Princeton opened Ivy League play on a disheartening note, but at least Tiger fans can use the weather as a scapegoat for the defeat.
After having their conference opener against UPenn postponed due to the snow, the Tigers dropped the rescheduled game this afternoon 76–70. The loss puts the Tigers (7–8) below .500 and delivers a big — albeit early — blow to the Tigers’ Ivy League performance. In a game against teams looking to challenge Harvard and Yale for Ivy League supremacy, chalk round one up to the other guys.
Perhaps the postponement did have a strong effect on the Tigers early, as they looked out of sorts during the first half. With the game tied at 11 midway through the first half, the Tigers fell victim to a 10–0 Quaker run over the next four minutes to give Penn a 21–11 lead until junior Myles Stephens stopped the bleeding with a driving layup. From there, Princeton would struggle to get back within striking distance until late in the game. Everytime you looked up, Princeton seemed to climb back into the game, only to watch Penn extend the lead further, to double digits. Princeton began cutting into the lead late in the second half, but not fast enough as they never got it to a one score game until only two minutes were left. Penn was able to capitalize on missed Tiger to draw fouls and sink free throws, burying any chance for a Princeton comeback.
Ultimately, the starting five for Penn proved to be to much for Princeton to handle for most of the game. Every starter for the Quakers had double-digit scoring totals when the game was over, with Quaker guard Ryan Betley leading the way with 21 points. Penn also shot 52 percent from the floor, the first opponent to shoot over 50 percent against Princeton since Southern California. Princeton kept itself in it, shooting 47 percent throughout the game, but ultimately the first half run by Penn proved to be fatal for the Tigers’ chances in this one.
Once again, junior guard Devin Cannady led the Tigers in scoring, registering 21 points. He’s been the leading scorer for Princeton in a majority of the games this season and will be vital to the Tigers throughout league play. Down low, Stephens registered a team high eight rebounds and was one of four Tigers to score in double digits for the game. Position by position, the Tigers matched up well and performed with similar stats against their Quaker counterparts. But the Quakers did enough early and kept the Tigers at bay long enough for the final buzzer to sound.
Princeton will return home trying to overcome this stinging loss. Fortunately, it is the first conference game of the year — one that comes off nearly two weeks of rest for the Tigers and was delayed by weather. While no one is making excuses for the loss, there is enough still ahead of the Tigers where they could make this loss insignificant when all is said and done. But without question, the margin for error has shrunk for the Tigers, especially over the coming weeks. They need to take advantage of a home stand that starts next week and continues all the way until February.