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The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Preview: Princeton (2-4) at Kent State (5-2)


Princeton (2-4, 0-0) at Kent State (5-2, 0-0)
Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Memorial A&C Center
Coaches
Princeton: Mitch Henderson, 2nd year, 22-16
Kent State: Rob Senderoff, 2nd year, 26-14

Projected lineups
Kent State: F – Mark Henniger, junior, 6-9, 5.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg. F - Chris Evans, Senior, 6-8, 18.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2 apg. G – Randal Holt, senior, 6-1, 16 ppg ,3.3 rpg, 1.7 apg. G – Kellon Thomas, freshman, 5-11, 3.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.7 apg. G – Bryson Pope, senior, 6-7, 6.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg.
Key reserve: G – Kris Brewer, sophomore, 6-4, 6.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg.

Princeton: F – Ian Hummer, senior, 6-7, 16 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5 apg, F - Will Barrett, junior, 6-10, 9.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, C - Brendan Connolly, senior, 6-11, 6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, G - Denton Koon, sophomore, 6-8, 5.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, G – T.J. Bray, junior, 6-5, 6.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4 apg.
Key reserve: G – Clay Wilson, sophomore, 6-3, 8.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg

Quick take: Despite losing four starters, the Golden Flashes were picked to finish 3rd in the MAC’s preseason media poll. Their biggest win of the season so far came against Nebraska last Saturday, when they knocked off the Cornhuskers 74-60 in Lincoln (Nebraska is now 5-1 with a win over Wake Forest).

Kent State’s one returning starter, guard Randall Holt, has expectedly taken over much of the scoring duties, but the Golden Flashes have also a huge start from senior forward Chris Evans. Coming off the bench last year, Evans averaged 9.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in 21 minutes—numbers he’s nearly doubled through the first seven games.

The Golden Flashes, however, will be without starting freshman guard Chris Ortiz, who fractured his foot in Kent State’s 85-78 overtime win against Youngstown State. I’m guessing that coach Senderoff will go with senior Bryson Pope in Ortiz’s absence, though Melvin Tabb or Kris Brewer could be possibilities.

Coach Henderson’s take: “It’s another difficult game. They had a really nice win on the road at Nebraska. Unfortunately we have to react a little bit to what was a really tough loss for us but we’ll be ready to get going. It’s going to be a tough game on the road.”

Morning Run — Game 8: La Salle 63, Rider 52

Quick reaction: The 18-point hole Rider dug for itself — as it almost always is — was too deep. The Broncs crept back into the game but could never get closer than six. When they did, a turnover stopped them from getting closer. Rider turned out to be its own worst enemy, shooting 12 of 22 from the free-throw line and coughing it up 18 times — 12 in the first half. It was evident early the Broncs were missing some hop in their step. La Salle carved up Rider's match-up zone, knocking down its first three shots from beyond the arc, sprinting out to a 30-12 advantage. Kevin Baggett called an early timeout, and when the Broncs switched to man, they were more effective defensively.

video

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Rider can't match La Salle's energy

LAWRENCEVILLE — Each day in practice, Rider coach Kevin Baggett asks his team to bring energy.

For the first 10 minutes Thursday night, that was exactly what the Broncs lacked.

It cost them in the end.
 
Rider fell behind by 18 in the first half, and although it pulled within six twice, it didn’t have enough in the tank, falling, 63-52, to La Salle at Alumni Gymnasium.

Baggett attributed it to a lack preparation.

“You’re going to play how you practice,” said the first-year coach, who saw his team turn the ball over 18 times, many of them unforced. “I was concerned how we were going to play today because we didn’t practice well.”
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Run it back: Wagner 48, Princeton 42 (OT)


Wagner 48, Princeton 42 (OT)

THE NUMBERS GAME: Just looking at the stat sheet, there were a lot of things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense in this one. For example: Princeton held Wagner to just 36 percent shooting (12.5 percent from three), forced 21 turnovers, allowed just 14 points in the first half and had 10 more points off second-chance opportunities…and still lost the game. The Tigers didn’t start a player under 6-foot-5, while the Seahawks started three players under 6-foot-4, yet Wagner had more points in the paint (30-26) and more rebounds (39-38).
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Wagner 48, Princeton 42 (OT)


NEW YORK — In the end, nobody was able to step up for the Princeton Tigers when they needed it most.
Despite giving up significant size at almost every position in the starting lineup, the Wagner Seahawks blitzed the Tigers with superior speed and tenacity Wednesday night on Staten Island. For Princeton, that added up to a 48-42 overtime loss.
“They put the heat on us, and we coughed it up,” coach Mitch Henderson said after the game.
On the Tigers last three possessions of overtime and with the game very much in the balance, senior forward Ian Hummer traveled, missed a spinning layup, then missed a three. He led the Tigers with 11 points and seven rebounds, but shot just 25 percent from the field.
“I tried to do a little too much,” Hummer said. “I knew I could get a shot, but I forced the issue.”
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Game 8: La Salle (3-1) at Rider (4-3)

Who: La Salle (3-1) at Rider (4-3)

When: 7 p.m., Thursday, Alumni Gymnasium, 107.7 FM The Bronc, 990 AM

Last time out: Rider def. UW Milwaukee, 74-60; La Salle def. Villanova, 77-74 (OT).
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Stewart ready to face close friend Duren, La Salle

Danny Stewart faces former High School teammate Tyreek Duren/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
LAWRENCEVILLE — Danny Stewart will always remember his senior season at Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse Neumann-Goretti.

The Saints went 30-1, finishing the 2009-10 season ranked No. 2 in the country. Their only loss was by one point to Yates High School (Texas).

When Stewart and his Rider teammates face La Salle Thursday night, he’ll find a familiar face in the Explorers’ backcourt.

On that Neumann-Goretti team with Stewart was Tyreek Duren — La Salle’s junior point guard.

“It was the greatest thing ever,” said Stewart of that magical season. “We walked into every game knowing we were going to win. We had a goal to be No. 1 and we ended up No. 2 by one point. So it wasn’t a bad year.”
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Preview: Princeton (2-3) at Wagner (1-3)

Princeton Tigers (2-3, 0-0) at Wagner Seahawks (1-3, 0-0)

7:00 p.m. Wednesday, Spiro Sports Center, Staten Island, New York
Wagner coach: Bashir Mason, 1st year, 1-3
Princeton coach: Mitch Henderson, 2nd year, 22-15
Last season: Wagner (25-6, 15-3), Princeton (20-12, 10-4)

PROBABLE STARTERS:
WAGNER: G – Jonathan Williams, senior, 6-foot-6, 17.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg. C – Naofall Folahan, junior, 6-foot-11, 5.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg. G – Kenneth Ortiz, junior, 6-foot-0, 8.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.5 apg. G – Marcus Burton, sophomore, 6-foot-0, 6.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.3 apg. G – Dwuan Anderson, freshman, 6-foot-4, 4.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1 apg.

PRINCETON: F – Ian Hummer, senior, 6-foot-7, 17 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.6 apg, F – Will Barrett, junior, 6-foot-10, 11.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.6 apg. C – Brendan Connolly, senior, 6-foot-11, 5.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 0.8 apg. G – Denton Koon, sophomore, 6-foot-8, 5.4 ppg. 2.2 rpg. G – T.J. Bray, junior, 6-foot-4, 7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.6 apg.
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Morning Run — Game 7: Rider 74, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 60

Anthony Myles scored 14 points to lead three Rider players in double figures and the Broncs finished their stay south of the border with a 74-60 victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Hoops for Hope Classic.

Rider swept its stay in Puerto Vallarta to finish a four-game road trip 2-2 and improve to 4-3 overall. The Broncs have already surpassed last season's non-conference win total (three).

Nurideen Lindsey and Danny Stewart each finished with 11 points.

The schedule gets considerably tougher, beginning Thursday night when La Salle visits Alumni Gymnasium. The Explorers (3-1) snapped a 10-game losing streak against Villanova Sunday with a 77-74 win in overtime.

Following La Salle's visit, Rider travels to Drexel, plays two MAAC games — at Siena and at home to Fairfield — and finishes non-league play with trips to Princeton, Rutgers and Delaware.

AROUND THE MAAC

November's closing up shop and conference play is right around the corner so here is a look at how the MAAC stacks up:

1. Loyola (5-1)
2. Canisius (3-1)
3. St. Peter's (3-2)
4. Rider (4-3)
5. Fairfield (3-3)
6. Iona (2-2)
7. Niagara (2-3)
8. Marist (2-4)
9. Siena (2-4)
10. Manhattan (1-3)

And a whip around from Sunday:
Clemson 59, Marist 44: Red Foxes still leave Old Spice Classic with something to show for it after win over Vanderbilt.

Seton Hall 76, St. Peter's 61: Peacocks started 3-0 but have lost two straight.

Maine 72, Siena 66: Some Saints fans think Mitch Buonaguro is firmly on the hot seat. Still early, but losses like this don't help his cause.








Sunday, November 25, 2012

Run it back: Princeton 72, Lafayette 53

The Good:
Ian Hummer - The 28 points are obviously the first thing that jumps out on the stat sheet, but what I find the most impressive about Hummer is his shot selection. A less intelligent player with his talent might be tempted to chuck up a bad three on occasion (especially if you think scouts might have some questions about your outside stroke) but Hummer understood where his advantage was against the Leopards. Everything was aggressive towards the hoop, with the majority of his points coming on dunks, layups or tip-ins. His 12 of 16 performance from the floor actually included a few missed layups. Add that to the 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in just 33 minutes of action and that is about as dominant/efficient performance as you will see.

T.J. Bray - After the game, Bray admitted it took a few games to get his legs totally back underneath him after his offseason knee injury. While he didn't look bad running around before, his cuts did seems noticeably crisper Saturday and that translated into the box score. Bray had 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting. At 6-foot-5, he is way too big for most opposing point guards, especially when Denton Koon is in the game instead of Chris Clement. At least once, they isolated Bray in the post against a smaller defender. He also finished with 6 rebounds in a game where the Princeton bigs were rebounding effectively.

Tough scheduling - Before the trip to Syracuse, I asked Mitch Henderson if maybe, in a perfect would, they would have liked to face an easier opponent to bounce back from a pair of tough losses. To paraphrase his answer, he felt that the tough schedule makes a team better. Mitch 1, Me 0. The Tigers clearly got a boost of confidence after hanging around with the Orange into the second half, and played like a team that they knew should blow out a Patriot League squad. On a more technical level, they also showed that they could be effective offensively against Syracuse's zone defense, and so the Leopards chose to matchup with them in the half court. That, of course, resulted in an absolute field day for Ian Hummer.

Rebounding - After struggling a quite a bit on the glass against the smaller Rutgers, Princeton showed that their size advantage actually probably will matter a lot against teams like Lafayette, which was a pretty good stand-in for an Ivy League team. Brendan Connolly was as aggressive on the glass as he's been this season, pulling down 7 boards, and Will Barrett and Denton Koon each had 4. Even Hans Brase, in just 8 minutes off the bench, was able to come in and grab 2. Princeton ended up outrebounding the Leopards 32-21.

Starter Denton Koon - By putting 6-foot-8 Denton Koon in the starting lineup, it means that no Princeton starter is under 6-foot-5. Koon had a few ups and downs with the basketball, but the big benefit comes on the defensive end, where the length and quickness of the Tigers is really disruptive for an opposing offense. Koon also really seems to have improved as a ball handler, looking comfortable dribbling the ball up against a press. Though the move makes sense in the here and no, I'm sure its not lost on coach Henderson that by giving the sophomore important time now, he's also helping next years squad and the squad after that. Win-win-win all the way around.

The Bad:
Turnovers - Though it wasn't too much of an issue in the end, the Tigers could have stretched their lead a bit more in the second half if they took better care of the basketball. After the game, Hummer said that that was the one area of the game that he thought the team did execute as well as it could have, and I agree.

Princeton snaps skid with win at Lafayette


EASTON, Pa. — After hanging around with No. 6 Syracuse deep into the second half Wednesday night, the Princeton Tigers felt like their team was turning a bit of a corner.
They got a chance to prove it Saturday, blasting Lafayette 72-53 in a matinee tipoff at the Leopards’ Kirby Sports Center.
“Lafayette’s a very good team in their own right, but when you can go up to Syracuse and pull it to with five or six points in the second half, you know you can play,” said senior forward Ian Hummer. “Coming into this game, I felt it was really time for us to show what we’re capable of.”
Hummer certainly showed what he was capable of. The 6-foot-7 former first-team All-Ivy selection was dominant attacking the rim, scoring a career-high 28 points on an extremely efficient 12-of-16 shooting effort.
“I have great teammates that pass the ball very well, and our offense is hard to guard,” he said. “Those two things together really helped me get open and find my spots.”
The Tigers started out the game with a bit of a different look, starting 6-foot-8 Denton Koon instead of the smaller Chris Clement. That extra length worked to Princeton’s advantage on the defensive end of the floor, and the Tigers were able to start the game on a 19-4 run.
“I think it gave us a little bit of moxie, because defensively that’s a lot of length for us,” coach Mitch Henderson said, when asked about Koon.
Despite having the services of center and leading scorer Dan Trist — who had missed the last three games with an ankle injury — the Leopards were never able to get much going offensively and so never made much of a run to get back in the game. Princeton held Lafayette to just 35 percent shooting from the field.
“We’re very pleased with what we were able to do defensively,” Henderson said. “That kid Trist has been shooting the ball nicely, so that was a concern for us. Brendan (Connolly) and Mack (Darrow) did a nice job on him. Overall, this is the kind of defensive team that we can be.”
Princeton also got a nice offensive effort from junior guard T.J. Bray, who scored 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting. Bray had really yet to find his offensive rhythm after suffering an offseason knee injury.
“I’m feeling a lot healthier now over the last couple of weeks, it has just been a slow process trying to get my strength back so I can stop on a dime,” he said. “That’s been the biggest thing, trying to get my feet back underneath me.”
After getting outrebounded in consecutive games, the Tigers should also feel good about their work on the glass. Princeton outrebounded Lafayette 39-23.
Junior forward Will Barrett chipped in 13 points for the Tigers, while Connolly had 5 points and 7 rebounds. Trist and guard Tony Johnson led the way for Lafayette with 10 each.
Princeton will try to maintain its momentum Wednesday night when it travels to Staten Island to take on the Wagner Seahawks.

Game 7: Rider (3-3) vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2-3)

Who: Rider (3-3) vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2-3)
 
When: 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Puerto Vallarta Convention Center, 107.7 FM The Bronc
 
Last time out: Rider def. Jacksonville, 86-71; UW Milwaukee lost to Jacksonville, 71-66.
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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Morning Run — Game 6: Rider 86, Jacksonville 71

Anthony Myles scored a career-high 23 points, helping Rider snap a two-game losing skid and beat Jacksonville, 86-71, Friday afternoon in the Hoops for Hope Classic.

Myles, a junior from Dover, Del., broke his previous high mark of 21 points set last season in a loss to Iona.

“I’ve been challenging Anthony to drive it more, get to the basket, and he responded today,” coach Kevin Baggett said on the school’s athletic website. “It is one of the best games he’s played. He played a complete game.”
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Game 6: Rider (2-3) vs. Jacksonville (2-3)

Who: Rider (2-3) vs. Jacksonville (2-3)

When: 3:30 p.m., Friday, Puerto Vallarta Convention Center, 107.7 FM The Bronc

Last time out: Rider lost to SMU, 83-70; Jacksonville lost Arkansas Little-Rock, 72-56

Background: The Broncs try to snap a two-game skid as they face the Dolphins in Mexico for the Hoops for Hope Classic.

This is the third of a four-game road trip.

Rider is coming off a pair of losses in which it was burned by the opponent's 3-point shooting. South Carolina, despite shooting just 22 percent form beyond the arc, made 13 against and SMU connected on eight (half of its season total entering the game).

Kevin Baggett wants to keep the game in the 60s and to do so the perimeter defense has to improve.

The good news is Rider hasn't struggled to score on this road trip, averaging 73 points per game.

The appropriately named Dolphins — at least for a trip to a coastal Mexican resort — don't have a player averaging in double figures. Freshman guard Jarvis Haywood (9.8 ppg) is the leading scorer.

Jacksonville, out of the Atlantic Sun Conference, has alternated win/loss in its first five games. It has also faced SEC opposition, falling to Georgia by six.

Projected starting lineups: Rider: G-Jon Thompson (Sr. 10.4 ppg), G-Nurideen Lindsey (Jr. 18 ppg), G-Anthony Myles (Jr. 12.6 ppg), F-Danny Stewart (Jr. 9.8 ppg), F-Junior Fortunat (So. 2.2 ppg).
Jacksonville: G-Russell Powell (Sr. 5 ppg), G-Jarvis Haywood (Fr. 9.8 ppg), G-Keith McDonal (Jr. 9.2 ppg), F-Javon Dawson (Jr. 7.8 ppg), F-Glenn Powell (Sr. 6.8 ppg).

Rider player to watch: Myles had 19 points in the loss to SMU and he's benefiting from having Lindsey and Thompson take away some of the attention. He's a streaky 3-point shooter, but if he gets hot, he can carry the Broncs. This is the most winnable game on the trip and Rider won't want to come back winless. Expect to see the Broncs get after the Dolphins with their full-court pressure.
 
Jacksonville player to watch: Haywood is the leading scorer so go with him. He had 14 in the loss to UALR. Keep an eye on his 3-point percentage. Although it's early in the season, he's shooting 28.6 percent. That's not good, but if the previous two contests are an indicator, he might break out against Rider.

PREVIEW: Princeton at Lafayette 11/24


Lafayette Leopards (1-4, last season 13-18)
2 p.m. Saturday, Kirby Sports Center, Easton Pa.
Head Coach:  Fran O’Hanlon, 18th season, 239-256 at Lafayette
Probable starters: Levi Giese, senior, forward, 6-foot-9, 6.4 ppg. 4.4 rpg. Nathanial Musters, freshman, center, 6-foot-10, 0.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg. Tony Johnson, senior, guard, 6-foot-0, 12.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.4 apg. Joey Ptasinski, sophomore, guard, 6-foot-2, 12.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.2 apg. Seth Hinrichs, sophomore, guard, 6-foot-7, 15.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg.
Key reserves: Alan Flanagan, sophomore, forward, 6-foot-8, 1.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg. Zach Rufer, freshman, guard, 6-foot-1, 2.6 ppg. 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg.

Breakdown: The Leopards suffered a huge blow before their 101-49 blowout loss to No. 3 Kentucky, losing senior center Dan Trist to an ankle injury suffered in a morning shoot around. Before the injury, the 6-foot-9 Australian had scored 22 and 32 points respectively in the Leopards first two games. Trist’s  thrust freshman and fellow Aussie Nathanial Musters into the starting lineup, and the results have been less than spectacular—though in fairness Musters’ three starts have come against Kentucky, Morehead State and Maryland. Still, if Trist can’t play, that would be good news for a Princeton front line that hasn’t quite found it’s rhythm yet in the early going.
What the Leopards do have is a solid backcourt with senior Tony Johnson and sophomore Joey Ptasinski, both of whom have been scoring the ball extremely effectively through Lafayette’s first three games. As a freshman last season, Ptasinski shot over 45 percent from beyond the three-point line, so the Tigers will have to make sure they are aren’t late on their closeouts.
One player who has stepped up dramatically after Trist’s injury has been sophomore wing, who scored 20 points in the Leopards’ 83-74 loss to the Terrapins. That figures to set up an interesting matchup with Ian Hummer.

Key question: By Saturday, it will have been seven days since Trist hurt is ankle. Will that be enough time for him to bounce back?

Prediction: Princeton certainly showed a lot more positives against Syracuse than the Leopards did against Kentucky. Even with Trist, the Tigers should have an advantage down low and the best player on the court in Hummer. Princeton 61, Lafayette 55.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Game 5: SMU 83, Rider 70

Rider dropped its second game of the Hoops for Hope Classic, 83-70, Wednesday night at SMU.

Once again, the opponent's hot shooting sunk the Broncs.

Paced by Ryan Manuel's career-high 24 points and 57.1 percent shooting as a team, the Mustangs (5-0) went wire-to-wire, dealing Rider (2-3) its second straight defeat.
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QUICK REACTION: No. 6 Syracuse 73, Princeton 53

As far as 20-point loses go, the Tigers can't be too upset with this one considering they were able to cut the Syracuse lead to just six points with 13:43 left in the game. Had they not fallen into a quick 10-2 hole, the complexion of the game could have been very different down the stretch. There was certainly more to be hopeful about in this one than in Princeton's last visit to a Big East (for the moment at least) gym, their 82-61 loss at Pitt in last year's CBI.
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Florida HS forward Kahlil Thomas signs NLI with Rider

Rider coach Kevin Baggett announced Wednesday that Kahlil Thomas has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Broncs next season.

Thomas, a 6-foot-7 forward from Lauderhill, Fla., averaged seven points and seven rebounds for Florida Class 7A state champion Blanche Ely as a junior.

In the title game, a 78-46 victory over Orlando Oak Ridge, Thomas scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Blanche Ely went 30-3 last year, ending its season in the ESPN Rise tournament with a 67-61 loss to St. Benedict’s.

Thomas was an All-Broward County honorable mention selection and was ranked among the top 20 recruits in the Sunshine State by FloridaHoops.com

“We are excited Kahlil has chose to come to Rider,” Baggett said. “I think he is a really talented player who plays with a lot of energy. I think his best days are ahead of him.”

Rider is off to a 2-2 start. The Broncs are in the midst of a four-game road trip and travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexcio for a pair of games on Friday and Sunday.

Video of Thomas below:


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bray trying to shoot himself out of slump


T.J. Bray, left. Photo by John Blaine.

PRINCETON — So far, T.J. Bray’s junior season hasn’t exactly gone the way he had hoped.
First, there was the offseason knee injury that kept Bray from playing during the Tigers’ summer trip to Spain. Perhaps relatedly, the normally-accurate 6-foot-5 guard has been suffering through one of the worst shooting slumps of his career, having gone 1 of 19 from behind the arc over the course of the team’s 1-2 start.
Still, anyone who follows the Tigers can see that if Princeton is going to get to where it wants to go this season, it is going to be in large part to Bray.
He certainly has the confidence of his coach.
“Just keep shooting,” Mitch Henderson said, when asked what tells Bray. “It’s going to come.”
With Doug Davis — the school’s second all-time leading scorer — graduated, Bray is the only Princeton guard who entered the season having played significant minutes. That has put Bray in a real leadership position on a team flush with forwards but thin in the backcourt.
“A little last year, I had to take on a leadership role beside Doug, and this year it’s all my leadership in the backcourt,” Bray said before practice Monday. “It’s a little different perspective, but it’s been good so far.”
That new role was on display in Spain even though Bray wasn’t able play. His injury meant that Chris Clement and Clay Wilson got plenty of playing time, and he tried to help their progress as best he could from the sideline. Both players have seen important minutes for the Tigers this year.
“It stunk not playing, but I was able to watch every game and be there for my teammates, and we got to see what other guys could do,” Bray said. “Clay and Chris got a lot of time in the backcourt, so I tried to help them along.”
One thing that makes Bray valuable even when he isn’t shooting well is his versatility. A rock-solid ball handler comfortable running the point, he’s also not afraid to mix it up down low. He’s averaging close to six rebounds per game, tied with the 6-foot-11 Will Barrett for the team lead.
“You have to stay involved in the game no matter what,” Bray said. “If my shot isn’t falling, I can still help the team a lot in other ways — passing, rebounding and defending. My shot will start falling at some point, but until that time I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Henderson didn’t discount the possibility that some rust might have settled in during the time Bray was recovering.
“It’s slightly new for him,” Henderson said. “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.”
Henderson has plenty of reason for that confidence. Bray shot 40 percent from 3 last season, and nearly all his misses this year have been good-looking shots that have bounced around the rim and simply not fallen. Still, Bray knows that the Tigers need him to return to form sooner rather than later, so he’s been putting in extra work to get the situation straightened out.
“I’ve been working with the coaches, doing some film work to see what things are going wrong,” he said. “Other than that, it’s just about getting repetitions in, so I’ve been down here (at Jadwin Gymnasium) every day.
While everyone agrees that Bray will eventually shoot his way out of his slump, this Wednesday would be a particularly good time to do so. Princeton travels to take on sixth-ranked Syracuse, and need more than just ball handling and rebounding from Bray if it is going to upset the Orange.
Bray is looking forward to it.
“I expect a great atmosphere; the Carrier Dome is one of a kind. I think last year, winning at Florida State showed that we can be confident going into these places,” he said. “Their zone is obviously phenomenal, it’s the (premier) zone in college basketball, but if we attack it and play smart I think we have a chance to have a good shot.”

Princeton continues tough schedule with trip to Syracuse


PRINCETON — Princeton knew what it was bargaining for with its tough non-conference schedule, so it is with clear eyes that the Tigers prepare to tackle perhaps their biggest challenge.
After two tough loses last week to Northeastern and Rutgers, the Tigers travel to upstate New York for a Wednesday showdown with Syracuse — the sixth-ranked team in the nation. That may not be great news for the team’s win-loss record, but in the one-bid, no-tournament Ivy, everything is geared toward preparation for league play.
“We want to play a tough schedule,” coach Mitch Henderson said before practice Monday. “We’re not hiding away from what we are. Our opener on the road (at Buffalo) was tough. The downside of scheduling is getting some tough losses, but everything we do is to prepare us for the league.”
Both Northeastern and Rutgers effectively used zone defenses to deny Ian Hummer the ball and clog the Princeton offense. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is legendary for his teams’ long, athletic 2-3 zones, and this year’s squad is no different. The Orange features a frontcourt of 6-foot-9 Rakeem Christmas, 6-foot-8 C.J. Fair and 6-foot-9 freshman DeJuan Coleman.
“Syracuse, they’re big, but they play an unusual zone that shrinks the court quite a bit,” Henderson aid. “We’re going to have to find seems, and we’re going to have to be really smart with the ball.”
Syracuse does, however, have some big question marks as well. Gone are Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine, who combined for 58 percent of the Orange’s offense last season. Its win over a good San Diego State squad was distorted by the fact that it was played on a windy aircraft carrier.
In the backcourt, Syracuse returns Brandon Triche, its third-leading scorer from a season ago. Boeheim has turned point guard duties over to 6-foot-6 Michael Carter-Williams, who has been impressive in his small early sample size.
“He’s very talented, just a really good player,” Henderson said of Triche. “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.”
The Princeton backcourt has struggled to knock down shots from the perimeter so far this season, with T.J. Bray and Chris Clements shooting a combined 11 percent (3-27) from 3-point range. The cavernous Carrier Dome is also a notoriously difficult place for shooters. While the Syracuse zone isn’t the traditional kind that lets shooters shot over the top, it’s hard to imagine a Tigers victory if that trend continues.
“Making shots is going to be huge for us,” Bray said. “If we don’t, it’s going to make things a lot tougher, but I’m feeling confident with my shot. I’ve just got to keep shooting and hopefully they start going down.”
Another big area of concern is rebounding. Despite having more size up front, Princeton was out-rebounded by Rutgers, 40-23.
While there are certainly a lot of ominous signs for the Tigers, they are a team whose core has proven it can go into tough environments and not simply compete, but win. Last season they traveled to Tallahassee, Fla., and knocked off the Florida State Seminoles, so while the game was scheduled to prepare for league play, Princeton is still very much gunning for an upset.
Winning is, after all, the best form of preparation.
“We have a lot of work to do, but the goal is always the same,” Henderson said.

COACH HENDERSON UNCUT: 11/19/12


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.

On Syracuse’s size…

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 guys…

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 environment…

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 looks.

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.

Midday Run — Game 4: South Carolina 88, Rider 76

A 3-point barrage by South Carolina sunk Rider in its first game of the Hoops for Hope Classic.

The Gamecocks came in shooting 22 percent from beyond the arc, but hit 13 Monday night, propelling themselves to an 88-76 victory over the Broncs at Colonial Life Arena.

Nurideen Lindsey matched a career high with 26 points — 19 in the second half —  Jon Thompson scored 14 and Anthony Myles 13 for Rider (2-2), which continues its four-game road trip Wednesday night at SMU.

Brenton Williams tallied a career-high 22 points for the Gamecocks (3-0). Williams was 5 of 8 on 3-point tries.
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Tigers land verbal commit from 2014 recruit Amir Bell

Last night, the Tigers got a verbal commitment form 2014 point guard Amir Bell, who plays for East Brunswick High School.

The 6-foot-3 Bell had received interest from several scholarship Division I programs including (paging Kyle Franko) Rider, Northeastern, Iona and the current team of former Princeton coach Sydney Johnson, Fairfield.

N.J. Hoops recently ranked Bell as the 23rd best 2014 prospect in the state. Princeton's first 2014 commit, Bell certainly figures to fill a big backcourt need for the Tigers after current junior starters T.J. Bray and Chris Clement graduate.

Here is some non-highlight footage of Bell running the point for East Brunswick last year as a sophomore against Roselle Catholic. (#5 in green).



More on this in a bit.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Game 4: Rider (2-1) at South Carolina (2-0)

Who: Rider (2-1) at South Carolina (2-0)

When: Monday, 7 p.m., Colonial Life Arena, FoxSports South/FoxSports Carolinas, 107.7 FM The Bronc

Last time out: Rider def. Monmouth, 65-62; South Carolina def. Morgan State, 87-71.
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Stewart wants to build on strong performance as Rider hits road

Danny Stewart had 18 points in the win over Monmouth/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
LAWRENCEVILLE — Danny Stewart knew he had to play better. There wasn’t really that much more to it.

Stewart, who scored just five points in the loss against Stony Brook, was called out by coach Kevin Baggett in the postgame press conference for not doing enough.

He responded the best way possible.

“I challenge myself,” said Stewart, who scored a game-high 18 points as Rider held on to beat Monmouth Saturday afternoon. “I had a bad game against Stony Brook. We need a post presence, and I felt like, if we’re going to win, we need to score in the paint.”
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Sunday, November 18, 2012

RUTGERS 58, PRINCETON 52: 'Same bad time, same bad channel'


Rutgers' Eli Carter, defended by Denton Koon. Photo by John Blaine.

QUICK REACTION: After Princeton’s 58-52 loss to Rutgers, Mitch Henderson broke the ice at the post-game press conference by quipping “same bad time, same bad channel,” a reference to Tuesday’s loss to Northeastern. The similarities between the two games were, indeed, striking. In both contests, the Tigers couldn’t protect an early lead due in large part to their difficulties scoring against zone defenses. That certainly doesn't bode well for their upcoming trip to Syracuse, a team legendary for it's athletic, active zone.


THE GOOD:
Interior defense: The Tigers’ did a solid job limiting what the Scarlet Knights could do down low. Rutgers starting frontcourt of Wally Judge and Anthony Johnson were held to 0 and 7 points respectively, and most of Johnson’s points came from finishing on the fast break. Will Barrett, Brendan Connolly and Mack Darrow all also did a good job avoiding foul trouble, which — at least for Barrett and Connolly — was an issue against the Huskies.

Ian Hummer’s assist-to-turnover ratio: Unsurprisingly, Hummer once again got the full attention of the opposing defense. Rutgers coach Mike Rice said that his team “tilted the floor” defensively towards Hummer as much as with any other player they’ve faced. Instead of forcing the issue, Hummer did a good job passing out of trouble and (trying) to set up his teammates, finishing with 6 assists and 0 turnovers. Historically, Hummer has averaged about as many turnovers as assists, and before the season Henderson said that improving that number would be one of the keys of the season.

Denton Koon: While the transition from frontcourt to backcourt is still a work in progress, Koon showed he can still be a contributor in a hybrid role. Like last season, he had a couple nice finishes around the basket, but also showed some improved ball handling against occasional full-court pressure from the Scarlet Knights, He finished with 9 points, 2 rebounds and a steal.

THE BAD:
Perimeter defense: The Tigers didn’t have much of an answer for either guards Myles Mack or reserve Eli Carter. Carter was particularly deadly, using a lightening-quick release from three-point land to score 22 points off the bench. The 6-foot-2 Carter was also giving up about three inches to the 6-foot-5 T.J. Bray, and was still able to get his jumper off consistently.

Rebounding: Despite being bigger than the Scarlet Knights, the Tigers were outrebounded 40-23. The 6-foot-11 Brendan Connolly failed to grab a single board in 19 minutes of action, while Mack Darrow only had two in 19 minutes off the bench. The numbers actually look worse for the Princeton big guys when you account for the 8 rebounds snagged by Bray. While that’s an impressive number for a guard, having a guard be your leading rebounder is perhaps analogous to having your safety be your leading tackler: no matter how good your safety is at tackling, it might tell you more about your middle linebacker.

Starting backcourt shooting: T.J. Bray and Chris Clement shot a combined 16.6 percent (2-12) from downtown Friday night. So far this season, they are shooting 11.1 percent (3-27) from deep. Bray was a 40 percent shooter from three last season, so there is every reason to think that will turn around, but at the moment he’d need to make his next 12 to get back to that number.



AROUND THE IVY
Drexel 61, Penn 59 The Quakers fall to 1-3 despite 21 points from Fran Dougherty.
Yale 63, Buffalo 59 Yale gets a win over the one team the Tigers have beaten this season.
Brown 70, Maine 68 Sean McGonagil drops 16 in Battle of Bears.
Marist 67, Columbia 62 Lions take first loss of season.

Morning Run — Game 3: Rider 65, Monmouth 62

Quick reaction: Not often do you commit 28 turnovers and win, but that's exactly what Rider did Saturday. Give credit to the Broncs for making two huge defensive stops when they had to, but against better competition, they'll pay for that kind of carelessness with the ball. Most alarming, 16 of those giveaways — which Monmouth turned into 21 points — came in the second half after Rider built a 15-point lead at intermission. That's no way to protect a lead.
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Broncs top Monmouth despite 28 turnovers

LAWRENCEVILLE — Maybe Danny Stewart is justified in saying Rider stole a victory Saturday afternoon against Monmouth.

It’s not often that you turn the ball over 28 times and win.

Yet the Broncs gutted out two key defensive stops in the final minute and hung on, 65-62, for a sixth consecutive victory over their in-state rival.

“I think we stole one,” Stewart said honestly after scoring a game-high 18 points, including a stretch of eight straight, single-handedly keeping the Broncs in front after Monmouth tied it with 7:25 to go.

“We played hard, but too many turnovers,” Stewart continued. “(We) can’t turn over the ball that many times because against a better team, that amount of turnovers will get you beat.”
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Game 3: Monmouth (1-1) at Rider (1-1)

Who: Monmouth (1-1) at Rider (1-1)

When: Saturday, 3 p.m., Alumni Gymnasium, 107.7 FM The Bronc

Last time out: Rider lost to Stony Brook, 54-46; Monmouth lost to No. 20 Notre Dame, 84-57.
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Princeton fails to make it three straight over Rutgers


Princeton's Ian Hummer shoots over Rutgers' Wally Judge/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE
PRINCETON — Princeton came into Tuesday night’s game against Rutgers’ looking for it’s third consecutive win over its in-state rival. It left with a two-game losing streak.

The Scarlet Knights ended their skid against the Tigers at Jadwin Gymnasium, knocking off Princeton, 58-52. After failing behind early, Rutgers was able to go ahead with about seven minutes left before the half. From that point forward — despite keeping the game within a single-digit margin — Princeton was never able to retake the lead.

“Rutgers is a very good team, but to be perfectly honest, we didn’t play very well and we were only two or three points down,” said senior forward Ian Hummer. “That being the case, it was frustrating not being able to cross that threshold.”
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