Princeton men’s basketball (11–14 overall, 3–7 Ivy) extended its losing streak to six games this weekend, losing road matchups to Cornell (10–13 overall, 4–6 Ivy) 107–101 (3OT) and Columbia (7–16 overall, 4–6 Ivy) 85–60 on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively. Here are some themes that emerged over the course of the weekend.
Blown lead, missed opportunities
Against Cornell, Princeton appeared to be in control midway through the second half. The Tigers held a 65–43 lead with just 11:44 remaining in the game before Cornell mounted a massive comeback. A 29–4 run over the next nine minutes gave Cornell a 72–69 lead with little time remaining. The Tigers battled back, and with just two seconds on the clock and Princeton trailing by one point, senior guard Amir Bell seized an offensive rebound and drew a foul, giving him a chance to win the game for the Tigers by draining two free throws. He missed the first but made the second to send the game to OT. The Tigers wasted another opportunity to end the game in the second OT with the score tied at 88. Bell missed a jumper at the buzzer, and the game went to another OT.
The fatigue factor
Playing another game the night after a triple overtime thriller is always a daunting proposition. This was evident Saturday night for the Tigers, who came out of the gates sluggish on the road against Columbia. Columbia leaped out to a 22–5 lead in the first seven minutes of Saturday’s game, as Princeton struggled to make shots from the perimeter and defend effectively. The game would not get much closer, as Columbia took a 48–25 lead into the locker room for halftime and secured an 85–60 final.
Live by the three, die by the three
Princeton shot well from outside against Cornell, making 16–38 or 42.1 percent from behind the arc. Junior guard Devin Cannady rebounded from last week’s games, in which he was contained offensively by Harvard and Dartmouth, making six three-pointers against Cornell and scoring 32 points in total. Against Columbia, however, Princeton failed to knock down its three-point looks. The team shot 25 percent from three-point range, and Cannady was held to just 11 points.
Princeton’s defense has been porous for the entirety of Ivy League play. The team has the third worst defense in the conference, giving up 77.3 points per game in conference play. This trend continued over the weekend, as the Tigers gave up 76 points in regulation against Cornell and 85 against Columbia. Any late season push towards the Ivy League tournament will have to begin on the defensive end.
Crazier things have happened
Situated in seventh place in the Ivy League with a 3–7 record, postseason play may seem like a pipe dream for this year’s Tigers squad. Such a comeback, however, is not without precedent. Last year, Penn lost its first six games in conference play before winning six of its final eight to slide into the Ivy League tournament as the No. 4 seed, nearly pulling off an upset against 14–0 Princeton in the first round. Just one game behind a triad of teams tied for fourth place at 4–6, the Tigers are down, but certainly not out.
Princeton will return to the friendly confines of Jadwin Gymnasium this weekend for a pair of games against Harvard (14–11 overall, 9–1 Ivy) and Dartmouth (6–17 overall, 2–8 Ivy) on Friday and Saturday respectively. The Harvard game will be televised on ESPNU.