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Lions and Tigers and Red, oh my!

Alas, the Princeton Tigers (10-11 overall, 3-2 Ivy League) received no easy stroll down the yellow brick road but rather two games this weekend in hostile environments, travelling through the state of New York to face Columbia (11-9, 3-3) and Cornell (11-11, 3-3). Princeton came into this weekend climbing to the top of the Ivy League standings, ranked third in the conference and beginning to nip at the heels of Harvard and Yale, the leaders in the Ivy League.

In their pursuit of the number one spot in the league, the Tigers’ weekend could not have started out better. They took down the Lions in a tightly contested match, as the teams were going neck and neck until around 12 minutes left in the 2nd half, when the Tigers began to pull away. The win must have been especially gratifying for junior center/forward Hans Brase, who recovered from his off performance last weekend and hit Columbia for 15 points (including 3-of-4 from behind the arc) and nine rebounds. While Brase’s performance was the most notable of the game, fans cannot overlook the strong play of the rest of Princeton’s starting lineup. Sophomore wing Spencer Weisz and freshman guard Amir Bell added 10 and 11 points, respectively, to the Tiger victory. Moreover, senior wing Ben Hazel had a huge impact in the game, coming off the bench to score 13 points on an efficient 5-of-9 shooting.

Hazel’s own efficiency was indeed a microcosm for the entire team’s performance. The most remarkable aspect of the Tigers’ win on Friday was their efficiency. They totally outshot the Lions, with a field goal percentage of 54.2 percent, their highest against an Ivy League foe so far in the season. Columbia, shooting at a paltry 41.7 percent, didn’t stand much of a chance, and ended up with a double-figure loss, 74 — 62.

Coming off this win, the Tigers had every reason to feel confident going into their battle against Cornell, as a win would push them into clear second place in the conference standings. Cornell, however, had other plans on the day, establishing a strong presence on the inside and forcing Princeton into difficult shots. The Big Red’s intimidation factor in the paint is apparent from the scoreboard, as they outrebounded the Tigers 36-29 on the game. In addition, they had eight blocks on the game compared to the Tigers’ two, suggesting that Cornell’s big men had a better time this game of pushing the Tigers away from the paint.

As one looks at the individual performances for the Big Red in this game, it stands out that the offensive load didn’t rest solely upon the shoulders of one player (as it did in the game against Columbia) but rather on the entire starting lineup. Cornell’s star forward Shonn Miller had yet another solid game in his excellent season, tallying 15 points and six boards. However, he was heavily aided by the play of starting guards Galal Cancer and Devin Cherry, who scored 17 and 13 points, respectively, against the Tigers.

Princeton on the other hand could not emulate the things that brought them a success on Friday night. Many parts of Princeton’s performance were complete opposites from the strong exhibition they had shown against Columbia. Just a day after shooting that scorching 54.2 percent, the Tigers ended up shooting a mere 32.7 percent from the floor. Moreover, Brase and Weisz, two of the key contributors from the previous game, had far less of an impact. Brase went 0-of-7 from the field, and Weisz shot 2-of-5 for six points on the day. Despite the rough shooting, the Tigers managed to keep the game close, ultimately falling 60 — 68.

The Tigers still hold third place in the conference and will get a prime chance to move up the ladder next weekend. In their homestand next weekend, they’ll take on first-place Yale (16-7, 5-1), and a victory over the Bulldogs could have the Tigers sniffing that second-place spot, and inching closer to first.

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