December 27, 2017

PU Men’s Hoops Stuns USC in OT Thriller, Looking to Bring Positive Vibe to Hawaii

ANSWERING THE BELL: Princeton University men’s basketball player Amir Bell, left, goes up for a lay-up in a game earlier this season. Last week, senior guard Bell contributed 18 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds as Princeton defeated the University of Southern California 103-93 in overtime on December 19. The Tigers were slated to be competing in the Diamond Head Classic from December 22-25 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After the Princeton University men’s basketball team topped Monmouth 69-58 to snap a three-game losing streak, Mitch Henderson sensed that his squad may have turned a corner.

“We have been playing like crap and it is on me,” said Princeton head coach Henderson after the December 12 contest. “I thought tonight we looked like team.”

Heading west, the Tigers played like a team on the rise, salting a California swing by rolling to an 80-60 win at Cal Poly on December 16, featuring a balanced attack as Myles Stephens scored 16 points with Devin Cannady adding 13, Sebastian Much chipping in 12, and Aaron Young contributing 11.

Building on that triumph, Princeton posted one of its best non-conference wins in years three days later, pulling out a thrilling 103-93 overtime win at the University of Southern California. The Tigers squandered an 80-72 lead with 1:24 remaining in regulation as USC went on a 14-6 run to force overtime. After the Trojans scored the first bucket of overtime, Princeton outscored USC 13-4 to seize control of the contest and never looked back on the way to the win.

“I felt one of the plays of the game was that they scored instantly to start overtime and the Amir [Bell] came out and got an and-one and made the free throw,” said Henderson on a video of his postgame interview posted on the Princeton University sports website. “That tends to be a huge swing in a game when you have had a big lead.”

Junior Myles Stephens, who enjoyed a huge game in the win over the Trojans, scoring a career-high 30 points, was proud of the resilience displayed by the Tigers as they improved to 5-6.

“In the second half, we came out with energy again, which was really big for us,” said Stephens in the postgame interview.

“We went up big, we withstood their run, and in overtime, we were just solid and strong. We had guts, we were gritty, and we were able to come away with a win.”

With Princeton spending the Christmas weekend competing in the Diamond Head Classic from December 22-25 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Henderson was hoping that his team can take the positive vibe from the win over USC across the Pacific.

“I have to mention everyone individually,” said Henderson, who got 23 points from Devin Cannady with Bell adding 18 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds and Sebastian Much contributing a career-high 19 points.

“Devin as a leader, Myles making all of this free throws. Sebastian making huge shots. Jerome [Desrosiers] and Aaron [Young] coming in the game. I thought it was a really good all-around team effort. We are really happy, it is a very happy locker room and we are on our way back west again to Hawaii.”