Friday: Princeton 76, Cornell 59
Saturday: Princeton 72, Columbia 66
Finding the hot hand(s):
Early in the season, there was some
question about whether a secondary scorer would emerge behind Ian Hummer. That
point seems almost moot now, as its clear that the Tigers have at least three
other viable options that can create their own offense in T.J. Bray (9 vs.
Cornell, 17 vs. Columbia), Denton Koon (22, 12) and Will Barrett (14, 10).
Princeton did a good job not forcing the ball into Hummer’s hands (He had 22
and 16) but letting its points come within the flow of the offense.
Reacting to pressure, both kinds:
After a bit of a shaky
start against the Cornell press, the Tigers were able to reestablish control of
the game, mostly by throwing the ball down low to Hummer. When the two teams
came back out after the half, the once-electric Big Red pressure looked a bit
deflated, and the Tigers had no trouble taking advantage with a series of
transition dunks. In addition to ball pressure, Princeton also did a nice job
responding to the pressure of two must-win games. This brings me to my next
Ian Hummer, emotional leader:
Hummer was perhaps as visibly
emotional as he’s been all season in the first half against Cornell, when it
looked like Princeton was going to have a tough time against the Big Red’s
speed. Hummer took control of the game, scoring 18 of his 22 points in the
Tigers first-half comeback. Against Columbia, Hummer took the temperature of
the game and realized he wasn’t shooting as well as some of his teammates, so
instead he went into facilitator mode with seven assists and zero turnovers.
Guards in the low post:
When your starting backcourt is the
6’5” Bray and 6’8” Koon, you are going to have a lot of size mismatches. The
Tigers did a nice job over the weekend of taking advantage of the smaller
Cornell and Columbia backcourts by posting their two guards, who both showed a
solid ability to finish inside. This is an advantage of playing Hans Brase
instead of Brendan Connolly, because Brase can step outside and spread the
floor while Connolly needs to be near the rim to be effective.
Remember that team that couldn’t hold on
to second half leads? They were nowhere to be found this weekend, replaced by a
team that seemed to grow stronger as the two games progressed. Princeton
outscored its opponent in both second periods, blowing out Cornell 41-29 and
making a series of clutch baskets late to edge Columbia 35-30.
Defending dribble penetration:
The Tigers are big, but they aren’t
quick, and the nearly cost them against Columbia. Though the Lions primary
scorer Brian Barbour was held in check with just 6 points, freshman Maodo Lo
was way quicker than anyone Princeton could put in front of him, finishing with
16 points. With all that length, the Tigers still need to shore up their
help-side defense to prevent explosive guards like Lo from getting to the rim.
Hans Brase against Columbia:
Though he finished with 8
rebounds in just 19 minutes, Brase struggled on the defensive end and was loose
with the ball offensively, committing three turnovers. That prompted coach
Mitch Henderson to go with Connolly down the stretch, mainly for his near
seven-feet of defensive presence. While the matchup with Columbia center Mark
Cisco was probably a better one for Connolly, Princeton’s season really turned
around after Brase was put into the starting lineup. At this point, it’s hard
to imagine Henderson going back to Connolly much (he played just one minute
against Cornell) so the Tigers need Brase’s performance against the Lions to be
an aberration an not a new norm.