Friday, January 13, 2012

Trenton Times Previews Princeton at Cornell

Road trips continue this weekend for the Princeton University men’s basketball team. The only change is the roads will be more familiar.

By the time the Tigers play a game at Jadwin Gym on Feb. 10, they would have played 15 of 17 games away from home.

Perhaps the stretch of suitcase sojourns has toughed them up: North Carolina, Boston, Albany, Tallahassee. They will find out in Ithaca tonight and uptown Manhattan tomorrow night.

Princeton, which has won eight of its last 10, takes a 9-7 record to Cornell tonight to open the Ivy League season. The Big Red (5-9) have had their own road issues, having dropped their last five in a six-game stretch.

The Tigers won there last year 57-55 with help coming at the free-throw line, where they went 16 of 19.

They sent Columbia downtown last season 76-46, with Ian Hummer putting up 25 and 12 as they shot 57 percent. The Lions are playing better this season (11-5), with one loss at Connecticut by 13 points.

Hummer again leads Princeton with 17.9 points per game and 7.9 rebounds. Douglas Davis is averaging 13.8.

“I feel like we’re in a slightly better position now than we were a month ago,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said the other day. “We had a rough start (1-5).

“What we’re seeing now is more balance; certainly on the offensive end. We’ve gotten good production out of Ian Hummer and Doug Davis, but the rest of the team is starting to come along a little bit. I kind of like where we are going into league play.”

In five of the past six games, they have hit 40 percent or higher on 3-pointers, yet free throws continue to be a problem. The team is a collective .629 from the line. The Tigers can go 13 of 18 against Florida State, then a combined 22 of 39 against Florida A&M and TCNJ.

And then there are games when they get to the free-throw line only six times.

Still, overall Princeton seems ready to get after the Harvards and Penns of the league.

“We learned a lot about ourselves early and made a lot of adjustments,” Henderson said. “I think we’ve taken advantage of our size, and I hope in league play it will show up more.”

The team is shooting a decent .434, but the rebounding numbers are only 34.8 to 33.9, Princeton plus-0.9.

Regardless, the numbers would seem to add up for Princeton this weekend. Its history with these two opponents is 275 wins and 162 defeats.

At Cornell — which has averaged 1,777 in home attendance — only one player hits in double figures. Senior guard Drew Ferry scores 13.8 per game. Shonn Miller, 6-foot-7, leads with 6.3 rebounds.

Columbia has two players in double figures: guards Brian Barbour (14.3) and Melko Lyles (10.6). Mark Cisco, 6-foot-9, grabs 6.6 boards per outing.

There is even less noise in its gym, as an average of 738 fans have taken in their games.

Princeton is off for two weeks after that, visiting Penn (7-9) on Jan. 30, then traveling to Brown (5-11) and Yale (10-4) on the weekend of Feb. 3-4.

The Tigers expect to be making a lot of noise by then.

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