Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 6
 
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
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LOCKED AND LOADED: Princeton University men’s basketball senior star Kyle koncz prepares to fire a jumper in recent action. Last Saturday, Koncz poured in a career-high 24 points to help Princeton top Harvard 68-54. The 6’7, 200-pound forward scored 21 points in the first half and ended the night with six 3-pointers as the Tigers improved to 5-12 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League play.

Koncz’s Versatility Makes Big Difference as PU Men’s Hoops Starts 2-0 in Ivy Play

Bill Alden

Kyle Koncz had a devil of a time getting a shot last Friday night as the Princeton University men’s basketball team hosted Dartmouth.

The senior forward and co-captain generated only one shot and was held scoreless on the night but contributed in other ways, grabbing seven rebounds and making three steals as Princeton prevailed 57-53.

A night later against visiting Harvard, Koncz couldn’t stop shooting, pouring in 21 points in the first half, essentially operating as a one-man offensive show as Princeton took a 33-31 lead into intermission.

In the second half, Koncz netted a key three-pointer to end up with a career-high 24 points as the Tigers pulled away to a 68-54 win over the Crimson before a season-high crowd of 3,104 at Jadwin Gym.

In explaining the contrast between his output from Friday to Saturday, Koncz said it was a matter of taking what the defense gave him.

“Last night we had a lot of post moves; they were making us score in the post and they were guarding us on the perimeter,” said Koncz, whose big offensive night helped Princeton improve to 5-12 overall and 2-0 in Ivy League play.

“I wasn’t getting open a lot. For whatever reason, tonight was different. They were in a zone and they weren’t rotating fast enough so shots were there that weren’t last night. In the first half, I was wide open. I think on all the shots I took, there wasn’t a guy within five feet.”

When reminded that his previous career high of 23 came against Harvard, Koncz had no explanation for his excellence against the crimson.

“I don’t have a personal vendetta against Harvard,” said the 6’7, 200-pound Koncz with a chuckle. “Maybe they don’t want to guard me; we’ll see what happens the next time we play.”

Koncz likes what’s happening with the Tigers as the team has now won three straight after enduring a program-record 12 game losing streak.

“I think you always have to have confidence in this team,” asserted Koncz. “We are working hard at practice every day and there were some games in there that we should have won. I think we learned some lessons from those games. When we had this two-week exam period we got a lot of work done and I think it’s showing up. It’s a fresh start and we are taking it the right way; we are working our butts off.”

Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson liked the work he got from Koncz over the weekend. “Kyle coached us through our defensive assignments last night, he rebounded, he got steals,” said Johnson. “Tonight he comes out and we are struggling to score and maybe we’re a little tight, he starts banging shots.”

Johnson puts a premium on players with multi-faceted skills. “At Princeton, we’re just playing ball,” said Johnson, who got 17 points from Lincoln Gunn in the win over Harvard while senior Kevin Steuerer matched his career high with 12.

“Some nights we are going to make some threes, some nights we are going to drive it and some nights we are going to dish and drive. We just want players and Kyle has shown the versatility in his game.”

In Johnson’s view, Princeton’s decisive 20-5 run over the last six minutes of the game was the product of some diligent preparation.

“We really, really had worked hard to get where we are,” said Johnson, whose team trailed 49-48 before breaking the game open.

“We’re not going to get too high or too boastful but we made a lot of progress. The guys are making plays and enjoying basketball. I think that probably explains the run as much as anything.”

With 12 Tigers seeing action against Harvard, more and more players are getting the chance to enjoy the game.

“There are so many guys on the team who have contributed,” asserted Johnson, whose team faces a critical road trip this weekend as it plays at Ivy frontrunner Cornell on February 8 and at Columbia on February 9.

“You have seen Kyle and Noah [Savage] at center. You have seen different guards help us out. We are a basketball team, these guys have contributed in major ways on and off the court.”

Koncz, for his part, believes that the team has developed a culture of accountability which is starting to yield dividends.

“The guys really care for each other, I think that’s the big difference,” said Koncz.

“We got to practice every day and we are making each other work hard. You see one guy not working hard enough and we get into him after practice and during practice. We have a good chemistry and I think that shows on the court. Some nights some guy may not be open; no one cares who scores the points, no one cares who gets the assists. That’s a big thing with us and I think it is paying off right now.”

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