As the season enters the home stretch, the men’s basketball team will face the Bulldogs and the Bears in the second half of a four-game road trip.
Princeton (12-13 overall, 5-4 Ivy League) is currently No. 3 in the Ivy League and has only five games remaining in the regular season. The Tigers have alternated wins and losses over the past six games, unable to make headway in their goal of an NCAA berth. They trail Harvard, ranked No. 1 in the conference, by 3.5 games, and No. 2Yale by 2.5.
However, the previous game between these two teams is not a positive indicator for the Tigers. The Tigers are looking to avoid being swept after falling at Jadwin Gymnasium 81-73 to the Bulldogs (19-8, 8-2) on Feb. 14. In that game, as with so many this season, the key to victory for Yale was forward Justin Sears, who has thrust himself into the center of the Ivy League Player of the Year discussion. Sears went off for 25 points and nine rebounds in a victory over the Tigers, and is averaging 14 points and 7.5 boards per game this season.
Sears’ great play isn’t the only source of offensive production for Yale. Guard Javier Duren has excelled this season, contributing on both sides of the floor with his 13.5 points, 5.4 boards, 4.2 assists and 1.3 steals. Moreover, Yale’s offense has been excellent this season, leading the Ivy League in points per game at 68.8 and holding third place in field goal percentage at 44.3 percent.
That said, no one who has seen the Tigers play this season can doubt their offensive prowess. Yale may be top in the league at scoring, but Princeton is a very close second, scoring 68.1 points per game. The Tigers have also been more efficient than the Bulldogs this season, holding the top spot in both field goal and three-pointer percentage.
This comes as no surprise. All of Princeton’s top three scorers are excellent shooters from downtown. Junior forward/center Hans Brase poses a difficult problem to defenses in his ability to bang down low (averaging 7.7 rebounds per game) and his touch from outside; he hits at a 35 percent clip and averages 11.1 points per game. Helping out with the offensive load are sophomore guard Stephen Cook and sophomore wing Spencer Weisz, averaging 10.6 and 12.0 points, respectively. They’ve also been on point from downtown; Cook shoots it from deep at 38.1 percent and Weisz at 39.4 percent.
These three certainly aren’t the only ones supporting Princeton on the offensive end. Freshman guard Amir Bell has had an excellent first year in the Ivy League, scoring 9.1 points on 49.4 percent shooting, highly efficient for a player of his position.
The Tigers’ offense could very well be on full display when they travel to Providence. At first glance, the Brown Bears’ (12-15, 3-7) defensive stats might seem impressive; they grab a league-leading 36.8 boards a game and are third in the league in amassing blocks, swatting away 4.6 total per game. However, they have not been able to stop opposing offenses at all: they currently give up a league worst 68.4 points a game, landing them in 6thplace in the conference and another season without an NCAA tournament bid.
However, despite their defensive struggles, the Bears are not a team that can be easily overlooked. Brown comes in third in points per game, after Princeton and Yale, scoring 65.9 points per game and boasting one of the most balanced starting lineups in the league. Four members of Brown’s starting five score in the double digits; forward Leland King leads the group, putting up 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Brown’s scoring, however, did not faze Princeton when these teams last met in Jadwin on Feb. 13. Princeton was lights out on the day, shooting an incredible 52.5 percent and having four of five starters scoring 12 or more. In particular, it was apparent that Brown’s team has little chance of winning when the offense isn’t there; the Bears shot a woeful 34.8 percent game, ineffective on both sides of the floor.
As they go against a top dog and a bottom slog of the Ivy League, the Tigers continue to try and keep hope alive. Another loss would really put their chances of reaching first in the Ivy League in jeopardy.