Princeton men’s basketball 2018-19 season recap

I attended the University of Virginia during the Barry Parkhill era, earning a law degree in 1972. Needless to say I was elated when my “borrowed heroes” captured the Cavaliers’ first national championship. Their “worst to first” turnaround brought to mind the Miracle Mets’ run to the World Series in 1969 while I was in Charlottesville.

It is time, however, to return my attention to my real heroes, the Princeton Tigers, the season just concluded and the prospects for the future.

Read morePrinceton men’s basketball 2018-19 season recap

Q&A with Princeton associate head coach Brett MacConnell

In an in-depth interview, Princeton associate head coach Brett MacConnell talks about filling in for an ill Mitch Henderson during Princeton’s win at Dartmouth last weekend, the Tigers’ many personnel changes this season, another Ivy Defensive Player of the Year-caliber campaign for Myles Stephens and why Jaelin Llewellyn could be a future Ivy Defensive Player of the Year, Richmond Aririguzoh’s development and impact guarding the post, his own path to becoming associate head coach and much more:

Princeton bows to Brown, 67-63

A depleted and dispirited Tiger squad faced off with an amped up Brown Bear quintet last night at Jadwin. The Bears came in with a chance to play themselves into next week’s Ivy Madness. Their 67-63 wire-to-wire smackdown of Princeton sends them to The Palestra with their tourney aspirations very much alive. The winner of tonight’s Brown-Penn meeting will be in the tournament. Their wins on Friday night against teams already in the field eliminated Cornell, an ironic end for Brian Earl’s dreams on the night his Big Red defeated Harvard, the probable No. 1 seed.

The Tigers took their floor without Ryan Schwieger, their leading scorer over the last four games. He is reportedly “day-to-day” under concussion protocol. Of course, the season’s leading scorer, Devin Cannady, took a leave of absence from the university.

Read morePrinceton bows to Brown, 67-63

Princeton ekes past Dartmouth, bows to Harvard

With a record of 7-3, the Tigers headed to New England for the Dartmouth-Harvard trip needing a win on the weekend to punch its ticket to Ivy Madness. The fact that the Tigers’ record against their four remaining opponents contained all three of those losses and only one of the wins was a matter of grave concern to the Tiger staff. The lone win was a 69-68 nail-biter in Jadwin against the Friday foe, Dartmouth’s Big Green.

The staff itself suffered an unexpected loss when its head coach was unable to answer the bell in Hanover. Mitch Henderson was forced to scurry from the floor just prior to tip-off, suffering from what we shall describe as “flu-like symptoms.”

Read morePrinceton ekes past Dartmouth, bows to Harvard

Princeton pulls away from Columbia, 79-61

The Tigers’ 79-61 defeat of the Columbia Lions last night was the hardest-fought “blowout” I have ever seen.

The Lions, arriving at Jadwin after a stunning upset at The Palestra, had their sights set upon the rare road sweep of what used to be known as “The Killer Ps.” The back-and-forth play in the first half indicated the winner of this game was going to earn it.

With about a minute  and a half to go in the first half, a long three from Jerome Desrosiers, the Tigers’ sixth of the opening period, broke a 29-29 tie. Fifteen seconds later, a Desrosiers steal resulted in two free throws by freshman Max Johns, sending the Tigers into intermission leading, 34-29. Princeton coach Mitch Henderson liked what he was seeing on both ends of the floor but knew he was in another typical Ivy League scrap.

Read morePrinceton pulls away from Columbia, 79-61

Cornell charges back and fades out to fall at Princeton, 68-59

Cornell trailed 54-36 at Jadwin Gym with less than 14 minutes remaining and it looked like the game may be too far out of reach.

A 23-7 Big Red fun followed, with Riley Voss and Jimmy Boeheim leading the way on the scoring front.

But Cornell couldn’t muster a field goal in the final 5:58, losing 68-59, done in by eight points down the stretch from Ryan Schwieger en route to his leading all scorers with a career-high 23 points.

Read moreCornell charges back and fades out to fall at Princeton, 68-59

With three weeks to go, where does Princeton stand in the Ivy League title chase?

It’s been an up and down season for the Princeton men’s basketball team.  During the nonconference schedule, the Tigers see-sawed up and down, with jaw-dropping losses and heart-stopping wins, including the largest loss in program history to Duke and a win for the ages at nationally ranked Arizona State.

The roller coaster ride has continued for the Tigers during the Ivy League season.  The conference slate began with a surprising four-game winning streak, including a thrilling, back-to-back sweep of arch-rival Penn.  As Princeton entered the heart of its conference schedule, the Tigers sat in the catbird seat, atop the Ivy League standings with a perfect 4-0 record.  Even better, the team learned that its senior co-captain and leading scorer and rebounder, Devin Cannady, would be allowed to return to the team after serving a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules.  The future looked bright.

But then the roller-coaster suddenly dived downward again.  A second straight road weekend took its toll on the Tigers as Princeton was swept convincingly by Yale and Brown.  A third straight loss by nine points at home to Harvard on Friday night dropped Princeton to fourth in the League standings, and suddenly the season sat on a precipice.

Read moreWith three weeks to go, where does Princeton stand in the Ivy League title chase?

Princeton ekes past Dartmouth, 69-68

Princeton’s Tigers and Dartmouth’s Big Green staged another Ivy League street fight Saturday night at Jadwin Gymnasium.

Princeton survived, 69-68, despite going cold from deep and another memorable shooting night performance from Dartmouth junior guard and New Jersey native Brendan Barry.

Read morePrinceton ekes past Dartmouth, 69-68

Harvard pushes past Princeton, 78-69

Spirits were high at Jadwin Gym as last night’s battle for second place between the Tigers and Harvard got underway before a hyped up home crowd and a national TV (ESPNews) audience. Most knowledgeable observers and the oddsmakers predicted a one-possession game in the final minute, the type of game in which home court advantage might be crucial. For the most part, the somewhat limited success Princeton coach Mitch Henderson has enjoyed against Harvard coach Tommy Amaker has been at home.

Both teams experienced lackluster performances last week. The Tigers lost twice on the road (Yale and Brown) while the Crimson were stretched to the limit in a triple overtime win at home against Columbia, followed by a second-half collapse against Cornell on Saturday. Amaker surprised the Ivy community with a rare public putdown of his team, calling his players’ performance against the Big Red “selfish.”
The shoo-in All-Ivy point guard unleashed a Niagara Falls of scoring last week, including 45 against Columbia, almost willing his team to the win last Friday night.
The following Friday night, Aiken’s work against the Tigers would again prove decisive in a 78-69 victory for the visitors, in which Aiken outscored Princeton 20-19 himself in the final 8:10.
A fast start by the constantly improving Richmond Aririguzoh (RA) pushed the Tigers to a 15-8 lead after seven minutes. Undeterred, Harvard used some excellent ball movement and timely shooting to turn things around quickly. The Crimson reclaimed the lead, 21-19, with 9:33 remaining. From that point, Noah Kirkwood, a dazzling freshman talent, and Justin Bassey stymied the Tigers over the next three minutes, extending the visitors’ lead to 32-25. Jaelin Llewellyn’s lone three-pointer for the evening, followed quickly by a Sebastian Much bomb, one of 4 for the Californian, enabled the Tigers to get within one point, 33-32, at the break.
Aiken’s nine and RA’s eight were high for each team at that point. Henderson was quite satisfied with the defensive work of Myles Stephens on Aiken. Once again, Stephens was assigned to the opponent’s best player. Perhaps ominously for the Tigers, Devin Cannady’s first start at home following his three-game suspension was not going well. He was 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and 0-for-1 from the line. For all that, the Tigers were encouraged by the fact that the statistical battle was a virtual standoff through he first 20 minutes. Harvard’s six made free throws to three for the Tigers accounted for the slim Crimson advantage on the scoreboard.
Harvard controlled the play early in the second half, seizing a 42-37 lead after three minutes. A Much-needed (forgive me!) three-pointer kept the Tigers close. His tough layup at the 13:38 mark restored the lead for the Tigers and spurred a five-minute spurt by Princeton tom its largest lead of the evening 54-48 with 8:33 remaining.
With the Tigers holding a one-point lead at the 13:13 mark, Aiken crumpled to the floor in apparent agony. He had twisted his right ankle and was helped to the bench. Fortunately for the Crimson, he was back on the floor in less than a minute.
His presence turned the game around in a way observers will not soon forget.

An Aiken layup cut the lead to four with 8:10 left. RA countered with a layup. On the next Crimson possession, Aiken found himself isolated on Jose Morales. His eyes widened. With the clock running down, Aiken launched a long three-pointer. Morales committed the cardinal sin, sending Aiken to the line to complete the four-point play. Over the next three minutes plus, Aiken posted 11 points, propelling Harvard to a 10-point lead, 70-60, with 3:53 to play.
The Tigers eventually cut Harvard’s lead to 70-64 but would get no closer.
Aiken’s 24 second-half points showcased another phenomenal performance in his team’s successful effort to hold on to a share of second place in the Ivy standings at 5-2. The Tigers third straight loss leaves them at 4-3, still very much alive in the Ivy race.
For Princeton, RA shared scoring honors with Cannady (15), and both Tigers added three assists. Defensively, Aririguzoh held Chris Lewis to nine points in 18 minutes and Henry Welsh to none in 15. Sebastian Much had 14 points in 19 minutes. Jerome Desrosiers pitched in with seven points and five rebounds, all in the first half. He appeared just briefly in the second stanza. Cannady and Llewellyn combined to shoot 2-for-12 from deep. Harvard’s 10 threes to eight for Princeton spelled doom for the home team.
Looking ahead to tonight’s encounter with Dartmouth, one expects RA to get more touches and Morales less. A win tonight may be a critical component in the Tigers’ bid to return to Ivy Madness. A loss turns a promising start to the Ivy season into a desperate struggle to remain relevant.

Morgan moves to second all-time in Ivy scoring history as Cornell comes back to stun Harvard

Saturday’s contest between Harvard and Cornell was the exact opposite of Friday’s games for both teams, in the sense that offense would come at a premium.

After the Crimson dropped 98 points Friday in triple overtime, they were held to just 61 points on Saturday as Cornell stormed back to erase a 15-point second-half deficit to win the game, 67-61. Despite struggling to get shots all game, Matt Morgan had 15 points, good enough to move into second-place in conference history in career points (2,162), a night after meeting Jim Barton, the man he just surpassed.

 

Cornell moved up to 12-10 (4-2 Ivy) and Harvard dropped to 11-8 (4-2). Cornell has already met last season’s win total, with eight games remaining on the schedule.

Read moreMorgan moves to second all-time in Ivy scoring history as Cornell comes back to stun Harvard