Men's Basketball: Tigers will try to rebound on the road
“We don’t go too far ahead,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said. “I like the way we have been playing to date. We are really focusing on this weekend. We are focusing on getting better every day and taking it one day at a time.”
Princeton is coming off a 69-57 loss against Harvard in a game that had postseason implications. The Tigers hung with the Crimson (15-7, 7-1) for the duration of the first half with 12 lead changes. However, after facing a four-point deficit at the half, the Tigers came out in the second with a lackluster offense. Shooting just 31 percent in the half, Princeton was never able to regain the lead.
This week in practice, the Tigers worked to improve the fundamentals that have been decisive in their victories and in their losses against Yale and Harvard. Princeton averaged 7.4 fewer rebounds and 3.5 more turnovers per game in its two Ivy losses than in its five league victories. The Tigers also averaged 5.3 more free throw attempts in these games.
Taking care of the ball, rebounding and making good shooting decisions have been the emphasis for Henderson throughout the season, but they have become even more of a focal point as his team has faltered in these areas recently.
“I don’t think we need to fully respond to what happened against Harvard or Yale,” Henderson said. “We didn’t play our best basketball. You have to give credit to those teams, but there are things we could have done to play them better. We need to continue to raise our level on both sides of the court.”
On Friday, Princeton will take on Columbia (10-12, 2-6), which is the only Ivy League team to beat Harvard this season and boasts an impressive victory over Villanova in the early part of the season. The Lions are a dangerous team with sharpshooting guards in senior Brian Barbour and sophomore Steve Frankoski. Frankoski is number three in the nation in three-point field goal shooting percentage at 48.7 percent. He exploded for 27 points against Harvard, going nine of 12 from the field and five of seven from downtown.
In their first meeting, Princeton beat Columbia at its own game as it shot an astounding 72.7 percent from behind the arc. Junior guard T.J. Bray had three of those threes and a game-high 17 points. The Tigers also shot 81.8 percent from the foul line, led by senior forward Ian Hummer, who was 12 for 14, including seven of eight in the last five minutes.
Saturday’s game against Cornell, a team known for its aggressive pressure off the ball, provides a different challenge for the Tigers. This Big Red squad may be different from the team the Tigers beat three weeks ago, as it has won four of its last five games since that meeting. Newman Arena in Ithaca has proved a challenging place to play for Princeton, which has only had one victory there since 2007.
After a close first half in their previous meeting, the Tigers pulled away in the second, outshooting Cornell 61.5 percent to 34.8 percent. Princeton was led by Hummer and sophomore forward Denton Koon, each of whom had 22 points, a career-high for Koon.
“You have to play each team differently,” Henderson said. “We have to respond to the way both teams play, but you have to balance that with sticking with what we have and what has been working with us.”
The Tigers are hoping to return to their winning ways and solidify their spot as a title contender by sweeping the games this weekend. It would be Princeton’s first two-victory weekend since it faced these very teams at the beginning of the month.
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