On the night when former Princeton basketball star Devin Cannady was in attendance to watch this year’s team, his absence on the floor was most apparent. Cannady hit a game-winning fadeaway three-pointer for Princeton at Monmouth just last year. Now, 381 days later, the Tigers would lose in similarly heartbreaking fashion.
Following a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer by Monmouth’s Ray Salnave, the Tigers fell to the Hawks, 67–66. The loss means Princeton (1–7) has yet to win a game at home this season. It also marks the second time in the last four games that Princeton lost on a buzzer beater — the other was against Arizona State at home two weeks prior. If there was ever a time for the Tigers to prove that they can overcome adversity, now is the time to do it.
“I think there are enough errors being made for us to look at the games and say ‘We’re not unlucky.’ They were two really unfortunate things that happened, but we’ve got to learn how to string together more meaningful minutes,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said.
The Tigers, who were six-point favorites entering the game, established themselves early and burst out of the gates with an 11–3 run, shooting well and keeping a stout defense. They were not able to stay hot for long, though, and Monmouth clawed back with the help of Princeton’s awful shooting from behind the arc. At the half, the Hawks led 35–24, finishing on a 15–5 run. Princeton simply could not score, as they shot 35 percent from the field and 1 for 15 from beyond the arc at the half.
The second half did not seem to go much better for the Tigers — they were not able to narrow the margin and found themselves down by 14 points with ten minutes remaining. Henderson called for a full-court press defensively, and within four minutes, the Tigers were only down by three.
“I was proud of the way we fought back,” Henderson said. “Our defense was excellent for about fifteen minutes, and we gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game.”
Senior center Richmond Aririguzoh emphasized how the added defensive intensity was integral to the Tigers’ comeback.
“We relied on our defense,” Aririguzoh said. “If you look at the way we played in the first half versus the second half defensively, it was just a completely different game. The biggest thing is consistency — how can we do that for 40 minutes?”
After a few minutes of high-intensity basketball from both teams, junior guard Ryan Schwieger was fouled in a tie game with 4.2 seconds to go. Despite returning from injury, Schwieger provided important minutes down the stretch and made both free throws to put Princeton up by two.
In the final 4.2 seconds, Monmouth was able to relay the ball from their own baseline and find the game’s leading scorer, Salnave, for a contested three-pointer near the top of the key, which he sunk at the buzzer.
Although the Tigers have lost seven of their first eight games to start the season, Coach Henderson pointed out that there is still a long way to go, including Ivy League play. With the help of the seniors, Henderson believes they have what it takes to turn their season around.
“I’m very positive on the team, and as long as Richmond and his senior classmates are focused on what it takes to win, we can do anything. I really believe that in college basketball, it’s about the older kids,” said Henderson.
The coach is not the only one who still believes in the team’s potential.
“I keep asking our guys, ‘Do we need to lower our expectations?’ and they all say no,” said Henderson.
The Tigers have four more games, three of which are at home, before league play starts on Jan. 4 against the University of Pennsylvania.