The men’s basketball team could not handle No. 6 Syracuse’s defensive pressure and offensive prowess at the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night. In a Thanksgiving-eve meeting of the two tallest teams in the nation, the Orange never trailed while cruising to a 73-53 victory. The Tigers (2-3 overall) recovered to beat Lafayette 72-53 on Saturday afternoon.
Princeton shot a blistering 58 percent against the Leopards (1-5) and were 6-for-10 from three-point range, a performance that snapped a three-game losing streak.
Against Syracuse on Wednesday, the Tigers came within six points early in the second half, but the Orange (4-0) hammered the visitors with an 8-0 run and pulled away in the closing minutes to extend its home win streak to 24 games.
“We came out a little flat,” senior forward Ian Hummer said. “I thought we played well at times, but overall, we need to put together a full 40 minutes.”
Continuing an early-season theme for the Tigers, defensive rebounding was an issue early on, as the Orange collected five offensive rebounds in its first four possessions and turned them into six points. Syracuse rebounded 16 of its 32 misses for the game, while Princeton got only seven offensive rebounds.
Hummer scored the Tigers’ first points, making a backdoor cut along the baseline and receiving a pass from junior point guard T.J. Bray for a soft dunk. Moments later, Bray hit a three-pointer to cut the Orange’s lead to 10-5, where it would stay for three-and-a-half minutes. After making only one of 19 three-pointers in his first three games of the season, Bray hit two of three on Wednesday night.
A three-pointer by James Southerland — his third of the game — gave the hosts a 16-point lead with three minutes left in the first half, but threes by sophomore guard Clay Wilson and Bray cut the halftime margin to 36-25.
Five minutes into the second half, a Hummer field goal pulled Princeton within single digits, and Wilson drilled a three from the corner off an inbounds pass to make the score 45-39. Wilson was unfazed by the unfamiliar sightlines of the Carrier Dome, making five of nine three-pointers en route to a team-high 15 points.
“It’s easy when you have guys like Ian and [senior center] Brendan [Connolly] inside; when the zone collapses in, they can kick it back out,” Wilson said.
But that was as close as the Tigers’ comeback attempt would get. Syracuse made a layup on each of its next four possessions, the last a second-chance effort by C.J. Fair, while holding Princeton scoreless to bring the lead back to double digits for good.
With seven minutes left in the game, Princeton got a rare fast break, and sophomore forward Denton Koon lobbed a pass to Hummer just off the rim, but Hummer’s layup attempt was blocked emphatically by Baye Moussa Keita. Moments later, Fair and Michael Carter-Williams threw down back-to-back dunks for the hosts, setting the tone for a second half in which the Orange pulled away to win by 20 points.
Hummer scored 10 points with five assists, all in the first half, but he committed eight turnovers. Connolly totaled 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, finishing several deft passes from Hummer, and Bray added a career-high seven assists. For the game, 15 of the Tigers’ 17 field goals were assisted.
But those assists came at a price, as Princeton turned the ball over 24 times against Syracuse’s famous two-three zone defense. Because of the turnovers and additional rebounds, the Orange was able to take 19 more shots than Princeton.
“We have to be able to take better care of the ball,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said. “If we take care of the ball, we have a real nice shot in that game.”
The Tigers had more ball-handling problems against Lafayette on Saturday, committing 17 miscues. But they limited the hosts to only seven offensive rebounds and simply out-shot the Leopards, hitting 58 percent of their field-goal attempts while holding Lafayette to 35 percent.
Hummer and Bray led the Tigers’ offensive outburst, setting career highs of 28 and 17 points, respectively, and making a combined 19 of 25 shots. The duo added a total of nine assists and 13 rebounds.
Henderson made a change to his starting lineup for the first time all season, inserting Koon in place of junior guard Chris Clement and leaving Bray as the only true guard on the floor. The move paid off, as Princeton opened the game on a 17-4 run. Twelve of those points came in the paint as Hummer and Connolly outmuscled the Leopards near the basket.
Princeton has seen early leads disappear several times already this season, but it did not allow another comeback on Saturday, as Lafayette never drew within seven points. A 12-3 run shortly after halftime, capped by three-pointers from Koon and junior forward Will Barrett, erased any remaining doubt as Princeton pulled away.
The Tigers will play the third leg of their four-game road trip on Wednesday evening, taking on Wagner at 7 p.m.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/11/21/31909/