Princeton makes progress on the West Coast

Although the Tigers went 1-2 in the Wooden Legacy tournament, Mitch Henderson believes his young team made progress on the West Coast trip.

“[Freshman point guard] Amir Bell is settling into the position, showing a better understanding of what we expect from him and getting more comfortable in each game,” Henderson said.

Bell’s work in the tournament earned him Ivy Rookie of the Week recognition in Big Apple Buckets’ Ivy weekly roundup. The rapidly maturing freshman, cast as “the heir apparent to T. J. Bray,” averaged 11 points per game in Anaheim and, impressively, committed only one turnover in the three games. Henderson said that he was pleased with how freshman center Alec Brennan responded while getting significant minutes in the Golden State. Sophomore Henry Caruso from San Mateo, Cal., came off the bench in each game to spark several Tiger rallies. His 15 points in 20 minutes against UTEP in the opener on Thanksgiving afternoon led all Tigers.

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50th anniversary of 1965 Princeton Tigers’ Final Four berth

Bill Bradley still owns the top 11 scoring games in Princeton history 49 years after graduating.
Bill Bradley still owns the top 11 scoring games in Princeton history 49 years after graduating.

This is the 50th anniversary of arguably the greatest Ivy League basketball team of all time, the 1964-65 Princeton Tigers.

Princeton was coached by the legendary Butch van Breda Kolff and was led by one of the five greatest players in college basketball history, Bill Bradley, as well as a host of other complementary players.

The Tigers finished the season at 23-6 and 13-1 in the Ivies, suffering only an upset loss on the road to a strong Cornell team. They had a stirring 109-69 NCAA win over No. 4 Providence on the road and finished third in the country with a 118-82 win over Wichita State and future New York Knick Dave Stallworth in a game in which Bradley scored 58 points to set an NCAA tournament record. We will be providing our readers with weekly capsules of significant games in conjunction with interviews with key players on that team.

Stay tuned.

Incarnate who? – Princeton disappoints as Penn impresses

Coach Mitch Henderson's Tigers need to cohere defensively as the season progresses.
Coach Mitch Henderson’s Tigers need to cohere defensively as the season progresses.

November 23 may be remembered as a watershed date in the basketball seasons of the Princeton Tigers and the Penn Quakers.

After witnessing Lafayette’s smackdown of the Tigers just four days earlier on a night Princeton turned in its best half of offense so far this year, one felt safe predicting the Leopards would continue Penn’s dizzying slide into oblivion last evening. To the contrary, Penn’s tenacious performance in almost overcoming a 17-point deficit may have taught the Quakers they can play. Princeton’s underwhelming effort against the University of the Incarnate Word (you can’t make this up) may be a staggering blow to the Tigers’ already fragile psyche.

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Princeton basketball fell to Lafayette, but hey, Lafayette’s pretty good

Princeton’s visit to the beautifully renovated Kirby Sports Center on the tree-studded campus of Lafayette University last night was marred by the frosty reception awaiting the Tigers. The players stepped off the bus into a cold, blustery night far more typical of a Pennsylvania January than mid-November. The arena was warmer, but no more hospitable for the young and still struggling Tigers.

For the first time this season, Mitch Henderson’s offense ran smoothly and efficiently from the outset through the initial 20-minute period. Princeton’s 44 points was easily its highest output for any half so far, more than doubling its 19-point total in the first stanza at George Mason two days earlier. The Tigers posted a fantastic 60 percent shooting mark (14-for-23) including a deadly 70 percent (9-for-13) from behind the arc.

Unfortunately, by rule, possession of the ball goes to the opponent after Tiger scores. Showing disdain for the Tigers’ defensive history, the Leopards veteran team outshot the Tigers (68 percent, 71 percent from three), canning a stunning 47 first-half points. Quite easy to understand why Fran O’Hanlon is so bullish on his chances for a postseason run this year.

Tiger fans, grateful to be within reach at the intermission, took some solace in the unlikelihood that the Leopards could keep it up for the whole game. The Tiger fans were right: Lafayette “cooled off” with only 36 in the second period. Not to worry, Fran. Princeton could manage only 22. The only issue in the last 10 minutes was the eventual margin. It was 17 as the Leopards came away with an impressive 83-66 win. Of Lafayette’s total of 83 points, the starting five accounted for 82, as all of them reached double figures. This is a solid team, indeed.

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Princeton’s offense lagging behind its defense so far

Mike Tony’s analysis of the Tigers’ season-opening win against Rider was straight from the DP’s “yes but…” prism through which anything about Tiger hoops is typically filtered: “ nice win but the Tigers have depth issues…” After watching Princeton’s woeful 17 percent first-half shooting in the first half against the A-10’s George Mason, one must acknowledge the painful accuracy of Mike’s observation.

At home against Rider none of Princeton’s starters came close to foul trouble (the Broncs shot just four free throws), which allowed Mitch Henderson to spread 90 percent of the minutes among six players. Last year’s Ivy Rookie of the Year Spencer Weisz and junior F-C Hans Brase held the Tigers together after Rider spurted to a nine-point second half lead. The 64-58 win was satisfying although not at all convincing. As Mike said, “A win is a win…”

Reality slapped the Tigers in the kisser at George Mason on Sunday afternoon. Princeton, undoubtedly aware that the Patriots had dropped their home opener to last year’s Ivy doormat Cornell on Friday, arrived in Fairfax with high expectations. Dreadful shooting and early foul trouble for freshman point guard Amir Bell exposed the Tigers’ depth problems in the first half, as the Patriots cruised to a lead as big as 17. The first half closed with the Tigers on the short end of a 32-19 score.

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Princeton’s lack of depth troubling against Rider

Yes, a win is a win, and Princeton’s come-from-behind 64-58 victory over Rider certainly qualifies as a successful season opener. But there’s more to a box score than wins and losses, and the Rider-Princeton box score was discouraging in unexpected ways for the Tigers.

Going into this season, Princeton figured to be one of the deepest teams in the league, even with Denton Koon lost indefinitely with an MCL injury. But what I identified as a potential tendency to rely too heavily on Spencer Weisz and Hans Brase seemed to come to fruition last night, as Brase and Weisz combined for nearly half of the Tigers’ shots from the field. That reliance worked in the end, but more disturbing was Princeton’s surprisingly small rotation of only six players. Mitch Henderson’s Princeton teams have traditionally had much more depth than what was on display last night, but rest assured, the Tigers do not stand a chance in Ivy play without a bench.

Having said that, this is a sample size of only one game and promising freshmen Amir Bell and Aaron Young are just beginning to round into shape at the collegiate level. For now, we know that they can dig deep. Maybe they just can’t play deep yet, that’s all.

Princeton 2014-15 Season Preview

The fourth year of the Mitch Henderson era opened on a high note in August when the Tigers’ skipper was declared one of the Top 10 Coaches Under 40 by Bleacher Report. Posting a winning percentage over .640 earns a lot of respect in the coaching fraternity. But Henderson’s 2013-14 mark of 21-9 fails to soothe the sting of an 8-6 Ivy mark, which left the Tigers in a third place tie. In an improving League Henderson may be hard-pressed to improve.

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Princeton Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

Princeton, as usual, is the conference wild card. No single star player. Several key components of last year’s CBI qualifying team gone, including T.J. Bray and Will Barrett. Few standout seniors.  And today we reported that Denton Koon is out indefinitely with a MCL injury.

And yet, Princeton enjoys significant depth and a reliable frontcourt with 2013-14 Ivy Rookie of the Year Spencer Weisz and Hans Brase coming back. This doesn’t seem to be a very athletic roster, and I’m not as high on Princeton as others, especially now that Koon is out. But let’s start with the positives first. Even though Barrett made 111 treys as a junior and senior, his long-range production won’t be missed too much because, as you’ll read below, there are plenty of young guns on this team who can make up for that kind of sharpshooting.

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Denton Koon suffers MCL injury, expected to return prior to Ivy play

Denton Koon suffered an MCL injury at practice Thursday.
Denton Koon suffered an MCL injury at practice Thursday.

A reputable source tells Ivy Hoops Online that Princeton senior forward Denton Koon suffered a MCL injury at practice on Thursday and is not expected to start the season. However, Koon is expected to be able to return prior to the start of conference play.

Koon played in just 18 games last year and was ruled out for the remainder of last season in February due to a knee injury. The knee that Koon injured at practice Thursday was not the same knee that was injured last season.

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