March 22, 2017

Giving a Glimpse Into Future for PU Men’s Hoops, Bell, Cannady Had Season in Their Hands in NCAAs

A NEAR MISS: Princeton University men’s basketball player Amir Bell dribbles the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, junior guard Bell contributed seven points and seven rebounds as the 12th-seeded Tigers fell 60-58 to fifth-seeded Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y. The defeat left Princeton with final record of 23-7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

The season for the Princeton University men’s basketball team ended up in the hands of Amir Bell and Devin Cannady.

With fifth-seeded Notre Dame clinging to a 59-58 lead over 12th-seeded Princeton in the waning seconds of an opening round contest in the NCAA tournament last Thursday, the Tigers got a rebound from Spencer Weisz and a chance at a game-winning bucket.

With the crowd of 17,806 at the KeyCenter in Buffalo N.Y. in an uproar, junior guard Bell rushed the ball up the court and passed to sophomore Cannady, who lofted a three-pointer that rattled out and the Tigers ended up losing 60-58 as the Fighting Irish added a free throw with a second left to provide the final margin.

“Both men went with me and Devin had a good shot,” said Bell, recalling the final Princeton possession.

“With Devin shooting the ball, you always think it is going to go in. There is no one else you would rather have taking that shot. It was unfortunate to have it not go in. It was a great shot and I would take it any day.”

Cannady, for his part, was confident that the ball was going in when it left his hands.

“I got my feet set, the ball came to me in my shot pocket, I looked at the rim and when the ball left my hand I thought that was good,” said Cannady, who grew up just miles from the Notre Dame campus in Mishawaka, Ind.

“It didn’t go in and that is what happens when you take those shots, either it goes in or it doesn’t. In this case, it didn’t.”

Bell knew the Tigers weren’t about to go away in the clash with the Fighting Irish even though they trailed 45-34 with 13:22 left in the second half.

“We showed so much fight and grit,” said Bell. “We have been in so many different situations. We have confidence that we can come back and win any game. We just know to stay locked in and stay focused.”

The team drew confidence all season from its stellar group of seniors which included Khyan Rayner, Alexander Lee, Hans Brase, Peter Miller, and Steven Cook in addition to Weisz.

“They mean so much; I love those guys so much, all six of them,” said Bell.

“They just established a culture around here. They have just been so important to us as a team and we are going to miss them so much.”

In the view of Weisz, the future of the Princeton program and the Ivy League are in good hands.

“We feel we can compete with anyone; it is a testament to our league, a testament to our players and I am looking forward to the growth in our league and hopefully it’s recognition,” said Weisz.

“I think the Ivy League tournament certainly helps get us a national stage right before the Selection Show. There is a bright future ahead I think for the Ivy League in general.”

Reflecting on the valiant effort against Notre Dame, Bell is excited about what the future holds for the Tigers, who ended the season with a 23-7 record.

“It was a big time experience,” said Bell. “We fit in there as everyone could see, we belong. Every day since the beginning of the year, coach (Mitch Henderson) has been talking about preparing to beat the best teams in the country. I think we can play with anybody. We couldn’t come out on top today but next year we are going to be back.”