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Vol. LXV, No. 49
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

PASSING MUSTER: Princeton University men’s basketball freshman Denton Koon flips a pass in recent action. Last Wednesday against visiting Lafayette, forward Koon provided a spark off the bench with 13 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes as the Tigers pulled away to a 69-54 win over the Leopards. Princeton, now 3-5, plays at Rutgers (4-4) on December 7.

Sparked by Koon’s Energy Off the Bench, Princeton Men’s Hoops Rolls Past Lafayette

Bill Alden

It didn’t take long for Princeton University men’s basketball freshman forward Denton Koon to make an impression on the Tiger coaching staff.

“From the beginning it was obvious that Denton can offer a lot to the team,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson “He has got bounce to his game; he sees things.”

Last Wednesday against visiting Lafayette, the 6’8, 205-pound Koon gave the Tigers a bounce off the bench, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 22 minutes as Princeton pulled away to a 69-54 win before 1,542 at Jadwin Gym and improved to 3-5.

Koon’s heroics helped the Tigers produce an 18-5 run midway through the second half that turned the tight contest into a comfortable Princeton victory.

In reflecting on the second half outburst, Koon said he is gaining a comfort level on the court.

“It is a lot easier to feel comfortable when everyone is playing together and you have a defensive intensity and mindset where the whole team is one unit,” said Koon, who had scored a total of 18 points in Princeton’s first seven games.

“In the second half, we had that huge run. It is easier to feel comfortable when you are with guys that bring me in and are really encouraging and help me along.”

The native of Liberty, Mo. is looking to help jump start the Tigers when he hits the court.

“It is not as much scoring; it was that I was able to come off the bench and really bring some energy and life,” said Koon, who threw down a dunk in the second half drawing a roar from the crowd.

“I think it is what we really need. We start off a little slow and it is tough coming in and trying to bring some life. You want to make a change and bring something into the game that is going to turn things around.”

Henderson, for his part, sensed a collective energy as the Tigers caught fire in the second half.

“We looked like a team,” said Henderson, whose club outscored the Leopards 43-27 in the second half.

“We have looked like a team in stretches but tonight, I thought it was for the most part, a group of guys that were playing for each other. It’s a passionate game and we had some life and energy. That’s what makes us good. If we can do that and still play smart, I think we could be pretty good.”

In the view of junior star Ian Hummer, who led the Tigers with 23 points and nine rebounds, the second half performance demonstrates how good Princeton can be.

“The first seven games were a little rough, being 2-5,” said Hummer. “I think the second half tonight with a lot of dunks and the spark from a guy like Denton really shows the way we can play.”

Hummer achieved a special milestone in the win, passing father Ed Hummer ’67 (786 points) on the Princeton all-time scoring list.

“It is pretty big, I wanted to do it in three years like he did,” said a chuckling Hummer, who now has 791 points in his Tiger career.

“If I did it in four years, he would put an asterisk on that one. Being in the same household as a guy that did very well at Princeton, just to pass him is pretty special to me. Especially doing it in Jadwin, that’s where I wanted to do it. I am glad I did it before we got on a long road trip. He’ll have to deal with it.”

In the view of Henderson, it was Princeton’s defensive effort that made it a special evening for the Tigers.

“It’s defense; our defense can do so many good things for us,” said Henderson, whose team forced 15 turnovers and held Lafayette to 39.1 percent shooting (9-for-23) in the second half.

“By creating some turnovers and getting some easy hoops, it felt like all of a sudden we started making shots in the half court and the pressure just went away. We just relaxed and took what they gave us.”

With Princeton playing 12 of its next 13 games on the road, starting with a contest at local rival Rutgers (4-4) on December 7, Henderson knows that his team is going to be under a lot of pressure over the next several weeks.

“It is just about as brutal as you can get but nobody is feeling sorry for us that we have got to be on the road,” said Henderson, whose club won’t be playing at home again until January 8 when it hosts The College of New Jersey.

“We are going to have to win some games on the road in the league and I like the makeup of this team to win games on the road. We have got some veteran guys like Ian and Doug [Davis] who have won in tough games on the road. Winning on the road is not that different from winning at home. It is defending, rebounding, making our free throws, and taking care of the ball. You give yourself a chance to win on the road when you do those things. We are going to have some tests with all the teams we are seeing.”

Koon, for his part, is excited to get the chance to do more things for the Tigers.

“As I get more opportunities to play, I expect to continue to help the team in any way that I can,” said Koon.

“As you get more minutes, you have more opportunities to do that. I guess expectations rise with that. The speed of the game in college is a lot different and the size of the players. It is coming into a system that is pretty set and just catching on to that and limiting dumb plays.”

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