory. Although tied at the half at 25, the Peacocks (4-6) seized control early in the second stanza in what must have been an eerie reminder to the Tigers (3-7) of their second half meltdown last week at FDU. The Tigers now face their second West Coast trip in less two weeks as they head to Berkeley to face California this weekend. Probably won’t be a happy flight … in either direction.

Read moreThe Ivy League isn’t struggling, but Princeton is

Steven Cook leads Princeton past Stony Brook

Steven Cook notched 28 points and seven steals in a pull-away victory over Stony Brook. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)
Steven Cook notched 28 points and seven steals in a pull-away victory over Stony Brook. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)

PRINCETON, N.J. – On a night when the Ivy League generally beat up on the America East Conference, Princeton did its part, besting the Stony Brook Seawolves at Jadwin in the Tigers’ return home after almost two weeks on the road. A little home cooking was just what the Tigers needed, especially after Wednesday’s disaster Fairleigh Dickinson.

The storyline for Saturday, a come-from-behind 77-64 victory, starts with a formula developed when we began to keep score in basketball:  Find the guy with the hot hand and keep getting him the ball. Steven Cook, the rangy Tiger sophomore from Winnetka, Ill., was that guy.

Cook scored a career-high 28 points, doubling his previous best, shooting 5-for-7 from three point territory. He added an impressive seven steals, mostly from the top of the Tigers’ 1-3-1 zone, a total exceeded only one time in the last 40 seasons.

Read moreSteven Cook leads Princeton past Stony Brook

Princeton’s defense is desperate for a turnaround

“You are what your record says you are.” – Bill Parcells

Princeton’s record says “we are not very good.”

Unable to hold an eight-point lead at the half last night at Fairleigh Dickinson, the Tigers surrendered an unfathomable 64 second-half points, losing to the Knights, 89-85. In one eight-minute stretch in the second period, the teams combined for 29 points, 25 of which were entered in FDU’s ledger.

Read morePrinceton’s defense is desperate for a turnaround