Men's basketball prepare for important games against Brown and Yale| Feb 12, 2015
As the season hits full swing, the Princeton men’s basketball team return home after a trip through New York State to defend Jadwin Gymnasium against the animals from New England.
The Tigers (10-11, 3-2 Ivy League) hope to build on what has been a fantastic home record, where they have accumulated a record of 8-2 on the year. Their only loss so far in Jadwin has been to the number one ranked Harvard Crimson. It’s lucky that they can utilize their home court advantage now, given that their performance this weekend could have a persistent effect on the rest of the season. The Tigers are currently just half a game ahead of the Columbia Lions, and with two wins this weekend, would overtake Yale for clear second place in the Ivy League conference.
Of course, almost every team in this league comes deep with talent.Friday’smatchup against the Brown Bears (10-13, 1-5) will certainly not be an easy task. Even with this team’s struggles in Ivy League play, it has enough weapons to potentially shock the Tigers. Two of the main concerns the Tigers must have facing the Bears are the latter’s distributed offense and strong presence in the paint. Brown comes into this matchup with two of their big men both in top five for rebounding in the Ivy League conference. Moreover, on the topic of their offense, four of Brown’s players average more than 10 points per game.
Although their leading scorer Leland King has struggled with injury this entire season, Brown has benefited from the improvement in performance from guard Tavon Blackman, and the steady inside presence of Cedric Kuakumensah and Rafael Maia.
Kuakumensah in particular could be a hassle for any Tiger driving down the lane. The junior forward/center averages a league best 2.6 blocks per game, and pulls in 7 rebounds to boot. He reminds me of former Sports editor for The Daily Princetonian Damir Golac: long, athletic and ready to put in the dirty work to help the team succeed.
One can’t forget, however, that the Tigers are heavily favored going into this match. While the Tigers will look to create points inside, they lead the Ivy League in three-point field goal percentage, at 38.6 percent. In addition, as the second-best passing team in the league (No. 2 in assists at 13.4 per game), they have absolutely shown the ability to break down stalwart defenses with crisp swinging of the ball. At times that ball will come back out to players like sophomore guard Stephen Cook or senior wing Ben Hazel, or perhaps players will make penetrating drives into the depths of the defense and make the extra bounce pass necessary to get the two points. Sophomore wing Spencer Weisz appears to have the knack for this — as Princeton’s leading scorer and second-leading assist man, he’s been walking the tightrope of getting his own shot and creating for opportunities others.
A strong offensive performance is going to be necessary to keep up with Yale (16-7, 5-1) this weekend. The Tigers may be No. 2 in the league in points per game (68.4), but the Bulldogs currently hold the top spot in points (69.1), a fact that is bolstered by their also holding the top spot in total assists per game (14.2). Their stellar offense has been led by the star combo forward Justin Sears and guard Javier Duren.
Sears has not missed a beat since last season, as he continues to be amongst the Ivy League leaders in points and rebounds. He averaged a shade under 20 points in his two games against Princeton last season; the Tigers will need to game plan for him effectively.
Duren, for his part, has also kept up his performance from last season. While his scoring has remained constant, he has continued to improve as a playmaker and a rebounding guard. However, he has less fond memories of facing Princeton than Sears. Duren struggled mightily against the Tigers’ defense last year, shooting a miserable 5-23 total in the series.
Expect each game this weekend to be a dog fight (and a bear fight). The Tigers’ high-ranking in the conference is currently precarious, and a few wins could keep the teams behind them at bay while the regular season enters its most heated time.After this weekend, the Tigers will play every other team in the Ivy League only once more, as they gear up to maybe take the conference crown from the perennial favorite Harvard University.