February 10, 2016

Pulling Away to Wins Over Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton Men’s Hoops Produces Home Sweep


HOME COOKING: Princeton University men’s basketball player Spencer Weisz brings the ball up the court against Harvard last Friday evening. Junior star Weisz helped the Tigers enjoy a big home weekend at Jadwin Gym as they defeated Harvard 83-62 and then topped Dartmouth 83-70 a night later. Weisz scored 13 points in the win over the Crimson and added 14 points and five assists against the Big Green. Princeton, now 14-5 overall and 4-1 Ivy League, plays at Cornell on February 12 and at Columbia on February 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Spencer Weisz produced a sizzling start as the Princeton University men’s basketball team jumped out to a 46-23 lead over visiting Dartmouth last Saturday evening.

The junior forward hit all four of his three-point attempts as the Tigers appeared to be on the verge of running the Big Green out of Jadwin Gym.

“We have been an aggressive bunch and I think that has really been helping us so far,” said Weisz.

“I was fortunate enough to get some quality looks, my guys were finding me in transition and within our half court offense.”

After building that 23-points cushion, Princeton had to grind it out to overcome a feisty Dartmouth team, which went on a 16-0 run to make it a 46-39 game early in the second half. The Big Green got to within seven at two other points in the half but the Tigers were able to pull away to an 83-70 win before 2,553 at Jadwin Gym.

“It was a nice win for us in terms of that,” said Weisz, reflecting on Princeton’s ability to hold off the Big Green as it improved to 14-5 overall and 4-1 Ivy League.

“They kind of stormed back at the end of the first half and for us to maintain the lead and not let it get lower than seven shows our resiliency and our maturity over the past two years. I like the way we finished off the game and I think it will help us going forward.”

Princeton’s offensive efficiency, which saw it shoot 28-for-52 (53.8 percent) from the floor with three players in double figures as Weisz tallied 14 points with junior Steven Cook scoring a game-high 27 and junior Henry Caruso chipping in 17, should also help it going forward.

“I think it speaks to the way we play, 21 assists and nine turnovers,” said Weisz, who also had five assists on the evening.

“That is what we want to do, limit our turnovers and just spread the ball around.”

A relieved Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson acknowledged that Dartmouth turned the contest into a nail-biter.

“It was never comfortable, a 23-point lead just evaporated in what felt like five seconds, there was a half court shot and there were some things that contributed to that,” said Henderson.

“I just thought that with Spencer, Steve, and Henry, there was a calmness. This is what we are going to do to start the second half.”

Coming off an 83-62 win over Harvard a day earlier before 3,549 at Jadwin, the Tigers couldn’t afford to slip up against Dartmouth with Yale sitting atop the league at 15-5 overall and 6-0 Ivy.

“I think we are all aware that was a difficult win,” said Henderson. “It is a sweep on a weekend, a really pivotal win for us. We maintained our position, where we needed to be going into a really important road weekend.”

The play of Cook, who scored 21 points in the win over Harvard, was pivotal for the Tigers.

“Steven is a very good player,” said Henderson of Cook, who was later named the Ivy Co-Player of the Week along with Yale’s Justin Sears.

“We had a good talk on Tuesday and he was probably a little too aware of what was going on with him and it was just play. He is a good player and I thought he was terrific this weekend. Going forward, when rubber hits the road it is going to be those guys.”

Having gone with a starting lineup of Weisz, Cook, and Caruso along with junior Pete Miller and sophomore Amir Bell every game this season, Henderson has found the guys who can keep the Tigers in the Ivy title race.

“I think it started for us at the end of last year, the group that is playing plus Hans Brase,” said Henderson, who lost star center Brase to a knee injury before the start of the season.

“Pete is the new guy. They feel very comfortable with each other. It is a group of eight or nine going forward. There is a good rhythm right now. We make little to big jumps. I think Myles Stephens is making really big improvements, game to game. Alec Brennan is due any game now. Pete had a really solid game. Whatever we need to do, that is what these guys have been talking about to get wins. It was a huge weekend for us.”

The Tigers will need to maintain that rhythm as they have another huge weekend coming up, playing at Cornell (9-11 overall, 2-4 Ivy) on Friday and at Columbia (16-7 overall, 5-1 Ivy) the next day.

“They think this is right where we need to be and I feel the same way,” said Henderson.

“I want them to have a hunger for getting better and they have that. They have talked to me about that. They have calmed the head coach down, which is good. I am listening. We are in a good place. This is a funny league. You have got to win in a lot of different ways. We won one already we probably should not have won (a 73-71 overtime win at Penn on January 9).”

Weisz, for his part,
believes Princeton has the offensive balance to beat anyone in the league.

“When we shoot the ball well, we are certainly a dangerous team; it doesn’t really matter in terms of how we play if someone isn’t shooting well,” said Weisz.

“I didn’t shoot particularly well early on in the season but we are still going to find our open guy. We can attack in so many different ways that it is hard for a defense to key in on one guy and that is what makes us so versatile.”