Big win keeps PU men in Ivy race

Tigers impressive in weekend hoops sweep

By: Bob Nuse
   Joe Scott could see it coming for about a month.
   The Princeton University players could also tell something was different.
   On Saturday night, it all came together. Princeton played its best game of the season and, perhaps, its best game in two years as it beat Harvard, 75-48, as Jadwin Gym. The margin of victory was the biggest of the season for the Tigers, who improved to 10-14 overall and 8-3 in the Ivy League.
   "I think we’ve been playing pretty well for a month, or more," said Scott, whose team still trails Penn by two games with three left to play in the Ivy season. "But at different times we have played well for 20 minutes at a clip. Tonight, I think we did it for the whole game. We did it right from the start of the game.
   "Our defense was terrific the whole night. We did a really good job on their inside guys. Luke (Owings) was on that guy (Brian) Cusworth for most of the night. His post defense was terrific. And it’s not just one guy. We did a real good job of not letting the ball go into the low post and limiting how much they touched it. And offensively, we played terrific. And we rebounded the ball tonight. I can’t remember Harvard getting too many. And every time the ball was up in the air, I saw a black shirt with the big number in the back staring at me."
   Princeton looked like vintage Princeton in the win over Harvard. The Tigers made 13 of their 19 three-point shots and 25 of 40 overall. They also limited the Crimson to one three-pointer, while posting a 27-15 rebounding edge despite Harvard’s size advantage.
   With the win, the Tigers head into this weekend’s games at Brown and Yale as the only team left with a shot at catching Penn, which needed overtime to beat Harvard on Friday night.
   "It’s been a work in progress," Scott said. "It’s what we have been working for and we have seen it coming over the last month. Whether it’s better offensive execution. Or a better understanding of our offense during the times we have our regressions, which is understandable because we have guys playing for the first time in these types of situations.
   "Now we can say we we’re in the race to the final weekend. Whatever happens, we’re the only other team that can say that. Who knows what that is going to mean? We still have work to do. But we’re the other team that’s in the race on the final weekend and I think that says the most about what our guys have done, how far they have come, how well they have played, and the kinds of kids they have been. I think that’s what they should get the most credit for, putting themselves in this situation coming up this weekend."
   Princeton was led by a great shooting night from sophomore forward Kyle Koncz, who made nine of his 11 shots and finished with a career-high 23 points. Ironically, his previous career high was 20, which came in the Tigers’ last meeting with Harvard.
   "I’ve been struggling with my shot lately," admitted Koncz, who had scored just 12 points in the five games since Harvard. "But I just keep thinking that I’m a shooter, so I have to keep shooting. Tonight, I got open and was getting good screens. Scotty did a nice job of finding me and the shots were going in. So I just kept shooting.
   "I was thinking about (his success against Harvard) at the end of the game. I had two games against Harvard and I had two career highs. I don’t have anything against them, but hopefully we can keep playing them. Maybe we can play Harvard every time now."
   For this year, there will be no more games with Harvard. Next up is a key weekend against Brown and Yale, where the Tigers hope to come out of it with the season finale against Penn still meaning something in the Ivy standings. Princeton has won eight of 11 since a 2-11 start, making the fact their even in this position pretty amazing.
   "It means a lot," senior point guard Scott Greenman said. "I think just about everybody in the country wrote us off pretty early. After a couple groundbreaking losses, no one really had us on the radar. But we never quit and we believed in our ability to get better. The coaches never quit either. They’ve been trying to get us better, pushing us and pushing us. And when you keep working that hard and really care about something, that’s the way you end up with good results."
   Greenman finished with 11 points and six assists against Harvard, while Justin Conway added 10 points, five assists and five rebounds. Overall, the Tigers finished the game with an incredible 21 assists on 25 made baskets.
   "Ideally, within the Princeton offense you have four or five guys that can really shoot the ball," Greenman said. "That’s part of the toughness of guarding it, leaving one person open can be devastating. Before, maybe two or three guys would have good games and two play decently. I think tonight, everybody that played really stepped up and made shots. When that is clicking it is extremely hard to guard us."
   It’s also tough to guard the Tigers when they’re playing with confidence. And right now, it is a confident team that will head on the road this weekend, hoping to keep their Ivy League title hopes alive.