Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 6
 
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
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ON THE RISE: Princeton University men’s basketball star Kareem Maddox flies to the hoop last Saturday in Princeton’s 63-35 win over Columbia. Sophomore forward Maddox chipped in nine points and five rebounds as Princeton won its seventh straight game and improved to 9-8 overall and 4-0 in Ivy League play. The Tigers, who now sit atop the league standings, will look to keep rolling when they play at Yale on February 13 and at Brown on February 14.

Getting Stingy in Routs of Cornell, Columbia, Tiger Men’s Basketball Vaults Into Ivy Lead

Bill Alden

The fans started filing out of Jadwin Gym with about five minutes to go in the game last Saturday as the Princeton University men’s basketball team hosted Columbia.

But unlike the past two seasons when the supporters left early as the losses piled up for struggling Princeton, the exodus Saturday was prompted by a second Tiger blowout win in two nights.

On Friday night, Princeton stunned defending Ivy League champion Cornell, pounding the Big Red 61-41 and ending their 19-game winning streak in league play.

A night later, the Tigers utilized a stifling defense to build a 27-11 halftime lead over Columbia on the way to a 63-35 romp over the Lions before a Jadwin crowd of 3,122.

The victory extended Princeton’s winning streak to seven and lifted the Tigers to 9-8 overall and 4-0 in Ivy play, leaving the club in first place in the league standings.

Columbia head coach Joe Jones was certainly impressed by the transformation in Princeton, which started this season 2-8 after going 6-23 last winter.

“I thought Princeton had a terrific weekend; I think coach Sydney [Johnson] has done a terrific job regrouping this program,” said Jones.

“He deserves a lot of credit; he and his staff have done a wonderful job of bringing some guys in who are committed to doing the things that he wants to do. They played terrific tonight and they played absolutely terrific last night.”

Coach Johnson, for his part, sounded a note of caution amid the post-game smiles.

“We held our home court; we have a 2-0 record at home in the league and that’s nice,” said Johnson.

“We are just trying to continue forward progress. It seems like we are going forward but we realize that it’s just 4-0 right now and it’s not too far into the season.”

Johnson saw some major progress on the defensive end as the Tigers gave up their fewest points in an Ivy weekend since they gave up 71 points in consecutive home wins over Columbia and Cornell in 1984.

“We were just very attentive; we were focused,” said Johnson, whose team held Columbia to 16.7 percent shooting in the first half (5-for-30) and 23.9 percent on the game (11-for-46).

“We were mindful that we beat a very, very good team in Cornell and yet we had to come back and really refocus against Columbia. Coach Jones does an awesome job; his guys go hard. We knew that we were going to have to lock in and I am thankful that we did. We were emotionally up for the game, especially following last night.”

Princeton sophomore guard Dan Mavraides could sense that Princeton’s defensive effort was getting Columbia down emotionally.

“If you are only able to score 11 points in a half, that is frustrating,” said Mavraides.

“We know defense is how we are going to win games. I think we are a very quick and a solid defensive team. I feel like whether you are up at half 31-21 or 21-10, holding a team and limiting their offense is definitely more frustrating to them. I think that definitely gets under their skin.”

As the wins pile up, the Princeton players are getting more comfortable in their skin.

“I think we’re playing really confident now,” said Mavraides, who scored eight points in the win over Columbia with reserve center Zach Finley leading the way with 11 points and Kareem Maddox chipping in nine.

“I think the more we play together and the more different situations we are put in as a team. We are growing together; everyone is playing really well together in practice. We are getting better and better every time we step on the court. I think we are starting to click; I don’t think we have hit our maximum at all yet. I think we have a lot of potential.”

In the view of junior point guard Marcus Schroeder, the Tigers showed good growth in not suffering a letdown after the win over Cornell.

“We have matured a lot since the beginning of the year,” asserted Schroeder, who had three points and three assists on the night.

“We came out tonight and we understood that winning last night was really important and big but it wouldn’t mean as much if we didn’t win tonight. We kind of took that and came out ready to play. We did a good job defensively and that’s where it starts. It was a good win for us.”

Johnson wasn’t surprised that his team put together back-to-back solid efforts.

“I have seen them work in practice and just be committed,” said Johnson. “We talk a lot about carrying our own weight and doing that on a daily basis. I wasn’t concerned but I just wanted to make sure that we are about what we are talking about. I just want us to commit to the things that we talked about offensively and defensively and go about it daily and make sure that we apply it in games. It was nice to see them follow through on that.”

With Princeton heading up to New England to play at Yale on February 13 and at Brown on February 14, Mavraides is looking for the Tigers to keep following through.

“We beat two good teams this weekend but starting next week, we have to get ready for Brown and Yale,” added Mavraides.

“We are going to keep the focus on ourselves and keep getting better in practice individually working on our skills and stuff like that. We’ll take away the good things we did and go over the bad things we did and try and fix those in practice and get even better for next weekend.”

If Princeton keeps getting better, the fans at Jadwin may want to stick around to watch the good things that are happening for the Tigers.

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