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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

SKY-HIGH: Princeton junior center Judson Wallace fires up a sky hook on his way to a career-high 28 points in the Tigers' 73-64 win over visiting Colgate in last Friday's season-opener. Princeton will host Holy Cross, the defending Patriot League champion, this Friday.
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Wallace Shows His Promise As 28-Point Outburst Leads Tiger Men's Hoops To Opening Night Win

By Bill Alden

Judson Wallace made a promise to his little brother before taking the court for the Princeton University men's basketball team in its season-opener against visiting Colgate last Friday.

"It was my brother Stewart's birthday, he turned 18 today," recalled a smiling Wallace, speaking in the Southern twang reflecting his Atlanta upbringing. "I guaranteed him 18 points, that was my driving force."

Wallace more than kept his word to his brother as he poured in a career-high 28 points to lead the Tigers to a 73-64 win over the Raiders before 4,205 at Jadwin Gym.

The 6'10 junior center's performance further solidified his status as Princeton's go-to man on offense as he picked up right where he left off from last season when he scored 20 or more points in four of the Tigers' last five games. Demonstrating his pivotal role, Wallace scored 11 of the Tigers' final 20 points as they held off a late challenge from Colgate.

Wallace, who had been struggling with a back strain in the last weeks of preseason, declined to take much of the credit for his outburst.

"I really didn't have to do anything because Will [Venable], Ed [Persia], Scotty [Greenman], and Konrad [Wysocki] just threw it to me," maintained Wallace, who hit on 10-of-15 shots and scored 19 of the 39 points scored by Princeton in the second half. "All I had to do was just throw it in so it's not like I was really working hard for those points."

Wallace, one of the team's co-captains, though, acknowledged that he has worked hard to continue the progress he made last season. "I started getting really comfortable towards the end of last year," said Wallace, who improved his scoring average to 10.9 points per game last season from the 2.5 average he posted as a freshman. "I had a good summer lifting weights and stuff like that. I definitely want the ball when it's tight, that's my nature."

Princeton head coach John Thompson III certainly wants Wallace to take a leading role at crunch time. "Judson played well, he did what he's going to have to do," said Thompson in a voice hoarse from the night's excitement. "The center position is the hub of our offense, it's essential. When they cut our lead down tonight, we decided to put the ball in his hands and let him make the decisions."

Thompson knows that Wallace is an emerging force on his squad. "I think Judson put in a lot of work into his game over the summer," said Thompson. "Both physically with his body in terms of spending time in the weight room as well as working on individual skills. He has to make us better, he has to make his teammates better. I think he will."

Thompson was largely pleased with the team's collective execution which saw the Tigers pick up assists on 13 of their first 16 baskets. "It was good to see that," said Thompson, referring to the team's passing. "I just told the guys that overall I thought we played well at both ends of the court."

For opening night, the Tigers were sharp as they shot 62.8 percent from the field, hitting on 27-of-43 shots. Venable had a perfect shooting night as he was 4-for-4 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line in contributing 12 points. Wysocki added 11 points while sophomore point guard Greenman had nine points and four assists in his first career start.

Thompson, however, did sound a note of caution, amidst the joy over the win. "Our rebounding and free throw shooting were poor, extremely poor," asserted Thompson, whose club was outrebounded 35-26 and shot just 60 percent from the line, hitting on 15-of-25 free throws.

"Our rebounding was off and that's why you go through periods where they get back into the game. We're looking at Holy Cross next week and based on how we rebounded tonight I'm worried sitting here right now."

Wallace, who matched his career-high with 11 rebounds in the win over Colgate, seconded the coach's concerns as he looked ahead to the Tigers' clash with defending Patriot League champion Holy Cross on November 28 at Jadwin.

"We need to just box out," said Wallace, acknowledging that he needs to work on his blocking out notwithstanding his rebound total. "We need to get everybody in there boarding, a recurrent theme of the season is going to be boxing out. If we can rebound, we can have a really good season."

If Wallace can continue to keep his promises, the Tigers may be looking at a special season.


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