Princeton scored its third postseason opening round win in as many tries in the College Basketball Invitational last Wednesday over Tulane in New Orleans. The Tigers (21-8 overall, 8-6 Ivy League) had knocked off Duquesne in 2010 and Evansville in 2012 before the 56-55 win over the Green Wave (17-17, 8-8 Conference USA). Despite what the final score might suggest, the game was never in serious jeopardy, as Princeton built a 14 point lead before a couple missed free throws and late threes cut the lead from seven in the final 31 seconds.
The Tigers never trailed and the game was never tied after a 9-1 run over three minutes made the score 24-16 with 6:29 left in the first half. The halftime score was 29-23, with Princeton shooting 44 percent to Tulane’s 34.8 percent. After five minutes of back and forth in the second half, junior guard Clay Wilson caught fire and hit three treys in four possessions to make the score 44-30 with 10:17 left. Tulane slowly chipped away at the lead, but ran out of time as Green Wave guard Jonathan Stark scored three of his game high 20 points with .3 left in the game to cap a 9-2 run in the last 1:26.
Turnovers plagued Tulane, recording 16 to Princeton’s 11, but the Green Wave made up for it by holding Princeton to 26 rebounds, its lowest total in two months. Both teams took 49 shots, but Princeton made 21, edging out Tulane’s 20. Sophomore forward Hans Brase led the Tigers with 16 points on seven-for-12 shooting with three steals to boot. Senior guard and captain T.J. Bray had an uncharacteristically low scoring night with just 12 points on four-of-nine shooting, but tallied nine assists, his highest total of 2014. Freshman forward Pete Miller grabbed a team high five rebounds in 14 minutes. For Tulane, forward Tre Drye tallied a game high eight rebounds and contributed 15 points and two steals as well.
“I thought we defended well, which is what we’ve been doing the last month and a half,” said head coach Mitch Henderson ’98. “They spread you out and are a hard team to guard in some ways.”
“I’ve only got so many games left in a Princeton uniform, so every game that we can play is awesome,” said Bray, who became the 30th Tiger to surpass the 1,000 career point mark. “Us seniors just want to keep playing as long as possible.”
Princeton plays at Fresno State in the quarterfinals tonight at 10 p.m. The Bulldogs (18-16, 9-9 Mountain West) took down UTEP 61-56 in El Paso on March 19 with 50 percent shooting in the second half. UTEP is 10-3 since Jan. 29, and recorded its most impressive result of the season, a 76-56 blowout of 21-win Boise State on Feb. 26. On the whole the Bulldogs have very middling stats. They’ve actually been outscored on the average against their Division I opponents by a margin of 72.2 to 71.4. They shoot a below average 42.6 percent overall, but make up for it with 36.1 percent shooting from distance, a top 100 mark. Their opponents shoot 50.6 and 32.0 percent on two- and three-point field goals, respectively. Fresno State’s offensive rebounding, similar to Princeton’s, is among the NCAA’s worst, as it comes down with just 23.5 percent of its missed shots. The one area the Bulldogs excel in is ball protection: they commit just 9.4 turnovers per game, the ninth lowest total in the nation. Individually, they are led by the backcourt duo of Tyler Johnson and Marvelle Harris, who combine for 30.5 points a contest. Surprisingly, these 6 foot 4 inch guards also lead the team in rebounding with 7.4 and 5.5 rebounds per game, respectively. Another guard, Cezar Guerrero, is the third leading scorer and leading assists and steals man with 3.74 and 1.38 per game, respectively.
The matchup as a whole looks to be a good one for Princeton, which has competed very well against teams it can out-rebound. If there’s one thing bringing the Tigers down, it’s the arduous 23 hours it took them to get to California.