PU Men’s Hoops Ivy Winning Streak Snapped As Late Rally Falls Short in Defeat at Penn

SNAP DECISION: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jerome Desrosiers dribbles the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, freshman Desrosiers made his Ivy League debut, contributing eight points and five rebounds in a losing cause as Princeton fell 76-70 at Penn in the Ivy opener for both teams. The defeat snapped the Tigers’ 18-game winning streak in Ivy League regular season and tournament play. Princeton, now 7-8 overall and 0-1 Ivy, hosts Columbia on January 12 and Cornell on January 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Mitch Henderson believed that his Princeton University men’s basketball team was in a good place as it faced Penn last Saturday in the Ivy League opener.

Heading into the clash with the Quakers, Princeton was coming off a superb western swing which saw it go 4-1, posting wins at Cal Poly and Southern Cal and then topping Akron and host Hawaii after falling to Middle Tennessee State at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.

“It was a great trip for the program. We got a chance to be together,” said Princeton head coach Henderson.

“We went down to George Washington a month ago and we were not good (a 71-60 loss on December 6). From that trip to now, there has been a lot of growth from our younger guys and on the defensive end of the ball, which is what we always try to hang our hat on. We had a trademark win against USC. I was proud of how we bonded in that moment. We are going to be able to lean on the trip for a long time.”

But the trip to Philadelphia last Saturday ended up being a disappointment as Princeton dug an early hole, trailing 36-27 at halftime on the way to a 76-70 loss to the Quakers before a crowd of 3,879 at the Palestra.

“They were aggressive; they clearly had a plan of going to the basket on us,” said Henderson, reflecting on the loss which snapped Princeton’s 18-game winning streak in Ivy League regular season and tournament play. “All the credit goes to Penn, but we weren’t sharp.”

The Tigers battled back down the stretch, narrowing the Penn gap to 72-70 with 50 seconds left in regulation.

“We made some plays to get ourselves within a possession,” said Henderson, who got 21 points from junior star Devin Cannady as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career. “I think the better team that night won. We have got to be far sharper and more disciplined to be successful, especially on the road.”

Going forward, Princeton will need to be sharper at both ends of the court. “They put in 50 percent from the field against us. In the league, we have been very good at holding teams and being the best defensive team in the league so we have got a ways to go but that is our main goal,” said Henderson. “We only had seven assists in the game. We have been very good at sharing the ball and making each other better.”

In Henderson’s view, the loss to the Quakers should help the Tigers get better in the long run.

“I don’t need to reinvent anything but we have to get back to the basics,” said Henderson. “We have done that; we had a really good look at it today as a group.”

With Princeton, now 7-8 overall and 0-1 Ivy, hosting Columbia on January 12 and Cornell on January 13, the Tigers are primed to get back on the winning track.

“I am glad that we are home; we have enjoyed success at home in the league lately and we have to keep it going,” said Henderson.

“This is a big weekend for us. Our goal is always to get two and just get in the win column in the league.”