By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The Princeton University men’s basketball team built plenty of optimism for the season by going 9-4 prior to opening Ivy League play.
But whatever momentum the Tigers had was in danger of going right out the window last Saturday when they fell behind by 11 point with less than four minutes to play in their Ivy opener at Penn.
But this Princeton team might just have that something special a team needs to be a champion, as the Tigers rallied to force overtime and went on to beat the Quakers, 73-71 at the Palestra.
“It’s one game, but it is Penn at the Palestra,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said after the game. “We were on our way out the door. I haven’t been doing this too long, close to 20 years, and you don’t get many like that where you come away with a win. So I am really proud of our guys. It was an ugly, ugly win. Even when the buzzer went off in overtime I was like, did that just happen? We were pretty fired up.”
The Tigers had a 43-35 lead five minutes into the second half before Penn went on a 23-6 run to take a 58-49 lead. With 3:38 left the Tigers were down by 11, but they came back to tie the game at 66-66 on a basket by Devin Cannaday with 20 seconds left.
In overtime, Princeton trailed, 71-66, before scoring the final seven points of the game.
“The way in which we won tonight was very important,” said junior Spencer Weisz, who finished with 10 points. “In practice we have been working on situations where we are down a few points and need to come back. I think that really showed our maturity tonight and I am just so proud of our team for being resilient and coming out with a win tonight.”
After building some momentum with a good pre-Ivy performance, a loss in the league opener would have put the Tigers in an early hole. Instead, they head into their exam break at 10-4 overall and 1-0 in Ivy play.
“I didn’t think we played very well and I thought they played terrific,” said Henderson, whose team will be back in action on Jan. 24 against Bryn Ahtyn. “In overtime we dug another nice little hole for ourselves. I’m really proud of our team.
“Two years ago we came down here and we took a really difficult loss. We were 12-2 and it was a really hard loss for our program and for our guys. So I didn’t want it to be de ja vu. This is a different kind of a group. They are really resilient and I think the difference was just that. They believed.”
Sophomore point guard Amir Bell led the Tigers with 28 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the floor and a perfect 6-for-6 effort from the foul line. Cannady had 10 points, while Henry Caruso scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Princeton will return to Ivy League play on Jan. 29 at Brown.
PRINCETON: Tigers survive for win at Penn
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor