January 17, 2024

Senior Star Allocco Leads the Way with Career Game As Princeton Men’s Hoops Tops Dartmouth, Now 14-1

LOCKED IN: Princeton University men’s basketball player Matt Allocco puts up a shot past Monday as Princeton hosted Dartmouth. Senior guard Allocco tallied a career-high and game-high 25 points to help the Tigers defat the Big Green 76-58. Princeton, now 14-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League, plays at Columbia on January 20. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Over the last few weeks, Matt Allocco has been a little banged up and not quite at 100 percent for the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Last Monday as Princeton hosted Dartmouth, senior guard Allocco was back at full throttle, draining three 3-pointers in the first half as Princeton jumped out to a 43-30 lead at intermission. Allocco kept firing away, tallying a career-high 25 points as Princeton pulled away to a 76-58 win over the Big Green before a crowd of 3,872 at Jadwin Gym.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was thrilled to see Allocco back in form as the Tigers improved to 14-1 overall and 2-0 Ivy League.

“Mush (Allocco) wasn’t himself for a month and tonight was really what we have been missing, he was just terrific,” said Henderson. “When he plays like that it really takes a burden off of everybody else.”

Allocco, for his part, downplayed his heroics, which saw him hit 8-of-14 shots, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range.

“I was just trying to play in the flow and make the right play,” said Allocco, a 6’4, 197-pound native of Hilliard, Ohio who is now averaging 13.9 points a game. “I just made a couple of shots early. I got off to a good start. It is just all in the flow.”

Others got in the flow for Princeton against the Big Green as Caden Pierce contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds while Xaivian Lee scored 16 points and Blake Peters chipped in nine points.

“We have a lot of guys who can make shots and I would credit that to the work everyone puts in,” said Allocco.

“We have guys coming at all hours of the day, before practice, and after practice. They put a lot of work in and everybody has been showing up.”

Allocco and his teammates are enjoying showing off before the big crowds that the Tigers are drawing this winter.

“It has been unbelievable, the support has been great and it is easy to feed off of it,” said Allocco. “Hopefully we will keep winning games and playing really hard and they will keep showing up for us. When they give that support, how could you not want to play hard and perform for them. We are super appreciative.”

Princeton performed efficiently at the offensive end in the win over Dartmouth, making just five turnovers on the day.

“I think we have an experienced group, a group that has played a lot together,” said sophomore forward Pierce. “One thing we heavily emphasize and prioritize is take care of the ball — you get more shots and most likely win the game. With the shooters we have as long as we get shots, we trust our offense. It is hard not to have success when you don’t turn it over.”

Henderson credited this year’s squad with taking things to a higher level when it comes to taking care of the ball.

“I have had teams where we share the ball nicely. This team really has an understanding of what a good shot is,” said Henderson. “They are relentlessly seeking them out and that starts with Mush. We do talk about it all of the time, not only just valuing the ball but not taking bad shots. We are good at that. It is a group that listens.”

Allocco’s intensity sets the tone for the group. “There is a fear factor a little bit with everybody around him,” said Henderson with a grin. “He tells you what to do, even the coach. He is really unique in his ability to lead.”

Pierce showed no fear as he relentlessly drove into the paint in scoring 16 points in the first half.

“They guarded us in a way that he had to take advantage of things,” said Henderson of Pierce. “He is getting so good at finishing around the basket. He finished through some contact at times and he made his free throws.”

Henderson didn’t feel good as Dartmouth hung in the contest, narrowing the Princeton lead to 61-52 with 6:04 left in the game before the Tigers pulled away down the stretch.

“They weren’t going away, I was nervous all of the way up to the last two minutes of the game,” said Henderson. “It is a league game, they changed a lot what they were doing. I don’t think we played particularly well, we just made shots up front and that started with Mush. He was just great to start the game.”

The Tigers face a great challenge as they embark on a four-game road swing in Ivy action, starting by playing at Columbia on January 20.

“We have four in a row on the road but we are really looking at one, we have to get Columbia on Saturday,” said Henderson. “The league to me looks really good as it always is. We have a very focused group. I think we benefited from having some carryover from last season early in our away schedule. But this is the league and it is different. Everybody is a little improved and we are not sneaking up on anybody.”

Allocco, for his part, is confident that Princeton will maintain the focus it has displayed from the start of the season.

“Not much changes with our preparation. We have to lock in every day and we have to be even sharper on the road,” said Allocco. “We have to keep taking care of the ball, rebound, defend, and do the best we can to lock in on all of our scouting reports. I think we have done that pretty well this whole year. In our first stretch, we had a lot of games on the road and we played well for the most part. We are going to try to keep that going.”