The Princeton men’s basketball team has stormed out of the gate in its first month, rattling off victories over Rider, St. Peter’s, Lafayette and Fairleigh Dickinson to start its season 4-0 (0-0 Ivy League). In fact, the team’s current record indicates its best start since the 1997-98 season.
Princeton dominated Fairleigh Dickinson this pastMonday, led by a double-double from junior forward Henry Caruso and strong performances from junior forward Stephen Cook and freshman guard Devin Cannaday. The Tigers demonstrated skill on the perimeter, going 9 for 24 on 3-pointers, as well as a deep bench — twelve players scored in the 91-61 victory.
This Saturday, Princeton will face its biggest challenge yet as it heads to New York to face Stony Brook. The Seawolves (3-2, 0-0 American East) narrowly fell to no. 16-ranked Vanderbilt in overtime and are coming off of a two-game win streak which saw them overcome Loyola Maryland and Farmingdale State. When asked about this week’s opponent, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 highlighted Stony Brook’s experience and well-roundedness.
“They’re well-coached, and they have Jameel Warney,” Henderson noted. “He’s like a double-double machine. They’ve got Carson Puriefoy, he’s a very good guard, and both of them are seniors. They’re very good at home. They present almost every challenge you can think of — it’s a very well-coached, very good college basketball team. We’re looking forward to playing a really good game.”
Warney, the senior leader of the Stony Brook squad, was named his conference’s Player of the Week after averaging 16.6 points per game and posting five double-doubles to open the year. Henderson highlighted his explosiveness as a significant challenge for the Princeton squad.
“When [Warney’s] around the rim, it’s almost an automatic two points,” Henderson observed. “So you’ve got to do the best to keep the ball out of the post. As a team, we have to be aware of where the shooters are and try to dictate things defensively. I don’t know how much you can do to stop him individually, but you can focus on the details, the things we talk about all the time. Our guys are really focused on a team-based defensive approach.”
Against this team, Henderson emphasized the importance of the Tigers’ confidence and intensity.
“I’ve asked our guys to play hard, and they’ve done that,” he said. “They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do defensively — they’ve committed to it, [and] they’re not afraid to make mistakes.”
The Tigers have demonstrated poise and balance on both ends of the court. Fourteen players on the roster have gotten in on the scoring this season, with eight averaging seven points or more. Additionally, the Princeton offense has managed almost 16 assists a game. Defensively, the squad has allowed a scant 60.2 points per opponent on just 36.8 percent shooting and averages 6.8 steals and 3.5 blocks per contest. They also average 44.5 rebounds per game, which may prove crucial against an inside threat like Warney.
Henderson attributed his team’s successes thus far to cohesiveness and daring — qualities that he hoped would again be on display against its latest opponent.
“I don’t see any one particular trait that’s stood out to me about this group,” Henderson asserted. “They’re playing together, playing as one group…they’re committed to each other. Offensively, they’re a very unselfish group that can make shots, so it makes for a good combination.”
Princeton came out on top against Stony Brook last year, 77-64. A win would add momentum to the Tigers’ impressive start, which has given them the top ranking in the current Ivy League standings (in-conference play has not yet begun).