Princeton flipped the script at Arizona State

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.

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Princeton claws past Lafayette, 81-79

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.

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Q&A with Princeton coach Mitch Henderson

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:

Ivy women’s hoops weeks in review: Nov. 29 – Dec. 12

Princeton (4-7)
12/2 vs Davidson 65-57
12/8 vs Quinnipiac 54-42
12/11 vs Monmouth 79-47

Before the return of Bella Alarie on Friday night, Princeton went 2-7 with home victories bookending a seven game losing streak.  While the youthful Tigers have gained valuable game experience during this time, culminating in a come from behind win over Davidson, the return of the reigning Ivy Player of the Year immediately showed why they were picked to repeat as league champs.  In Alarie’s first game back, she had 16 points, a career high 19 rebounds and 5 blocks.  Not only did the Tigers win by 12 over a Quinnipiac squad that made it to the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, but Alarie was named Ivy League co-Player of the Week.  In her follow-up performance at Monmouth, she put up 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.

During Alarie’s absence, Carlie Littlefield and Gabrielle Rush stepped up for the Orange & Black.  Littlefield averaged 15.3 points (4th Ivy), 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists (11th), 1.8 made threes (9th) and 1.7 steals (4th) in 33.9 minutes per game.  Rush, meanwhile, added 13.6 points (8th), 6.7 boards (9th), 2.8 made threes (2nd) and 1.7 steals (6th) per contest.

Over the first part of the season, the team has been uncharacteristically weak in two point shooting (40.9 percent), three point defense (35.9 percent) and offensive rebounding rate (27.5 percent).  With their premier post player back and other important rotation players expected back from the DL soon, the Tigers should expect those numbers to improve significantly.

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Ivies take Manhattan for MSG Holiday Festival

NEW YORK – Back in the day, the MSG Holiday Festival was a premier two day four team bracketed event that featured several of the nation’s top teams.  In addition to the classic 1964 Festival featuring Princeton (Bill Bradley), Michigan (Cazzie Russell), Syracuse (Dave Bing) and St. John’s (Coach Joe Lapchick), there were years like 1995, when Penn won the title and used it as a stepping stone to the AP Top 25; 1997, when Princeton was victorious on its way to a top 10 AP ranking; and 2009, when Cornell took the title on its way to a Sweet 16 appearance.  Over the last few years, the event has morphed into a one day double-header featuring the Johnnies and three other local mid-majors.  This year, the “worlds most famous arena” was home to a quarter of the Ancient Eight as Columbia took the subway and Princeton came up the NJ Turnpike to take part in the annual pre-Christmas tradition.

Before the Garden was cleaned up for the Knicks nightcap versus the Hornets, the Lions held off Iona  and the Tigers succumbed to the Red Storm.  While neither team was perfect and the results were spit, both teams had solid efforts and hope to use the day as a motivator as the Ivy schedule quickly approaches.

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Princeton falls to St. John’s, but Jaelin Llewellyn makes big splash in collegiate debut

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.

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Princeton bows to St. Joseph’s as defense gives way

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.

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Princeton pulls away past George Washington, 73-52

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.

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Women’s hoops week in review: Nov. 19-28

Harvard (2-1 This week; 4-3 overall)
at Hartford 60-73
vs Jacksonville State 69-62 (Thanksgiving Basketball Classic at Cal. State University – Northridge)
vs CSUN 75-55 (Thanksgiving Basketball Classic at Cal. State University- Northridge)

Three weeks into the season and the Crimson are the league’s most balanced team.  There are three players in double figures and sophomore Jadyn Bush is arguably the league’s most improved and valuable player.  The MVP of the Thanksgiving Basketball Classic is leading the league in rebounding, field goal percentage and free throw percentage, as well as tenth in points.  If not for her second quarter ejection for elbowing a Hartford player in the head while being triple teamed, Harvard may have gone 3-0 on the week.

The Crimson are shooting a league-best 44.1 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from three, while also leading the Ivies with 69.7 points, 8.9 made threes and 15.4 assists per game.  Defensively, they are limiting opponents to 38.1 percent shooting from two and 29.6 percent from three.

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Devin Cannady continues his hot streak in another Princeton win

Princeton’s second straight game against an 0-6 opponent, this time the Maine Black Bears, offered the Tigers a chance to work on some of the bothersome trends that emerged in the first four games.

Shooting has been a real, although unexpected, issue throughout the roster except for Devin Cannady. Maine, coached by former Tiger women’s coach Richard Barron, has found it difficult to find its footing in Barron’s first season after several years at the helm of the Maine women.

The Tigers, getting a tremendous lift from Devin Cannady’s season-high 28, controlled this one throughout, leading by as many as 19 before closing the door at Maine, 73-59. Cannady was 7-for-10 from the field, 5-for-8 from beyond the arc and a perfect 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. Several of his long-range bombs drew “oohs” and “aahs” from the Bangor fans.

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