Despite a late comeback attempt from the Liberty Eagles, the Tigers never gave up the lead in Saturday’s 67-64 victory. With the help of strong bench play thanks to sophomore guard Myles Stephens and junior guard Aaron Young, the Tigers improved to a 4-4 record, winning four of their last six games.
Saturday’s victory was a testament to the 2016 Tiger’s roster depth. Though Princeton held the lead for the entirety of Saturday’s away match in Virginia, the Orange and Black starting five struggled to score, with the bench scoring 36 of the team’s 67 points, or over half of the team’s offensive production. Liberty, on the other hand, received negligible contributions from its bench, relying on starters from the initial tipoff to the final buzzer.
The one bright spot in the starting lineup came from senior forward Spencer Weisz’s program-record-tying 13 assists. While he struggled to score the ball himself, netting just two points over the course of 35 minutes, the Jersey-native deferred to pass instead, creating opportunities for his teammates. Weisz’s assist tally ties a single-game record set by Princeton-great TJ Bray ’14 in 2013.
While offense did not come from the starting lineup, Princeton’s bench rose to the challenge on Saturday night. The front-court duo of Young and Stephens shot an amazing 10 3-pointers in just 45 minutes of combined play. The highly efficient scoring was the key to maintaining a scoring margin over the Eagles. In contrast, Liberty faltered from behind the arch on Saturday, making just nine of its 24 3-point shots; instead, the Eagles deferred to score from inside the paint, outscoring the Tigers 28-10 down low.
In a classic battle of inside versus outside offense, the Tiger’s highly efficient shooting carried the team to a 15 point scoring margin with just over seven minutes remaining the second half. During the final stretch of the game, however, the Eagles would embark on a staggering 16-2 run, cutting the Orange and Black lead to just one point with two minutes remaining. Yet a missed game-tying bucket from the Eagles and two netted free throws from sophomore guard Devin Cannady sealed the victory for the Tigers. Following the loss, Liberty dropped to 4-6 on the season.
Even with the victory over Liberty, however, the Tigers will not be celebrating anytime soon. Over the weekend, the ambitious 2016 Tigers discovered that senior forward Hans Brase will not be returning for the remainder of the season, thus ending the South Carolinian's Princeton career. An injury which took place during a Nov. 29 game against VCU hurt the senior both mentally and physically as he had just returned from a year spent recovering from a separate knee injury.
Nonetheless, Brase will leave the court as one of the Tigers' most dependable post presences over the past four years. In his junior year season two years ago, for example, Brase led the team with over seven rebounds per game. For now, senior forward Pete Miller will fill Brase’s void in the starting lineup.
Looking ahead, the Tigers will prepare to take on Saint Joseph’s this coming Wednesday. The Hawks started the season strong, winning their first three games, but have since lost offensive firepower, losing four straight as of Sunday afternoon.