Pete Miller’s performance mirrored how things went for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Harvard last Saturday.
In the first half, the freshman forward scored five points and had five rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench as the Tigers jumped out to a 29-24 halftime lead over the Ivy League frontrunner and defending champion Crimson before a throng of 4,306 at Jadwin Gym.
“I came in and I thought I would be as aggressive as I possibly could,” said the 6’10, 225-pound Miller, a native of Winchester, Mass.
“I think I had a couple of layups, one on a nice pass from T.J. [Bray], and then rebounding, take care of the ball. I think I did a good job in the first half.”
Over the last 20 minutes of the contest, however, Harvard took care of the Tigers, pulling away to a 59-47 win.
“In the second half there were a lot of things I can improve on for the future, not just these next five games but for the rest of my career here,” said Miller, who had two points and no rebounds in the second half.
While Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson saw some good things, he acknowledged that the Tigers faltered at critical points.
“It was another tough loss for us,” said Henderson, whose team dropped to 15-8 overall and 3-6 Ivy.
“I thought the game hinged two moments — our inability to pull away in the first half because I thought we really came out and approached the game the right way; I thought we had a tough missed dunk [in the second half] that resulted in a made three pointer going the other way. We never reclaimed the lead, it seemed to really shift the momentum. Those are the kind of plays that stick out in my mind.”
After holding Harvard to 34.6 percent shooting in the first half, Princeton lost its way in the second half as the Crimson shot at a 54.2 percent clip and outscored the Tigers 35-18.
“Defensively I thought we were sharp in the first half; we stuck to things,” said Henderson.
“They made a couple of huge shots in the second half, I don’t think it was a lack of total defensive presence. [Kyle] Casey made a shot with T.J.’s hand in his face and [Wesley] Saunders made a big shot. Once those shots go in, you have to kind of adjust and make some reactions. I don’t think we did a good job of that. Our inability to score on offense contributed in some ways to some easy run outs. Offensively, we were a little stuck, we just have to get unstuck.”
Bray, for his part, echoed Henderson’s sentiments, seeing lapses at both ends of the court.
“In the second half, we just got a little lazy on offense and defense,” said Bray, who ended the evening with a team-high 17 points along with six rebounds and two assists.
“We weren’t cutting as sharp on offense. We got a few back door layups in the first half and that kind of opened the game for us and we weren’t able to get those in the second half. Defensively, they went to a little more ball screen action and we didn’t handle that well. Our weak-side help wasn’t where it needed to be tonight, that was kind of the key to the game.”
With Princeton hosting Yale on February 28 and Brown a night later, Henderson is looking for Miller and his fellow freshmen, Steven Cook and Spencer Weisz, to get some valuable experience down the stretch.
“I thought our freshmen were very good; I am hard on Pete sometimes but I think 7 points and 5 rebounds are what we are counting on him for,” said Henderson.
“We have to keep going to him because he is doing some really good things. I thought both Steven and Spencer were very good. I just think we are searching for some other pieces so we have got to keep going here.”