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Fresh off of a homestand against two strong opponents, the Princeton men’s basketball team travels through the state of New York to battle Ivy League foes. They will face the Columbia Lionson Friday, followed by the Cornell Big Redon Saturday. Both games will prove to be a big test for the Tigers, who have lost all six of their away games this season.

This weekend provides the Tigers (9-10, 2-1 Ivy League) not only the chance to close in on the leaders of the conference but also the opportunity to distance themselves from the rest of the league. The Lions and Big Red are the two teams directly behind Princeton in the league standings (Princeton at no. 3, Columbia and Cornell at no. 4 and 5, respectively).

A road game against Columbia does not appear particularly intimidating; Columbia (10-8, 2-2) is at the moment a mere 1-2 on their home floor. Moreover, they do not appear to have an incredibly balanced offense. Much of their production on that end of the floor comes from junior wing Maodo Lo, who has picked up right where he left off last season and is currently the second leading scorer in the conference. Lo has been the man on both ends of the floor for the Lions, leading the team in points per game (15.9) and steals per game (1.7).

Despite facing an offense that seems to be focused around one man, Princeton will still have to take extra care with Columbia’s reserves. Both games last weekend saw bench players from the opposing team take over the game for periods of time – Harvard’s Corbin Miller, for example, averaged under 10 points a game yet lit Princeton up for 17 points in the first half alone.

Balance is far less of an issue for the offense of Cornell. The Big Red (10-10, 2-2 Ivy League) is in the middle of a resurgent season, having already far eclipsed last year’s record of 2-26. The team has been led by the strong play of trio Shonn Miller, Robert Hatter, and Devin Cherry, who are scoring 16.2, 11.5, and 10.3 points per game respectively for their team. Miller in particular has been outstanding; after missing last season with a shoulder injury, the senior forward is controlling the game on both ends of the floor, adding 8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and almost 2 blocks to his already impressive points total.

It will be intriguing to see how Princeton’s top three scorers of sophomore wing Spencer Weisz (12.9 points per game), junior forward/center Hans Brase (11.5) and sophomore forward Stephen Cook (10.6) matchup. While Weisz and Brase have been the more consistent, no defense can afford to overlook Cook’s combination of range and playmaking abilities. His skills were on full display last week in Princeton’s loss to Harvard, as he accumulated 21 points from behind the arc, from the line, and on strong drives.

While Ivy League play started only recently, it is nevertheless incredibly important for the Tigers to keep up their strong start. Last year’s third-place finish in the league was made bittersweet by the fact that Tigers had a shot of making the NCAA tournament had their start to Ivy League play been better. If the Tigers want to keep themselves in contention for the league title, getting victories on two winnable games certainly would not hurt.

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