December 2, 2015

With Junior Cook Providing Intensity, Production, PU Mens’ Hoops Gets Off to Promising 4-0 Start


COOKING UP A WINNER: Princeton University men’s basketball player Steven Cook drives to the hoop against Lafayette last Wednesday. Junior forward Cook achieved his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the game, helping the Tigers to a 104-52 win over the Leopards. On Monday, Cook chipped in 17 points and six rebounds as the Tigers kept rolling with a 91-61 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. Princeton, now 4-0 for the first time since the 1997-98 season, plays at Stony Brook on December 5 and at Saint Joseph’s on December 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

After starting its season by pulling out a pair of nail-biters in tight wins over Rider and Saint Peter’s, the Princeton University men’s basketball team went on cruise control against visiting Lafayette last Wednesday.

Princeton jumped out to 14-2 over the Leopards three minutes into the contest and the rout was on. The Tigers led 33-11 midway through the first half and by 57-24 at intermission. Things didn’t change in the second half as Princeton rolled to a 104-52 victory.

In the process, the Tigers achieved a number of superlatives. It was the most points Princeton had scored in a game since February 26, 1971, a 108-64 win over Yale, which was also the last time the Tigers hit 100 in a game. Princeton’s 52-point margin of victory was its largest over a Division I opponent since defeating Brown by 58 in a 96-38 win on February 10, 1968.

The team’s 17 3-pointers for the evening were the second-most against a Division I team in the 30-plus years the line has been in the college game. Nine Princeton players hit 18 3s against Pacific two seasons ago, and eight players hit 17 3s in the Lafayette win.

Princeton junior star Steven Cook, who helped get the deluge started when he hit the first 3-pointer to put the Tigers up 5-2, enjoyed the way things flowed against Lafayette.

“There has been a lid on the rim for some of us and we started making shots and just starting running through our offense and things started clicking for us,” said Cook.

“It feels good in a game like that but you can never be satisfied. We are looking at the next few games.”

Cook, who achieved his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Leopards, was simply looking to go hard every minute he was on the floor.

“I always take every game with the same approach, to play as hard as I can and that is all I can do,” said Cook, a 6’5, 197-pound native of Winnetka. Ill.

“I feel like I have been getting rebounds in practice, I think it just translated into the game.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson likes seeing his team produce a break-out offensive effort.

We are the same team that struggled a little bit to score against Saint Peter’s (a 75-72 win on November 21) but I think we are just three days better,” said Henderson.

“The guys are really committing to each other and the way the ball moves, it is an unselfish group. When they play unselfishly, the ball starts going down and everybody feels a little better. I think that the first three that went down, Steve’s, set the tone. We can shoot. Tonight was one of those nights where it was feeling good. I liked in our first two games we had to find ways to win when it wasn’t going down.

Henderson felt really good about Cook’s double-double. “He is due, he was going to get one at some point,” said Henderson of Cook. “He is such a good rebounder, taking the ball out of other people’s hands. He is up there, he gets them every day in practice. I am not surprised. Steve is such a unique player and he has really worked hard on his defense, which is another part of his game. Today he got his hands on five or six passes.”

Every Princeton player got into the Lafayette game and five ended up in double figures with junior Henry Caruso scoring 13, freshman Devin Cannady adding 12, sophomore Mike LeBlanc chipping in 12, and freshman Noah Bramlage contributing 14 in addition to Cook’s 12.

“I think absolutely it pays off; nobody played more than 20 minutes and we got a lot of points off the bench,” said Henderson, whose team kept putting up the points last Monday as it beat Fairleigh Dickinson 91-61 with Caruso scoring a career-high 27 points to lead the way as the Tigers improved to 4-0 for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

“I think mostly, for me, the guys were going hard so we were able to get a lot of guys in. The energy never wavered, they knew they were going to go right back in so they were giving everything they had. We are a little bit of a work in progress, still figuring out what we are going to be like post-Hans (Brase). Tonight we learned a lot.”

Cook, true to character, is looking for the Tigers to keep working hard as they prepare to play at Stony Brook on December 5 and at Saint Joseph’s on December 8.

“It is hard to not feel good but at the same time we are not going to be satisfied, we have some big games coming up,” said Cook, who is now averaging 11.0 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.

“We have to have a great practice on Friday and keep doing what we are doing, moving forward and getting better.”