Tigers Snag Best Ivy Win of the Non-Con

Princeton is rolling after earning a Top 100 win on the road at Bucknell.
Princeton is rolling after earning a Top 100 win on the road at Bucknell thanks to TJ Bray and Hans Brase.

Princeton entered the last week of November riding the wave of its best start under Mitch Henderson, one possession at Butler away from opening the season at 4-0. T.J. Bray’s welcome return to the line-up promised to stabilize the rotation. Tests against two highly-respected coaches, George Mason’s Paul Hewitt and Bucknell’s Dave Paulsen, promised Henderson an opportunity to establish his team’s identity for the rest of the season.

Playing perhaps the best half of Princeton basketball in three years, the Tigers roared to a 40-23 lead at home against GMU. Hewitt made some smart adjustments during the intermission and his team overcame the deficit to force a tie inside of two minutes. But they never gained the lead, as the Tigers called upon Bray to make some big plays. He did, with a great feed to Hans Brase and a tough bucket of his own inside, as the Tigers held on 71-66. This was the kind of game Princeton had trouble finishing in previous seasons under Henderson. Bray earned his first career double-double, scoring 18 and dishing out 10 assists. Seven rebounds, for good measure, bolstered the senior’s impressive stat line. On to Lewisburg to end the November schedule.

Bucknell under Paulsen, has become something of a rivalry for the Tigers, matching two very competitive mid-major programs with a lot of pride and pedigree. Last year’s victory at Jadwin was the highlight of Princeton’s non-conference season and one of two wins the Tigers posted against NCAA Tournament entries. Although off to a slow start, the Bison came in ranked by Pomeroy about 30 places higher than the Tigers on Saturday. On Sunday, after the Tigers’ convincing 66-53 win, the teams essentially switched places in Ken Pomeroy’s list, the Tigers moving up to 73, while the Bison slipped to 105.

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Saturday's Best

Best Upset: Princeton. The Tigers made sure that there would be no undefeated champion of the Ivy League this year, defending Jadwin from the Crimson for the 23rd consecutive year,  70-62. This may have been the most unlikely of those 23 home victories, as the jubilant Princeton crowd rushed the court at the buzzer. It was a back-and-forth affair the whole way as Harvard led by five at the half before Princeton finally pulled away in the final four minutes. The Tigers had five players in double figures, led by Ian Hummer”s 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Point guard TJ Bray had 12 points, while big man Brendan Connolly pitched in with 11 points and 6 rebounds. Denton Koon didn”t miss a shot, adding 10 points in 18 minutes (4-4 FG, 2-2 FT), and Mack Darrow rounded out the double-digit scoring with 10 to go with 5 boards. Princeton only missed one field goal and had one turnover in the game”s final five minutes. For Harvard, Keith Wright provided much of the offense, scoring 16 on 7-11 shooting, while Brandyn Curry had 15. Harvard yielded 70 points to an opponent for only the second time this season (Seattle scored 70 in a 80-70 Crimson victory back in early December).

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