Sharpshooting Leopards top Tigers, who face Incarnate Word Saturday| Nov 20, 2014
Princeton dropped its second straight game on the road at Lafayette college Wednesday night, losing by a score of 83-66. The loss ends a five-game win streak for the Tigers (1-2) in the annual series against the Leopards (2-1).
Both teams shot the lights out in the first half, with Lafayette shooting 68 percent to Princeton’s 60.9 percent. The Tigers made nine of 13 three-point attempts, which kept them within striking distance, despite committing nine turnovers to the Leopards’ two. Junior forward Hans Brase led all scorers at the half with 14 points on four-of-five shooting from downtown.
All that sharpshooting proved unsustainable for both teams in the second half but especially for Princeton. The 47-44 advantage at the half became 54-44 three minutes, in and the lead never got below five the rest of the way. The Tigers shot a dreadful 36.8 percent from the field, including one for six from beyond the arc. The Leopards only shot 42.9 percent, but guard Joey Ptasinski made up for it by sinking four of his five three-point attempts en route to 14 points in the half and a game-high 21 overall. Princeton, meanwhile, committed another eight turnovers and lost its rebounding edge from the first half. Sophomore forward Pete Miller was the only Tiger to hit more than a single shot in the second half, making four of six and also blocking two shots. Sophomore forward Spencer Weisz finished with a team highs of 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
It’s still quite early in the season, and the team is still developing its identity, but a few trends have already emerged. Weisz and Brase have provided nearly half of the offense thus far, averaging 15.7 and 15.3 points per game, respectively. They’ve been the top two Princeton scorers in each game to this point and, unsurprisingly, have taken the most shots and played the most minutes. Brase has been a monster on the boards, averaging 9.3 rebounds per game, but his teammates have struggled: the Tigers have snatched just 21.4 percent of possible offensive rebounds, ranking just 284th in Division I. Miller has stepped into his starting role quite nicely, blocking 2.3 shots and scoring 9.3 points in just 23.7 minutes per game. His 60 percent shooting leads Princeton by a wide margin. Freshman guard Amir Bell has been the only rookie to see significant action, and despite his small stature, has collected 3.7 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game. He’s also managed to commit an astonishing 14 fouls already this season, just one shy of the maximum possible in three games.
Princeton’s offense has been reliant on the three, just like much of last year. Over half of its field goal attempts have been from distance, No. 11 in the country. The Tigers have made a respectable 38.4 percent of those attempts, placing them in the top quartile of Division I. So if the offense has been O.K., why is Princeton being outscored by nearly five points per game? The answer is perimeter defense. Opponents have made 44.4 percent of their three point attempts, ranking the Tigers the No. 315 in the country. This is particularly puzzling, because last year, they allowed just 32.8 percent three-point shooting, well above the national average. If they had maintained last year’s average over the first three games this year, they would actually be slightly outscoring their opponents overall.
The next opponent on the slate is the University of the Incarnate Word, one of the more obscure schools in Division I basketball along with teams like Kennesaw State University, Bethune-Cookman University and Prairie View A&M University. The Cardinals are infamous for scheduling one-out-of-conference game against a Division I school last year. That’s right: Outside of their 17-point loss to the University of North Texas, Incarnate Word was 12-0 against Division III schools like Open Bible College and Huston-Tillotson University. They’ve toned it down this year with only four Division III opponents, but Princeton will still be its first Division I game. Guard Denzel Livingston and guard Kyle Hittle are Incarnate Word’s top two scorers and rebounders returning from last year. Livingston in particular seems like the centerpiece of the team, ranking among the top two in every major statistic last year. The game is at Jadwin Gymnasium at 11 a.m. on Saturday.