PU puts it together for win

Tiger men, Koncz hold off Wyoming

By: Bob Nuse
   Joe Scott could sense it happening in the second half of last week’s loss to Temple.
   Players could feel it happening a little more during the practices that followed.
   Fans got a chance to see it for themselves on Saturday night.
   What it is, is the Princeton University men’s basketball team starting to come together. Chemistry is starting to develop, roles are being defined, and the Tigers are starting to look more like, well, the Tigers.
   "It was obvious in the last 18 minutes of the Temple game and then today, some type of chemistry is building on our team," said Scott, the PU coach whose team snapped a three-game losing streak with a 59-50 win over Wyoming on Saturday night at Jadwin Gym. "There is some type of understanding from themselves and giving to each other what we’re stressing. I think it’s obvious that there is some kind of chemistry going on here. They’re talking to each other and pulling for each other. I think that’s important.
   "I see an eager group over the last week and that’s important. That’s how you learn. That’s how you learn. And I’m happy for them because they made us win the game tonight."
   Scott made some lineup changes, plus the offense has been changed slightly. With players in new roles, the Tigers looked more like the Tigers of old. They scored 37 points in the first half against Wyoming, which is just two less than they had scored in the last three first halves, combined.
   Kyle Koncz moved into the starting lineup in place of Luke Owings and responded with a career-high 18 points, including two crucial baskets down the stretch. Kevin Steuerer made his first start at point guard in place of an injured Scott Greenman and played all 40 minutes, turning the ball over just twice. Owings moved into the role of backup center, while Harrison Schaen moved from center to backup forward. In addition, Edwin Buffmire came off the bench to play 18 solid minutes.
   "I told them after the game, know who you are, know what you do, know how you can contribute," said Scott, whose team improved to 2-4 and will host Monmouth on Wednesday night. "A guy like Kyle, he saves points. He gets his hand on passes, he makes them have to shoot difficult shots. I think it’s vital that guys sort of develop their roles and do what they have to do to help us."
   Owings, who had started the first five games at forward, may have found a home at center, where he backed up Patrick Ekeruo. In 28 minutes off the bench, Owings had 17 points and three assists.
   "It was one of those things where you’re in a rut and sometimes you just need something to jar you out of it," Owings said. "I didn’t start tonight and I think that turned out to be for the best. Koncz broke out and it helped me sit back and get into the game before I was thrust out there. I think that change helped a lot, at least for the short term.
   "I actually like the center position because I usually have big slow guys covering me. Granted, I’m pretty slow, but they’re usually slower than me. When (Scott) told me I was moving to center, I was excited. I know so much of our offense runs through the center and getting other people shots. We have plenty of guys who can knock them down."
   Princeton’s offense was at its best in the first half as the Tigers raced to a 37-22 halftime advantage. The lead was 39-22 before the offense went cold and Wyoming went on a 13-0 run to get within 39-35. It was 48-47 with just over three minutes left when Koncz hit the first of back-to-back three-pointers as the Tigers held off a run by the Cowboys.
   "I think in the second half against Temple we started to see that chemistry happen," said Koncz, who played all 40 minutes on Saturday. "We just have to go out and improve and be competitive. We have to do that in every game. Today we stuck in it and we fought. We hit those shots and then we pretty much stopped them the rest of the game. It’s a learning experience for the team."
   It was a breakout game for Koncz, who figures to have an expanded role for the ‘new’ Tigers.
   "How can you not be glad for Kyle Koncz, who works as hard as he does," Scott said. "It’s not his three-point shooting that I care about, he saved 18 points all by himself tonight. He’s constantly saving baskets and doing the little stuff that might not be seen by everybody. Defensively, he’s just unbelievable. That, in the end, is why Kyle Koncz is getting more minutes.
   "We’ve known all along that he could shoot the ball. He needs to understand that a guy that works s hard as he does and cares as much as he does and defends like that, that’s where you get your confidence from and it is easy to make a shot. Now he’s getting that experience."
   The biggest positive for the Tigers on Saturday was that they looked like a bunch of guys having fun on the basketball court. And that might be the most important step for a team with just one senior.
   "The word chemistry is thrown around a lot," Owings said. "It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s something you build day in and day out by going through things together. You grow by going through practice together, going through losing streaks together, going through winning streaks together.
   "It hasn’t been very long into the season, but we have gone through a lot. We’re learning to look to each other as time goes on and that we actually do play for each other. We’re best friends. It’s something that gets built and we’re building it right now."
   Now, Princeton needs another good performance against Monmouth to show that the ship is heading in the right direction.
   "We have our second chance now to win two games in a row," Scott said. "That might seem trivial. But it’s not trivial to a team that starts three sophomores and a freshman. We’re trying to build something and grow, and this will be our second chance to win two in a row.
   "They have to understand how important that is and go out there and see if we can be successful in that, and there is another step. They have to learn how to win and get through that hard time they know is coming."