Winner of six of its last seven games before the exam break, the Princeton men’s basketball team headed into Ivy League competition with the most nonconference victories since the Tigers’ 2006-07 season.
“Relative to where we’ve been the last couple of years, we’ve gotten some road wins that I think are important,” head coach Sydney Johnson ’97 said. “We’ve had some uneven performances at home, and we’ve got to fix that. We’ve slightly improved defensively from start to finish.”
Princeton (8-5) won four times in its first eight tries away from Jadwin Gym, taking two of three road games during a rapid-fire stint of three games in five days. The Tigers’ meeting at the Univeristy of Maine, originally scheduled for Dec. 20, was postponed by a blizzard and rescheduled snugly between the Tigers’ January trips to St. Joseph’s and Marist.
For the second straight season, the Tigers are led on offense by 5-foot-11-inch guard Douglas Davis ’12, who averages 13.4 points per game and has converted 29 3-pointers, a team best. Davis is complemented by Dan Mavraides ’11, a versatile forward who averages 12.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Defeating Atlantic-10 foe St. Joseph’s 70–62 on the road Jan. 2 was the highlight of Princeton’s 6–1 stretch in December and January. Mavraides set up Davis for jump shots on consecutive drive-and-dish plays with just over four minutes remaining and Davis converted, boosting a tenuous Tiger lead to a 58-48 advantage.
“Those were some excellent kicks from Dan,” Davis said. “He drove to the basket, and I was able to find an open spot where he could see me.” Mavraides added that when Davis is open, “there’s no better guy to kick it to.”
Princeton dropped its next game 48 hours later at Maine, 52-50. The cold-shooting Tigers trailed for the entire second half but mounted a frantic comeback in the final minute that nearly forced overtime. Nick Lake ’10 tracked down junior Kareem Maddox’s intentional miss from the free-throw line, but Lake’s desperation jumper at the buzzer was just off the mark.
The Tigers closed their Division I nonconference slate with a 77-58 domination of Marist Jan. 6. Patrick Saunders ’12 was a perfect 8-8 from the field and 5-5 behind the arc, finishing with a game-best 21 points while playing 22 minutes. Saunders’ eight field goals without a miss matched Kit Mueller ’91 for the second-best single-game shooting performance in team history.
Princeton’s Ivy schedule opens with four consecutive road games at Brown, Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth. The Tigers return to Jadwin to face Columbia and Cornell Feb. 12 and 13.
“I think that if we can hold on to our defense, we can continue to have a flow like these guys did on offense [against Marist], and be competitive on the road, we’ll be all right,” said Johnson. “If we can’t check those three boxes, we’ll probably be disappointed come March.”
Jon Solomon is the editor of princetonbasketball.com.