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Even with two wins, men's hoops still trails Penn by two

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The out-of-town scoreboard at men's basketball games exists only in the form of faxed score sheets. Lifeless and infrequent, the sheets fail to provide a clear picture of the distant action.

Nevertheless, those faxes were as much the center of attention at the men's basketball team's contests this weekend as the Tigers' two convincing victories over Harvard (10-15 overall, 5-7 Ivy League) and Dartmouth (8-17, 4-8). Needing a loss from Penn to revive their Ivy League championship hopes, the Tigers (17-9, 9-2) wiped the Crimson and Big Green out, 63-48 and 68-57, respectively.


While the Quakers faltered in both games over the weekend, however, they would not cave. Dartmouth led at points in the second half Friday, but Penn put them away late, 69-55. Saturday night's game had Princeton fans twiddling their thumbs once again, waiting for the latest score reports.

When the final score came through at last, the Quakers (18-7, 11-0) had kept the Crimson at bay, 62-61, as Harvard sharpshooter Dan Clemente's last-second shot found only rim.

No worries

Although senior forward Mason Rocca played a scant few minutes on the weekend, Princeton did not have nearly the trouble with the Crimson and Big Green that Penn had.

Friday's matchup with Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., was decided early, as the Tigers hit their first three three-point shots and a pair of free throws to take an 11-1 lead. From that point on, very little changed, as the Crimson would never trail by more than 18 or fewer than nine.

Princeton's shooting was frigid for the remainder of the first half, but 10 turnovers by Harvard kept the Crimson from capitalizing. The second half saw better shooting from both teams, as the Tigers improved from a 33.3 percent field goal percentage in the first half to 52.2 percent in the second.

This improvement was the result of a shift from almost exclusive use of the three-pointer to driving layups and low-post shots. In the first half, Princeton took 24 shots, 17 of which were three-pointers.


"I thought we got some wide-open shots," head coach Bill Carmody said. "But we just missed them."

En fuego

The second-half shooting surge was led by sophomore point guard Ahmed El-Nokali. El-Nokali made a number of strong drives to the basket, slicing through the Harvard defense that had been spread thin by the Tigers' earlier three-point focus.

"We have such great shooters on the team," El-Nokali said. "So you get a lot more chances."

The sophomore was 6 for 6 from inside the arc on the night and scored 15 points. His buckets came in key spots, as well, shoring up the offense when it faltered.

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"I thought Ahmed came through at some good times, with some good hoops, some good drives," Carmody said.

The Tigers were remarkably balanced Friday. Despite scoring only 63 points, five Princeton players finished in double digits for points. This balance carried over to Saturday's game against Dartmouth, as four players scored more than 10.

Unlike in Friday's game, however, the Tigers were brilliant from the field against the Big Green. The Tigers shot 60.5 percent, led by junior forward C.J. Chapman's 6 for 7 performance. Chapman hit 4 of 5 three-pointers on his way to a team-leading 16 points.

Although Dartmouth held the game close for the majority of the contest, Princeton extended its lead over the last 10 minutes to take the game comfortably.