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Losing the Rebounding Battle Down the Stretch, PU Men’s Basketball Falls to Drexel, Drops to 3-5

LAYER OF CLAY: Princeton University men’s basketball player Clay Wilson turns up the defensive heat in recent action. Last Saturday against visiting Drexel, sophomore guard Wilson scored 12 points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell 64-57 to the Dragons. Princeton, now 3-5, plays Fordham on December 15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Boasting a roster with 10 players 6’7 or taller, the Princeton University men’s basketball team believes it should be an inside force this winter.

But the Tigers have been held to a standstill on the boards in starting 3-4, getting outrebounded 222-216 by their foes.

Last Saturday against visiting Drexel University, some lackadaisical work on the glass helped doom Princeton as it squandered an early 30-17 lead on the way to a disappointing 64-57 setback before 1,970 at Jadwin Gym,

The Tigers outrebounded the Dragons 16-13 in the first half but got beaten to the punch in the paint in the second half as Drexel won the war of the boards 19-4 over the last 20 minutes of the contest.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was disappointed by his team’s failure to use its size advantage in the second half.

“I thought we could be a very good rebounding team but we just didn’t have any rebounding presence to finish the game which ended up really hurting us,” lamented Henderson, whose team had previously blown early leads in losses to Northeastern, Rutgers, and Wagner.

“There were a couple times where we were boxing out nicely and we had a couple of those calls called against us. I think that they just turned up the heat defensively. I think when your two centers have two rebounds, we have to do more in that situation.”

Tiger senior star Ian Hummer, who had a game-high 19 points and seven rebounds, expressed his frustration with the team’s failure to get the ball inside.

“I think there has to be an understanding of the team regarding when and where our strengths are,” said Hummer, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for his performance.

“I thought, as coach said, we are strong inside. We are not shooting the ball well so we are going to have to look at it and understand the game. Where does the ball need to be at what point in time. I think we are learning but we are not there yet. We need to be there ASAP.”

Henderson also saw a lack of offensive execution. “Who is going to make that one extra pass that makes that one possession offensively that much more valuable; let’s make them guard a little bit,” said Henderson, reflecting on a game which saw the Tigers shoot 5-of-19 from three-point range and 8-of-13 from the foul line.

“We couldn’t get anything going and then we missed our free throws. You had to make your free throws in that game to withstand another long run.”

While the Tigers made a nice late run to knot the game at 57-57 with 2:32 remaining in regulation, they were outscored 7-0 the rest of the way.

“We were down 55-50 and came back; I like the way we executed there and the way we defended,” said Henderson, whose team plays Fordham on December 15 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

We left [Damion] Lee on a wide-open 3 at the top of the key; it was a defensive mistake and he makes a 3. We executed offensively again and got a nice look and it didn’t go in. Clay Wilson, one of our better shooters, had a nice look from the corner. No excuses, that’s a nice win for Drexel.”

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