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Vol. LXIII, No. 1
 
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
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ON LINE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Dan Mavraides follows through on a free throw last Saturday in Princeton’s 65-55 win over UNC Greensboro. Sophomore guard Mavraides went 6-of-6 from the line in the last 1:07 of the game on his way to a career-high 17 points as the Tigers snapped a six-game losing streak.

Mavraides Comes Through in the Clutch as PU Men’s Hoops Gets First Home Win

Bill Alden

It would’ve been understandable if Dan Mavraides had felt jitters as he stepped to the foul line for the Princeton University men’s basketball team with 1:07 left in the second half last Saturday against UNC-Greensboro.

With the Tigers coming into the day having lost six straight games, blowing some late leads in the process, it looked like history was on the verge of repeating itself.

After building a 40-27 lead early in the second half, Princeton’s advantage over the visiting Spartans had shrunk to 54-51 as Mavraides toed the line.

The sophomore guard, though, wasn’t flustered as he held Princeton’s fate in his hands.

“I was just trying to stay focused; we end practice everyday shooting free throws as a team,” said Mavraides.

“It was just step up and shoot it. I know I can make free throws; I make them all day in practice. It is just a matter of stepping up and making them.”

The 6’3, 200-pound Mavraides coolly drained the free throws to push the Princeton lead back to five points. He swished four more free throws in the last minute to help the Tigers pull away to a 65-55 win before 1,900 at Jadwin Gym and improve to 3-8 on the season.

After their recent struggles, Mavraides and his teammates were determined to hold off UNC-G down the stretch.

“We are tired of losing,” said Mavraides, who ended the day with a career-high 17 points.

“They were the team that is down and should have the pressure on them. We should feel calm and confident and when we come down on offense, we should be able to run our stuff. We should be the confident team and I think we were tonight.”

As they have worked to get back on the winning track, the Tiger players have bonded.

“I think everyone has been more positive,” said Mavraides, a native of San Mateo, Calif. who has started Princeton’s last two games and is now averaging 8.5 points a game, second best on the team.

“In practice, we have been going at each other a lot. We have been in these close situations in practice every single day now. We just have to carry it into the game. I think in the huddles today, everyone was positive. We knew that this was a game we should win so we carried it out.”

A beaming Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson was thrilled to see his players carry out the winning plan.

“I probably won’t be able to wipe the smile off my face,” said Johnson, whose club hit 17-of-23 free throws to help pave the way to the victory.

“I think that we played pretty well; we attended to what we had to do. I told these guys that I thought we played well against Rutgers (a 49-44 loss) and against Lafayette (a 54-53 loss) but the ball didn’t go in the basket and then we weren’t perfect defensively. It was not much different tonight except that we made a few more shots and we didn’t quit on each other.”

Johnson sensed that his players weren’t going to stand for another defeat. “I think these guys are tired of losing,” said Johnson, reflecting on the triumph which was Princeton’s first home win in five tries this season.

“I think there was just a little bit different feel in the huddle. We are trying to put them in situations where they can succeed, but they have to succeed — they have to follow through. They held it together today.”

The recent move of Mavraides and junior guard Marcus Schroeder into the starting lineup helped Princeton succeed.

“I think that with our roster that we are going to be able to get contributions from different people,” said Johnson, who used 12 players in the win over UNC-G.

“Not only does Marcus have experience, he plays hard. But Marcus knows that if he relaxes somebody else is going to take his spot. That’s where we are, trying to play as hard as we can every single second we are on the court. Marcus did a good job, Dan as well. I think it’s about time we let them get out there so we have kind of started that the last couple of games.”

In Johnson’s view, his players are starting to get a better sense of their roles.

“I think the guys are settling in; I think they like the opportunity of earning minutes in practice,” added Johnson, who got 15 points from former Hun School star Doug Davis with Kareem Maddox adding 10 and Pawel Buczak chipping in six and pulling down a career-high 10 rebounds.

“Like Dan said, they are competing and going after each other. The guys that do that on a consistent basis are going to be out there representing us.”

Johnson is hoping his guys can build on the win over UNC-G as they host surging Lehigh (10-3) on January 7 in their last action before going on exam break.

“We have a really big ball game coming up, Lehigh is playing lights out,” said Johnson.

“They are a very, very good team, they are well coached. We are going to be challenged; we are going be in those moments again. I hope we can draw confidence, not only from this result but how they have been going about their business. These guys came back the day after Christmas and we had one of our best practices ever. I think that says a lot about the character of these young men.”

Mavraides is certainly becoming a more confident performer for the Tigers.

“I am getting used to being on the floor, said Mavraides, who only played in seven games as a freshman, scoring a total of 11 points in just 27 minutes of action.

“I am getting more comfortable in playing with everybody and feeling everybody out. We are more comfortable playing with each other. Like coach said, everyone on the team can play. With everyone getting minutes, we are all working well together.”

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