This past Friday, the men’s basketball team opened the season with a game against neighboring Rider University. In a gripping match, the Tigers sealed an away win, defeating the Broncs 64-56. Princeton has now won four straight season openers, starting another year on an auspicious note.
Princeton opened the game red hot, draining their first three 3-point attempts. On the defensive side, the Tigers’ performance was equally impressive. Rider missed their first eight shots from the field and went on to finish the half shooting just 24.1 percent (7-29). As the first half began to wind down, the Tigers had already built a formidable 16-point lead.
Despite the strong start, the game would prove to be rollercoaster ride of emotions. Rider rallied at the end of the first half with an 8-0 run and then began the second half 10-0 to take the lead from Princeton, 35-34.
“I thought we showed great poise in the second half when we fell behind after having a big lead,” junior forward Spencer Weisz said. “Everyone was calm despite losing the lead. We knew they were going to come out strong in the second half and make a run, but there was still so much time left in the game that we still felt we were in a good position. I thought it showed great maturity on our part to fight through the adversity.”
Indeed the Tigers would respond with a dramatic spree of their own. With 15 minutes remaining in the half, the Tigers started a 16-2 run. From then on Princeton maintained a five-point lead before closing the game with a 64-56 victory.
“We're really happy to get the first win of the season under our belt,” said junior forward Pete Miller. “Overall, it was a great win against a really good Rider team. To get a win like that on the road in a hectic atmosphere, we showed a lot of focus on the little things that make us win.”
The game against Rider also showcased the talents and potential of the Princeton squad with great individual performances from many members. Freshman guard Devin Cannady scored 17 points in his debut against Rider, the most scored by a freshman since Douglas Davis’ 25 points against Central Michigan in 2008. Weisz added eight assists, a career high. In addition, Miller improved his career high as well with 12 rebounds.
With a first win under their belts and many returning veterans, the Tigers are optimistic for a successful season. “We have one goal for this year and that is to win the Ivy League. We bring back a lot of experience from last year's team and we know exactly what we have to do,” Miller said. “It starts with our work ethic, which is what this program's success is all about. We've all given everything in our tanks since last spring to be as well prepared for this season as possible. We're really excited to prove ourselves this year. I think everyone has matured as well. With the experience that we all have, we see ourselves as the only thing that can get in the way of accomplishing our goals.”
Princeton will also benefit from the addition of new freshmen to the team. “I think the freshmen have caught along to the way we do things quickly. They understand the level of commitment to the details and the process of becoming a good team. We're going to count on them this year,” Miller stated.
Princeton plays their next game at home against St. Peter’s on Saturday, Nov. 21. While the match will undoubtedly be a tough one, the Princeton squad is eager to meet the challenge. “The game against St. Peter's should be a lot of fun. We are going to play it in Dillon Gym as a throwback game,” Weisz said. “Hopefully, a lot of students come out and pack the gym.”