PRINCETON — Though the season didn’t quite get off to the start T.J. Bray had hoped, Ivy League play sure did.
The junior guard scored a career-high 23 points in front of a nearly packed Jadwin Gym Saturday night, as the Princeton Tigers rolled to a 65-53 victory over their longtime rival Penn Quakers in the Ivy opener.
Bray did most of his damage from behind the arc, knocking down six of his 11 three point attempts.
“It was just one of those days where shots were falling down, and they were coming in the flow of the offense, which is big,” Bray said. “Ian had a couple nice passes to me and I was able to just step in and shoot.”
Coming off an offseason knee injury that prevented him from playing during the team’s summer trip to Spain, Bray had started off the season just 1-19 from three.
“I think your seeing more what he is really like now,” coach Mitch Henderson said.
Despite a few unforced turnovers, the Tigers were able to come out of the gate quickly with crisp ball movement and solid defense. With 12:47 left in the first, Bray found Ian Hummer under the basket for a bucket, bringing Princeton’s early lead to 11-4.
“For us, it was so important to get off to a good start, in the first half especially,” Henderson said. “They were sharing the ball because Penn was trying some different stuff and I thought we adjusted nicely.”
For much of the game, Penn coach Jerome Allen went with the unorthodox strategy of guarding the 6-foot-7 Hummer with the 6-2 Steve Rennard. Rennard, however, proved to be a capable pest, limiting Hummer to a relatively pedestrian 13 points and six rebounds, plus six turnovers.
“The first couple of times down the floor I thought I could just bully him down low, and that wasn’t the case,” Hummer said. “He held his own quite nicely. I knew they were going to collapse, so I just started looking for my teammates.”
Playing without leading scorer and rebounder Fran Dougherty, who is recovering from a bout of mononucleosis, Penn had a hard time establishing any sort of rhythm or consistency on the other end of the court. Freshman guard Tony Hicks managed to score 16, but most of his points came in transition and not within the confines of the offense.
Princeton went into the half up 31-22, then started the second period on an 11-0 run thanks to threes from Hummer, Bray and forward Will Barrett. That stretched the score to 42-22.
“Making shots is so important to the success of any good team,”
With 5:07 left in the game, forward Mack Darrow knocked down his second triple of the game, stretching the score to 61-42. Though the Quakers would mount another small run, Darrow’s shot effectively ended the game.
In addition to Hummer and Bray, sophomore guard Denton Koon also reached double figures for the Tigers with 10 points, while Barrett scored nine and grabbed 10 boards. Freshman big man Darien Nelson-Henry chipped in 11 for Penn.
Princeton won’t play again until after its exam period, when it will host TCNJ Jan. 27. The Tigers will see Penn next in its season finale March 12.
“When we see those guys again in March, we know they will be a different team,” Henderson said.