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Vol. LXV, No. 46
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

HAWK ATTACK: Princeton University men’s basketball star Ian Hummer gets pressured by two Wagner College defenders in action last Saturday night. Junior forward Hummer chipped in a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Princeton fell 73-57 to the Seahawks in the season opener for both teams. The Tigers will look to get on the winning track when they play at N.C. State on November 16 before hosting Buffalo on November 19 and Elon on November 22.

Debut of Henderson Era Proves Disappointing As Princeton Men’s Hoops Loses to Wagner

Bill Alden

It was a moment that former Princeton University men’s basketball star Mitch Henderson had been looking forward to for a while.

After paying his dues as a longtime assistant coach for the Northwestern men’s basketball team and getting passed over in 2007 in first attempt to be the head coach at his alma mater, Henderson walked into Jadwin Gym last Saturday in charge of the Princeton program.

Looking resplendent in a black suit and orange rep tie, Henderson had a bit of a wide-eyed expression, surveying the scene as the Tigers prepared to open the 2011-12 season against Wagner College with a crowd of 2,444 on hand at Jadwin.

By the end of the evening, Henderson had a furrowed brow and a frown as he walked off the court in the wake of Princeton’s 73-57 loss to the Seahawks.

In reflecting on his debut, Henderson acknowledged that it turned into a rollercoaster ride.

“It felt a lot better three hours ago,” said Henderson, who took the helm after previous Tiger head coach Sydney Johnson left for Fairfield University last spring. “We have a long way to go. We are going to keep in mind that we have a lot of work to do.”

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the evening was Henderson’s conclusion that his team had been outworked by Wagner.

“I don’t think any of us feel it is indicative, as a staff or a team, where we want to be right now,” said Henderson, whose team committed 28 turnovers as they wilted in the face of Wagner’s withering ball pressure.

“I think that Wagner had a lot to do with that. They outcompeted us, they played harder than us and that is very disappointing.”

Princeton junior forward Ian Hummer, who led the Tigers with 19 points and nine rebounds, concurred with Henderson’s analysis.

“Plain and simple, we didn’t come to play,” said Hummer. “I don’t know how many turnovers, 20-something, that is absurd and the fact that they got so many offensive rebounds. Between that and the turnovers, that is indicative of the fact that we didn’t come to play. I think we practice hard and that needs to translate onto the court. It is a team effort.”

The Tigers jumped out to a 14-9 lead but Wagner’s defensive intensity turned the tide as the Seahawks built a 34-29 advantage by halftime.

“The story of the game is not just getting outcompeted but 28 turnovers,” said Henderson.

“We were on defense almost the whole game. It was pretty glaring, 15 turnovers at the half and we start the second half with two straight turnovers, maybe three. We have a lot to address and I know we are ready to work at it.”

Despite Princeton’s sloppy work, the Tigers knotted the game at 38-38 early in the second half and trailed just 43-41 after a three-pointer by junior forward Will Barrett with 15:01 remaining.

Barrett, for his part, thought Princeton was poised to make a run. “There was a stretch in the second half where we did get it close and I thought that our energy was coming back and we were going to get right back in the game,” said Barrett, who ended the evening with six points, four rebounds, and two assists.

“We have got to tighten the screws right there and stick with them and we let the game slip away at that point when we needed it the most.”

The Seahawks produced a 21-3 run from that point to build their lead to 64-44 and break the game open.

In Barrett’s view, the Tigers suffered from some overconfidence. “I think the difference is we came in expecting to win and not wanting to win,” said the 6’10 Barrett, a key reserve last season as the Tigers went 25-7 on the way to the Ivy League championship.

“We came in thinking that we beat them two years in a row and we won the Ivy League championship last year. We just came in expecting them to give the game to us. That obviously wasn’t what they were thinking.”

For Henderson, a key issue that emerged from the loss is figuring out who is going to give the Tigers stability in running the offense.

“Two years ago, this team had a kid Marcus Schroeder, who was probably one of the slowest guys on the team but he handled the ball,” said Henderson, who got 12 points but no assists from senior guard Douglas Davis.

“He demanded the ball in certain situations; we need somebody like that. Somebody who is going to tell everybody else, ‘I got it.’ It is probably not Doug [Davis]. I am hopeful between Denton [Koon], T.J. [Bray], Jimmy [Sherburne], or maybe one of the freshmen, we start to see somebody we can trust with the ball.”

Henderson vowed to try different combinations in that search. “I think that we have to look at not just what happened during the game but at some guys who are sitting on the bench that didn’t get a whole lot of chances,” said Henderson, whose team plays at N.C. State on November 16 before hosting Buffalo on November 19 and Elon on November 22. “We have got to see where we are going to get some help.”

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