The Princeton Tigers knew they weren’t going to let their win streak go down without a fight. And they fought to the bitter end, falling just short of a fifth straight win.
Princeton lost to Fordham on Saturday at Rose Hill Gymnasium by a score of 57 - 55. In the first loss in the month of December, Princeton attempted to mount a ferocious comeback and almost succeeded in an effort to steal the game from the Rams. Trailing by double digits heading into the fourth quarter, the Tigers scratched and clawed their way back to a one point deficit with 18 seconds remaining. But two made free throws by the Rams and a missed three by the Tigers as time expired pushed the Rams to victory.
Fordham made five of six free throws in the final few minutes, which enabled them to protect their lead. On the other side, the Tigers shot .500 from the charity stripe throughout the game; the free throw percentage has been below average for the past couple of games, one of the few concerns that rose during the long win streak.
Defensively, the Tigers out-rebounded their opponent for the sixth straight game, grabbing 36 boards to the Rams’ 33. Junior Tia Weledji led the way with seven rebounds, followed by teammates sophomore Sydney Jordan and junior Leslie Robinson. The Tigers also netted six steals, led by senior captain Vanessa Smith, who had two. However the Tigers, who have been holding teams to an average field goal percentage under 30 percent during their win streak, let the Rams shoot 39 percent throughout the game. The defense clamped down towards the end of the game, holding the Rams to only two-for-ten shooting in the final quarter.
On the offensive side, the Tigers shot nearly 40 percent in the game, but only 21 percent from beyond the arc. Princeton entered the game as one of the best 3-point teams in the country, but couldn’t find a rhythm from deep in the game. Smith also led the team in points with 13, while two other Tigers had double digit points: Jordan (10) and Weledji (12).
The loss ends the Tigers' four-game win streak, their longest of the young season. They failed to get above .500 for the first time this year. Their next chance to get above .500 will be at home, against Wagner, two games from now.
Currently, the Tigers' 4-5 record puts them seventh in the Ivy League as non-conference play enters the final stretch. They trail league-leading Harvard by four games, while Penn, expected to compete with Princeton for the Ivy League championship, is a half a game ahead at 4-4.
Princeton enters a stretch of long road trips and good chances to pad their resume. First up is a trip to the other Manhattan to take on the Kansas State Wildcats on Dec. 18. This will be the Tigers' third ever meeting against Kansas State, having lost the first two. Their last meeting came in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, where the Wildcats ousted the then-No. 9 seeded Tigers, 67-64.