Men's Basketball: Tigers thrash Penn to open league slate
Led by junior point guard T.J. Bray, the men's basketball team started off Ivy League play with a home victory over rival Penn on Saturday. The Tigers (7-7 overall, 1-0 Ivy League) were playing against the Quakers (2-13, 0-1) for the first time since ending Penn's Ivy title hopes with a win in last year's regular-season finale. Revenge was not on the docket, however, as Princeton took the game by a score of 65-53.
The Tigers started off the first half strong, grabbing an 11-4 lead after early offensive struggles for both teams. The defense played great during that stretch, causing four turnovers while also holding the Quakers to 1-for-8 shooting from the field.
Princeton demonstrated its commitment to stopping the Quakers at the end of the run, when senior forward Ian Hummer turned the ball over on a bad pass but ran back quickly enough to block what looked like an easy layup for Penn guard Tony Hicks.
"It was so important to get off to a good start," head coach Mitch Henderson '98 said, citing good ball movement and the defense as the primary factors for how they were able to take the lead.
Bray finished with 15 points in the first half, more than any other Tiger would score for the entire game, thanks in large part to his four three-pointers. Bray would go on to finish with a career-high 23 points on 6-for-11 shooting from downtown, a season high for Princeton.
"It was just one of those days where shots are falling down," Bray said. "They were coming in the flow of the offense, which was big. Ian had a couple of nice passes to me, and I was able to step in and shoot."
The Tigers started off the second half even better then they did the first, scoring the first 11 points to go up by 20.
Hicks helped the Quakers get back in the game, as they cut the deficit to 10 points with 10 minutes to play. The hosts never let Penn get closer than that, scoring the next nine points and maintaining a comfortable lead until the final buzzer.
"I think it just boils down to a good scout," Hummer said on the team's success against Penn in recent years. "We take a few days to go over the offense and how we're going to guard, and every little trick they throw at us weíre going to be ready for it."
The win showed a lot of promising signs for the Tigers, who have now won seven of their past eight games against Penn. For one, they were very effective with their passing, resulting in 19 assists, tying their season high. Additionally, Princeton distributed the ball well, with four different players having at least eight points. The most promising sign is how the Tigers have continued to get better at closing games over their recent winning stretch, after struggling mightily in that regard earlier in the season.
The Tigers have now beaten the Quakers four consecutive times at Jadwin Gymnasium, making the current seniors the first to accomplish such a feat since the Class of '92.
"Penn's a great team every year ... [but] coming home gives us a little spark, and weíre able to play well against them every year," Hummer said.
Saturday's win also extended the Tigersí home conference win streak to 18 games, its longest such streak since 1999.
After trying out a few different combinations earlier in the season, Henderson said he has found the right lineup for Ivy League play. The Tigers have now won four of their past five games, giving them momentum as they enter a two-week break before returning to finish Ivy League play after a tune-up game against The College of New Jersey.