SportsProf

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Princeton Prevails over Kent State

Observations:

1.  The Kent State bench is as animated a bench as I've seen.  Head coach Rob Senderoff is very demonstrative, and at times seemed like he was lecturing the officials.

2.  Good to see Pete Carril sitting with retiring A.D. Gary Walters.

3.  Spencer Weisz is accomplished beyond his year (freshman).  Particularly in the first half, Weisz had many hustle plays, some good rebounds and passes.  Look for him to be more of a factor going forward.

4.  Hard to figure what the coaching staff is thinking regarding forward Denton Koon, who seems to be the best athlete among Princeton's front liners.  It's probably the case that he's lost playing time to senior forward Will Barrett, who played beyond his comfort zone today.  My general view of Barrett has been that he's a big three-point shooter at 6'10", but nothing more.  Yet, today, he had 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and had a good game.  I still think he's a bit challenged defensively, but I might be missing something.  At game's end, when Tiger coach was making offensive-defensive substitutions, Barrett remained on the floor (Koon came in for Hans Brase).

5.  The Tigers played well together as a team.  There were many plays where the ball moved around quickly and there were multiple passes that led to inside baskets.  That type of determination and quickness of thinking helped them today.

6.  The Tigers' offense sputtered, though, in the second half, running down the clock to the mid-to-low single digits and then forcing the ball.  Somehow, either Kent State stepped up their help defense or the Tigers failed to adapt or ran out of gas a bit.  I think it was a combination of the three.

7.  The Tigers are a bit more interesting than they were last year, this despite the loss of Ivy Player of the Year, Ian Hummer.  Hummer was terrific, but at times I thought that the Tigers waited for him to bail them out when the shot clock ran down or deferred to him a bit much.  Also, last year the Tigers did not have either Jimmy Sherburne or Ben Hazel, both of whom are getting many minutes at guard.  Sherburne missed all of his five shots today, but Hazel is a decent three-point shooter who hit a few today.

8.  Last year, teams pressed Princeton because point guard T. J. Bray had to play almost the entire game, and the other ball handlers were a bit iffy.  This year, there seem to be enough ball handlers to nullify that option for the opposition.

9.  Bray his a terrific floor leader, a decisive passer, and determined driver, and an overall leader.  He sets the tone well.

10.  Princeton seems to have taken a page out of the book of Yale's James Jones.  Last year, the Elis beat Princeton twice because of a very good full-court trap and an offense that kept on moving.  The latter exploited a lack of quickness on the back line of the Tigers' zone.  Against Kent State, against both man and zone defenses, the Tigers kept on moving.  And it worked.

11.  A sign of a good team is that you can hold on and reverse a trend after blowing a 15-point lead.  Early in the second half the Tigers had many chances to blow it open, but Kent State kept on coming back.  Then, with about 1:45 to go, KSU took its first lead of the game.  But Princeton kept to its game, hit more foul shots than Kent State, fouled less, and eked out a four-point win.

While Princeton only finished fourth in the Ivies' pre-season poll, it's hard to figure that there are three Ivy teams that are better than they are.  Harvard remains the favorite, but Penn has struggled.  This Tigers' team, in contrast, has had an excellent pre-Ivy season, plays Liberty on Saturday and then Penn at the Palestra the following Saturday night.  It's important to go into the Palestra playing with confidence, and barring a collapse against Liberty (which did make the NCAA tournament last year), the Tigers should be in good shape for their trip to Philadelphia.

Happy New Year!

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