December 21, 2016

With Seniors Brase, Caruso Sidelined for the Season, Stephens, Cannady Stepping Up for PU Mens’ Hoops

MYLES TO GO: Princeton University men’s basketball player Myles Stephens drives around a foe in a game last winter. Last Wednesday against visiting Saint Joseph’s, sophomore guard Stephens, a former Pennington School standout, made his first career start for Princeton, contributing 12 points and six rebounds in a losing cause as the Tigers fell 76-68 to the Hawks. Princeton, which moved to 4-5 with the defeat, was slated to play at Monmouth on December 20 and at Bucknell on December 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Myles Stephens was in the starting lineup for the first time in his career and Devin Cannady was making his fourth-ever start as Princeton University men’s basketball team welcomed Saint Joseph’s to Jadwin Gym last Wednesday.

The two sophomores acquitted themselves well as Stephens, a former Pennington School standout, contributed 12 points and six rebounds in 38 minutes while Cannady tallied a team-high 17 points in 35 minutes.

Their efforts, though, weren’t enough as the Tigers saw a late rally fall short in a 76-68 loss to Hawks before a crowd of 2,360 that dropped Princeton to 4-5.

Princeton head coach coach Mitch Henderson liked what he got from Stephens and Cannady.

“I was really pleased with Myles’s effort on (Shavar) Newkirk in the second half; I thought he did a great job on a very difficult player to guard,” said Henderson.

“He provides an element for us defensively that changes things. I like what Devin is doing. He can score; he needs to know and understand defensively where he needs to be; he knows this. We had five turnovers and he had four of them so he has got to take care of the ball. He knows that and he will do that going forward.”

Going forward, the pair of Stephens and Cannady figure to play increasingly key roles for the Tigers as the program announced after the game that senior star Henry Caruso recently suffered a toe injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season, joining fellow senior Hans Brase on the shelf as his college career was ended after injuring his knee in late November.

“We are adjusting,” said Henderson, reflecting on the absence of Brase and Caruso.

“I still love the team. This is a tough loss tonight but we learned a lot about what we are going to be like going forward. I have confidence in the group; maybe we were thinking a little bit too much about who wasn’t here to start. It is a basketball game and they have to play. St Joe’s played really well. I thought they were just way faster to the ball tonight.”

Stephens didn’t have much trouble adjusting to being in the starting lineup.

“Nothing really changed, I just wanted to come in and play how I usually play, provide offense and defense for the team,” said Stephens. “Step into the role, just doing what I can to help the team win.”

Getting outrebounded 58-34 by St. Joe’s played a major part in keeping Princeton from winning against the Hawks.

“We just have to be tougher, we know we are undersized,” said Stephens. “We have had trouble rebounding in the past so we just have to be tougher, box out, and go get them.”

Cannady, for his part, is looking to be mentally tougher in his new role.

“Being the starting point guard now, I think I need to work on being an extension of coach on the court and finding my looks within the offense and helping the team get the best shots,” said Cannady.

“Most importantly, this season, what we are focusing on is being solid defensively. For me, I am in the game four minutes earlier. I am just trying to give a good start to the team and that is the mentality going forward.”

When Princeton went on a 13-2 run to forge ahead of the Hawks 62-61 with 6:33 remaining in regulation, Cannady was sensing a big finish for the Tigers.

“That was the first time you heard the fans get into it the whole game and when that happens, the momentum is in our favor,” said Cannady.

“I thought at that moment if we had some defensive stops and got some rebounds, made more shots, it could have went our way, but it didn’t and so we will just have to figure that out moving forward.”

Henderson, for his part, knows that he has some things to figure out as the shorthanded Tigers move forward.

“We made a nice run and got up 64-61 but we couldn’t muster the engine tonight,” lamented Henderson, whose team is slated to play at Monmouth on December 20 and at Bucknell on December 22 .

“We have some nice looks but they killed us on the boards. They got to the free throw line and made their free throws. We have been struggling from the line a little bit. We have got a lot of work to do.”