The Tigers entered their annual three-week winter exam break riding an emotional wave. Five straight wins following the expected wipeout at Duke, including two stunning wins over Big 5 champion Penn, catapulted the Tigers to the top of the Ivy heap at 2-0. Princeton coach Mitch Henderson hoped that the layoff would not impact the Tigers’ momentum facing the first two back-to-backs on the road.
The Cornell Big Red entertained the Columbia Lions in the Ivy opener for both schools in frigid and snowy Ithaca. The tip-off was moved up to 1:30 p.m. in anticipation of the first big winter storm of the season.
Matt Morgan, the Ivy’s leading scorer, was honored in a pregame ceremony upon entering the league’s 2,000-point club in his last outing. Entering the game needing six points to surpass the legendary Ryan Wittman as Cornell’s career leader, Morgan needed only five minutes to set the new mark. His 21 points for the game vaulted him into fourth place on the Ivy career scoring list. He is on a pace to move up to the No. 2 spot, trailing only Bill Bradley.
Morgan’s early flourish jump started Cornell to a 14-0 lead. At the break, the Big Red held a commanding 39-25 lead, thanks to nine three-pointers against only two for the Lions. Morgan’s 19 first-half tallies more than tripled the output of any Lion.
Mike Tony posted an excellent recap of Saturday’s heart-stopping overtime victory by the Tigers over arch-rival Penn. I thought I’d share some of my own observations.
Pete Carril was on hand to welcome back one of his favorite teams, the 1969 Ivy Champions, celebrating the 50th anniversary of that title. Most of the members of that team returned, led by NBA first-rounders Geoff Petrie and John Hummer. The first game in Jadwin Gym, also against Penn, was played 50 years ago this month.
The Tigers of January are a far different team than the one that opened the Division I season absorbing a sound thrashing by Lehigh in Bethlehem. Let’s break down the changes, most of which have been positive.
The much anticipated debut of freshman Jaelin Llewellyn at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9 lifted the spirits of Tiger fans somewhat. A solid win against Iona on a neutral court, featuring another star turn by Llewellyn, pushed the expectations meter upward. Except the Duke Blue Devils were next on the schedule. The loss was anticipated; the 51-point annihilation was not. Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was concerned that such a beating might inflict lasting psychological damage.
When the Tigers escaped Lafayette three nights later with a narrow win, a month after Penn had defeated the Leopards by 30, Henderson’s concern was hardly relieved. Injuries continued to mount. Myles Stephens, Devin Cannady and Llewellyn were all helped from the court in Easton, although all thankfully returned to the game.
Then Princeton’s final out-of-conference opponent, the Arizona State Sun Devils, defeated No. 1 Kansas in Tempe. Could the Tigers’ prospects get any worse? Yes, they could.
The Princeton Tigers returned to the northeast, hoping to shake off the trauma of their 101-50 smackdown Tuesday by the NBA’s Durham Blue Devils. On Friday night, the Tigers visited traditional foe Lafayette in what Mitch Henderson hoped might be a welcome change of pace. In no mood to cooperate, the Leopards came in determined to turn their season around after a dismal 2-7 start.
Coach Mitch Henderson prepared his team for what he characterized as a “typically tough league game on the road.” Fran O’Hanlon’s team employs a disciplined offensive style, emphasizing ball and player movement with a lot of screens, usually resulting in an open look somewhere.
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.