Men's basketball prepares for double-header against Cornell and Columbia| Feb 9, 2017
With two close wins last weekend against Dartmouth (4-15 overall, 1-5 Ivy) and Harvard (12-7, 4-2), as well as a mid-week win over Penn (7-12, 0-6), the men’s basketball team (13-6, 6-0) comes home leading the Ivy League; these wins extended Princeton’s win streak to nine games. Now, at 6-0, the Tigers remain one of only a small handful of undefeated teams in conference play in the country, no small feat on their part. The last time Princeton hit the 6-0 mark, the team won the Ancient Eight.
This weekend at Jadwin Gymnasium, the Tigers will host two tough opponents: Cornell (6-15, 2-4) on Friday night at 7 p.m. and Columbia (10-9, 4-2) on Saturday night at 6 p.m.
With the Big Red coming into town, an old Tiger is returning as well. Cornell’s first-year coach Brian Earl ’99 is one of the greatest players in Princeton men’s basketball history. But Earl’s first year has not been smooth sailing, with the Big Red hitting a tough stretch and losing three games out of their last four to Harvard, Brown (11-11, 2-4) and Yale (13-6, 5-1), with a lone win over Dartmouth. All of the losses were close, by an average of eight points.
Cornell is led by guard Matt Morgan, who is averaging 17.3 points per game, the highest mark in the Ivy League. He has scored in double digits in 36 of his last 37 games. To counter this, Princeton will need to rely on its defense, which ranks No. 2 in points allowed in the Ivy League, at 64 points per game. Sophomore guard Myles Stephens anchors this defense, averaging around one block per game.
When Columbia comes to Jadwin on Saturday evening, watch out for forward Luke Petrasek, who leads the Lions in points and rebounds, averaging 15.8 and 6.6 respectively. Petrasek is part of a strong rebounding Columbia team, which ranks No. 2 in the Ivy League and averages 35.8 points per game. The Tigers will in turn have to rely on senior forward Spencer Weisz, one of last week’s Co-Players of the Week in the Ivy League, and senior forward Steven Cook to compete on the boards and prevent Columbia from picking up easy points off of offensive rebounds.
The Lions have been on a hot streak as of late, winning three of their last four games. However, Princeton versus Columbia has been a great matchup over the last three years, with four of the six games being decided by five or fewer points, including an overtime thriller last year at Columbia. The Tigers are 5-1 in these games, but when these teams meet on the court, history can be thrown out the window, with each game promising to be a tight, exciting affair.
As Weisz said after the win over Penn, “The name of the game for us going forward is going to be defense.” This will be put to the test this weekend, with the Ivy League’s highest scorer and a good rebounding team coming to town.
If Princeton is able to win both of these games, it will extend its lead in the Ivy League and keep its momentum going as the Tigers march toward a league-leading No. 27 title.