Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Men’s basketball continues historic start with double-digit win over Bucknell

Sophomore forward Caiden Pierce lays the ball up in traffic, surrounded by two Bucknell defenders.
Sophomore forward Caiden Pierce finished with 22 points in the double-digit victory.
Photo courtesy of @PrincetonMBB/Twitter

The men’s basketball team (7–0 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) is off to a red-hot start this season. The Tigers triumphed against the Bucknell Bison (2–7 overall, 0–0 Patriot League) 85–71 on Wednesday, thanks in large part to a dominant second-half performance.

As a result of their unblemished record, the Tigers have earned recognition in the Associated Press (AP) Poll. The Tigers are one of only 23 teams outside of the top 25 to have received votes. This season marks the first time since the 1997–1998 season that the Tigers have received votes in the poll, and just the fifth time they’ve started with seven consecutive wins — the last time was when current head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 had a significant role as one of the team’s co-captains in that same season of 1997–1998. 


“Tonight was tough,” senior guard Matt Allocco told The Daily Princetonian. “I thought we took their best shot and they hit us in the mouth early, but we responded well in the second half.”

An even start saw the Tigers and Bison trading points to get to 17–17 with 12 minutes left in the first half. Bucknell, however, began to pull away with a 6–0 run to go up 23–17 to force a Princeton timeout.

The Tigers came out of the timeout with a layup by freshman guard Jackson Hicke, but two Bison threes kept Princeton behind. 

With four minutes to go, a three point jumper by Allocco brought the deficit down to one with the score at 31–30 in favor of Bucknell. After a Bucknell timeout, the teams traded points in quick succession, ending a frantic two minute sequence with Bucknell ahead 38–36.

Princeton brought the game to a tie again at 40–40 following a three by sophomore guard Xavian Lee, but the Bison responded with a layup and a three of their own to end the first half up 45–40.

“We felt we could score, but our only thought and focus was that we have to start guarding,” Allocco told the ‘Prince.’ “We can’t trade buckets. We had to get them out of their rhythm.”


Indeed, it was mostly trading shots back and forth that saw the Tigers fall behind, with the lack of any notable runs in the first half. Two Bucknell runs of 6–0 and 5–0 respectively allowed them to just edge out the Tigers in the first half.

Henderson decided to keep his starting five in for most of the game, relying on them even with the Tigers down. The bench hardly made an appearance in the first half. Combined, they scored just four points going into halftime.

The second half didn’t start the way Princeton wanted it to: the Bison went on an 8–2 run to make the score 53–42, giving Bucknell their biggest lead of the night. The two teams continued to trade baskets until Princeton went on a 10–0 run to close the gap.

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

Lee started off with a jumper for two, before sophomore forward Caden Pierce made a layup for his 12th point of the night. Freshman guard Dalen Davis and senior forward Zach Martini then each made a three-point jumper to bring Princeton within a point of Bucknell once again.

With nine minutes left, this initial resurgence wasn’t enough. The Bison were up by eight, 65–57. 

At this point, the Tigers knew that time was running low. They put their halftime words into action, upping the defensive intensity. A tight and aggressive defense finally prevailed, allowing their offensive capabilities to shine through.

A staggering 19–2 run completely reversed the Tigers’ fortune as, with 3:29 on the clock, they were up 76–67. During the run, Allocco hit his final three of the night. He ended with 22 points, a joint game-high for the Tigers, on four-for-six shooting from three.

The other 22-point scorer, Pierce, responded to two more Bucknell points by going on his own 7–0 run. He hit a three, finished a layup, and slammed a dunk to extend Princeton’s lead even further. With 1:19 left to go, Princeton would cruise to an 85–71 win.

“CP has been great so far,” Allocco told the ‘Prince,’ referring to Pierce. “He’s making a ton of plays. He seems to get every rebound, so we’re blessed to have a guy like him on our team.” Indeed, Pierce is ranked 17th across the country for both total rebounds and rebounds per game

Once again, Princeton had four double-digit scorers with Pierce and Allocco ending with 22 points each, while Martini and Lee ended with 15 apiece. A heavy emphasis on the starting five, who played a combined 171 of 200 possible minutes, proved to be successful. 

Up next for Princeton is a home contest at Jadwin Gymnasium — where they’ve won 87.1 percent of their games across the past two seasons — against the Furman Paladins (4–3 overall, 0–0 Southern Conference) on Saturday, Dec. 2. 

Alex Beverton-Smith is a contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’

Please send corrections to corrections[at]