Princeton grinds it out in key wins at Harvard and Dartmouth

After two very difficult road wins at Dartmouth and Harvard, the Princeton Tigers extended their winning streak to an impressive eight games, including five league contests to start down the road to the Palestra. The one consistent thread for the Tigers during this run has been rock-ribbed defense, anchored by sophomore guard Myles Stephens, who is building an All-Ivy caliber resume. A huge ingredient for the Tigers has been the senior leadership from Spencer Weisz and Steven Cook, without whose contributions a tough win at Dartmouth would have been even more difficult and an improbable comeback at Harvard impossible.

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Princeton turns back Yale, 65-58, sits atop Ivy League

Not since the glory days of the Penn-Princeton rivalry in the last century has a game of basketball in Jadwin Gym matched the intensity of last night’s win over the Yale Bulldogs. Whatever each team brought to the floor – and each is very talented – was left on the floor.

The defending Ivy champions arrived in Jadwin after taking down an improving Penn squad at the Palestra on Friday, barely a week after the Tigers struggled mightily with the Quakers at home.

James Jones coached the last Ivy team to beat the Tigers in Princeton and that was nearly two years ago. Since then he has won two Ivy titles, one outright, but lost Justin Sears, Brandon Sherrod and Makai Mason. Their replacements, Miye Oni, Jordan Bruner and Alex Copeland, may reach similar heights, but last night the finest defensive effort of the Mitch Henderson era held the Bulldogs at bay until Princeton’s offense came to life in the second half.

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Princeton hangs on to turn back Penn, 61-52

In his pregame analysis of the Penn-Princeton game last night at Jadwin Gym, IHO editor-in-chief Mike Tony opined that the key to a Tiger victory would be “winning the three-point game” and avoiding the late-game collapses that have plagued Princeton in the early going this season.

On its way to a gut-wrenching 61-52 win over the Quakers, the Tigers shot gaping holes through Mr. Tony’s argument. The victory was achieved on a night the Tigers shot an abysmal 3-for-19 (16 percent) from beyond the arc and despite the Quakers overcoming a 21-point second-half Tiger lead to draw even at 44, the only time the score was tied in the game.

This one defies rational analysis. The Tigers were outshot (40 to 35 percent) and were outscored by 12 on three-pointers. The 235th edition in this long-running rivalry is a memorable entry, if something less than an artistic success.

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Princeton hangs on at Bucknell, 72-70

The Princeton Tigers, college basketball’s nomads, finally wrapped up the traveling portion of their preseason slate at the Sojka Pavilion on the campus of Bucknell last night. Needing a win against a tough opponent, the Tigers got it, grinding out another hang-on-at-the-end 72-70 decision against the perennial Patriot League contenders. It was the Bison’s first loss at home this season. Frankly, the game was not as close as the final score might suggest. This was an impressive performance by the Tigers.

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Princeton falls at Monmouth, 96-90

Princeton traveled to the Jersey shore Tuesday night for a battle with intra-state rival and mid-major  titan Monmouth. Picked to win the MAAC this year, the Hawks came into the game at 9-2.

Princeton got off to the hot start it desperately needed after a tough home loss last week against another flock of Hawks, St. Joseph’s. Leading by as many as 13 points in the first half, the Tigers showed how they can adjust in the face of a worsening injury situation. One must say the Tigers enjoyed their best night offensively since the preseason of 2015-16. Steven Cook (30) and Devin Cannady (26) each set career scoring marks, propelling the Tigers to a 90-point explosion, the first time the Tigers reached the 90-point mark, only to lose, in 60 years.

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Princeton bows to St. Joseph’s, 76-68

Tigers’ hopes for a boffo season took another hit last night against the St. Joseph’s Hawks at Jadwin Gym. The visiting Big 5 quintet led for nearly the entire game, often by double digits. Princeton found its defensive energy in the second half as the Hawks were denied very many good looks. The Tigers clawed their way back, even managing a brief lead at 64-61 with under four minutes to go. St. Joe’s revved up its speed game once again, going on a 15-4 tear to close out the game, 76-68.

Clearly, the Tigers were struggling to overcome the loss of Hans Brase for the second time in two seasons due to knee problems. The news that senior forward, and last year’s first-team All-Ivy selection, Henry Caruso will not play again because of a toe injury hit this team like a sledgehammer blow. Caruso brought a toughness and grit to the floor and it showed in the stats. He was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder a year ago.

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Where Princeton stands after eight games

Princeton’s first month, spent almost entirely on the road, ended on a positive note in Lynchburg, Va. on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers’ three-point dam, which cracked slightly against Hawaii’s Rainbow Warriors in a win to conclude the Pearl Harbor Invitational, burst wide open in a tough, hold-them-off-at-the-end 67-64 victory over the Liberty Flames. Princeton canned 17 threes, including an unlikely six from Aaron Young, presenting Princeton coach Mitch Henderson with an early Christmas present: career win number 100. Spencer Weisz also broke out of some early season doldrums to do what he does best: make other players better. His career-high 13 assists tied the program record held by T. J. Bray.

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