Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 49
 
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
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ROUGH KNIGHT: Princeton University men’s basketball sophomore star Lincoln Gunn finds the going tough last Saturday as he looks for room in Princeton’s 54-50 loss at Rutgers. Gunn starred in the defeat to the Scarlet Knights, producing the first double-double of his career with a team-high 13 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

Gunn On Target for PU Men’s Hoops but Tigers Drop Squeaker at Rutgers

Bill Alden

Lincoln Gunn had just produced one of the best all-around games in his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team but he wasn’t happy.

The 6’3, 180-pound sophomore guard scored 13 points, snared a career-high 10 rebounds, and had three assists but his effort went for naught as the Tigers fell 54-50 to Rutgers last Saturday before a crowd of 4,527 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Standing in a hallway outside the visiting locker room, a soft-spoken Gunn downplayed his superb effort. “I just tried to do my thing; the rebounds just kind of came to me,” said Gunn, who produced the first double-double of his career and the second in two games for Princeton which got 14 points and 11 rebounds from Zach Finley in a 65-55 loss to Seton Hall last Wednesday. “I was boxing out and some balls bounced my way.”

The ball didn’t bounce Princeton’s way down the stretch of a typically taut game between the local rivals.

Princeton jumped out to a 30-22 lead with 3:32 left in the first half. Rutgers narrowed the gap to 30-25 at halftime and the contest was tied at 34-34 with 13:15 left in the second half. The teams went back and forth down the stretch.

With the game knotted at 48-48 with 3:35 Princeton senior co-captain Noah Savage missed an open three as the ball just rimmed out. In the last minute of the game, Rutgers missed two free throws as it clung to a 50-48 lead.

The Tigers were unable to rebound the second missed shot and the Scarlet Knights got back to the line and converted two free throws. Kyle Koncz made a lay-up with six seconds left but Rutgers hit two more free throws to seal the win.

Gunn acknowledged that the Tigers felt a little snakebit as they dropped their fifth straight game after an encouraging 2-0 start.

“They out-executed us a little bit down the stretch,” said Gunn. “They made some shots, we didn’t. I thought we were struggling, particularly in our last two trips.”

Still, Gunn thought Princeton made progress from the Seton Hall loss. “Today we had a good 36 minutes, we just need to put together a whole 40 minutes,” said Gunn, who is averaging 11.4 points, 3.7 assists, and 4.6 rebounds a game this season.

“Against Seton Hall, we had a good 30 minutes. I think every game we are getting closer. We played good in the first half tonight, we executed real well. Overall we played a good game.”

Echoing Gunn’s frustration, co-captain Savage rued what he saw as a win that got away.

“We were confident; we planned to win this game and we came into it with that attitude,” said Savage, who had nine points, three rebounds, and three assists in the loss. “We were right there; it is one of those games you will think about the rest of your life because you were so close.”

Despite having suffered five losses in a row, Savage said he and his teammates aren’t hanging their heads.

“Our morale is fine; it will continue to be fine as long as we work like we have been working,” said Savage.

“The first step is learning winning habits and that’s something we have been working on. The next step is gaining confidence. Tonight I think we had both of those, it just came down to a couple of plays.”

Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson liked the work he got from his club for most of the game.

“I felt like we had a very good road effort just not good enough,” said Johnson. “Being in the moment and and competing to win a game is where we want to be. We were there today but it just got away. The little things were the difference, we forced the action a bit offensively and they made some key shots. You have to give credit where credit is due.”

Johnson credited Gunn with giving him another solid effort. “I think Lincoln has shown that he has developed from his freshmen to sophomore year,” said Johnson.

“He’s just really having fun. I told the guys that I cheer for everyone of them so it’s fun as a coach to see your guys embrace getting after it.”

The rookie head coach found no cheer in coming close to the Scarlet Knights. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in the last few days, Coach [John] Thompson, Coach [Pete] Carril, my family and friends,” said Johnson.

“I’ve let them know and the players know that we are never going to get used to losing. Big East, Ivy League, ACC, we just want to win every time out.”

While disappointed by Saturday’s result, Johnson wasn’t going to dwell on the setback.

“You lose a game, you move on to the next one and you attack it,” said Johnson, whose team will look to get on the winning track when they play at Evansville (1-4) on December 5.

“I think you guys saw that we attacked this game. We weren’t scared, we weren’t thinking about Seton Hall. We were competing tonight and that’s what you are going to see Wednesday. I can promise you that. I don’t know if we’re going to win but I can promise you we will compete.”

Gunn, for his part, sees light at the end of the tunnel. “It just sucks to lose; nobody likes losing,” said Gunn.

“I think we are going to snap out of it soon. We’re playing tough opponents, good teams. We need to get over the hump and get a couple of victories under our belt before the Ivy League.”

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