A silent moment of fear descended on Jadwin Gym less than a minute into men's basketball's game against Yale Sat-urday night. As 6,121 fans looked on in quiet anguish, senior guard Mitch Henderson lay on the court clutching his face.
But a few seconds later, the silence became a roar as Henderson rose to his feet. And with No. 10 Princeton (20-1 overall, 8-0 Ivy League) set to host Penn (13-9, 7-1) Tuesday, that was all that mattered.
Henderson's moment on the floor was the most dramatic scene in a weekend largely devoid of drama, as the Tigers beat up on Brown, 82-58, Friday and Yale, 78-48, Saturday.
Princeton remains undefeated in league play, while Penn also picked up wins over the Bears (5-17, 2-8) and Elis (10-12, 5-5) over the weekend to remain in second place. The Quakers came back from a 22-point second-half deficit to defeat Yale, 76-69, in overtime Friday. The Penn and Princeton sweeps set up Tuesday's showdown at Jadwin for first place in the Ivy League.
After suffering a hit to the face while playing defense, Henderson fell to the ground and cupped his hands around his nose, which was visibly bleeding. He was taken out of the game, only to return six minutes later.
"I just figured it was a broken nose," head coach Bill Carmody said. "Our trainer said he thought it was probably broken. I was really happy the guy kept playing. He said he wanted to go in, so I said, 'Let's go.' "
Henderson remained at the receiving end of Yale's physical play throughout the game, and his nose continued to bleed at times. The extent of the injury was not known at press time. But coaches and players were confident he will play Tuesday.
"(The doctors) will x-ray it," Carmody said. "It's not displaced much if it's broken. They will look at it and decide if they have to put some kind of noseguard on there. There is a lot of swelling."
Princeton used strong first-half performances to secure the two wins. The Tigers combined to shoot 63 percent in the opening halves, and entered halftime with 23- and 14-point leads against Brown and Yale, respectively.
"It seems that when you come out of the gate and play the way we have, it's really hard for other teams to stay with us," senior center Steve Goodrich said.
When Henderson left Saturday's game, neither the Elis nor the Tigers had scored. But by the time he returned with 13 minutes, nine seconds left in the first half, Princeton had jumped out to a 14-6 lead behind eight points from junior guard Brian Earl.
Earl, who was held to five points on 1-for-7 shooting in the defeat of Brown, erupted for 21 points against Yale. He shot 5 for 8 from beyond the arc and recorded four rebounds and four assists, in addition to tying his season high for points.
"(Earl) knew he didn't play well (Friday), so that weighs on him more than anyone else," Carmody said. "When he has a bad game he always comes back and plays wells and shoots very well."
Friday's contest was only the third time this season in which Earl has not reached double figures in points. In the games following those performances, he has shot 19 for 35 from the field – 13 for 24 from three-point land – and tallied 55 points.
Junior forward Gabe Lewullis paced Princeton with six rebounds against Yale, in addition to his 15 points. He currently leads the Tigers in both categories with 14.3 points and five rebounds per game.
Princeton opened Friday's game with a stifling full-court press that left Brown confused and frustrated. Offensively, the Tigers worked the ball to Goodrich, who converted three hook shots and a three-pointer to help extend Princeton's lead to 14-0. Senior forward James Mastaglio capped the run with a breakaway slam dunk on a lead pass from Henderson.
Brown forward Oggie Kapetan-ovic finally ended the Bears' scoring drought when he made two free throws with 12:15 remaining in the half, but the game was essentially out of reach. The lead hovered around 20 points the rest of the way, never falling below 15.
Goodrich led all scorers with 21 points and paced Princeton with five rebounds. Lewullis totaled 16 points, while Mastaglio had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.
While the Tigers resisted the temptation to look past Brown and Yale, they can now concentrate their attention on perhaps the most important game of the season – Tuesday's matchup with Penn. "It's always been a special game for so many years and it's no different this year," Carmody said. "They are a very good team and (Friday) night's effort tells you they are sort of special. Down 20 points with 10 minutes to go – there is some character there."
Henderson won't have to provide any drama Tuesday. Just some points and assists.
NOTES – Brown has never won at Princeton, an all-time losing streak of 48 games. It is the longest such run in NCAA history. . . Carmody's career coaching mark is now 44-5, including a perfect 22-0 mark in the Ivy League. . . Tuesday night's contest against Penn at Jadwin Gym is sold out. The last advance sellout at Jadwin was Dec. 22, 1996, when the Tigers faced North Carolina.