I caught up with Princeton coach Mitch Henderson Monday before practice, in anticipation of the Tigers' trip north to take on No. 6 Syracuse Wednesday. Here is a transcript of the conversation.
On how the Syracuse zone effects preparation…
We just have to stay with what we do. This has been a little
bit of a rough stretch for us, in terms of losing some games that we felt like
we had an opportunity to win, but I like the shots we’re getting and I like the
execution. We just haven’t seen the results. We’re trying to stay on the
positive side of things.
On the tough early schedule…
We want to play a tough schedule. We’re not hiding away from
what we are. Our opener on the road was tough. The downside of scheduling is
getting some tough loses but everything we do is to prepare us for the league.
On the early rebounding struggles…
We were bigger than Rutgers, but they outrebounded us. We
struggled on the board against Northeastern at times. I don’t know that being
big matters for us. Its more about if we can play with some moxie. We have to
get production from every single spot.
Syracuse, they are big, but they play an unusual zone that
shrinks the court quite a bit. We’re going to have to find seems, and we’re
going to have to be really smart with the ball. We have to do our thing
defensively a little bit better.
On if his pleased with the performance of Princeton’s big
I’m unhappy with the results. I have confidence in these
guys to be the force they need to be for us as we enter into a really important
stretch for us. As we hit January, we’re playing seniors. Those are the guys
that got us to where we are, and they have to take us home.
On Syracuse’s Brandon Triche…
He’s very talented, just a really good player. I’m not sure
you can limit him to much, but you have to make sure he’s guarded at all times.
We’re long, so we’ll try to use our length. You’re playing them on their home
floor, so I’m sure there are going to be some challenges, but we’ve seen really
good players last year and this year and he is definitely one of them. They are
a very talented team all the way around, so we’ve got our hands full.
On if Princeton has enough experience to handle Carrier Dome
We’ll find out. We’ve got a starting backcourt that hasn’t
shot the ball particularly well. I don’t think that has anything to do with
playing their first games or not, because they’ve been good shots. You’re in
the dome, and maybe it’s a different background, people talk about how it’s a
different kind of a place. We play in a slightly unusual place too, but the
basket is the same height. You have to make shots when you’re open. We’re
getting better and I think we’re going to have the opportunity to get good
On what he says to T.J. Bray…
Keep shooting. It’s going to come.
On T.J. Bray returning from the knee injury, and if that is
effecting his shot…
It’s slightly new for him. He didn’t play in Spain. Really
his first significant minutes were against Buffalo. We’re confident in T.J.’s
ability at some point to go in the right direction.
On Bray’s ability to do other things besides score…
He’s leading us in rebounding. He was 2-12 from the field
against Buffalo, and he survived a horrible shooting night by making
contributions in other ways. He’s very valuable to what we do. When he starts
making shots, we’re going to be fine.
On if Bray leading the team in rebounding is a bad thing…
I know what you’re saying. We need to get rebounding as a
team. It’s been an emphasis. T.J. is a very good rebounder, but usually,
sometimes when a guard is your leading rebounder—especially a bigger guard like
T.J.— does that mean the big guys aren’t getting any? It might. It might have
for us against Rutgers. Sometimes it means (the big guys) are doing their jobs
and T.J. goes in there and gets it. We should never get outrebounded the way we
are built, and we have to keep working on it.
On value of a win vs. execution…
We’re playing to win. We scheduled the game just for those
reasons. Shoot, if we were 3-0 would you ask the same question? We have a lot
of work to do, but the goal is always the same.