Princeton beat Saint Peter’s in the first game at Dillon Gym since 1969. (Beverly Schaefer)
Princeton beat Saint Peter’s in the first game at Dillon Gym since 1969. (Beverly Schaefer)

Princeton men’s basketball took a lead in the opening seconds against Saint Peter’s Saturday night and kept the edge for the rest of the game’s 40 minutes. But while the Tigers never trailed, they also never pulled away, holding off a series of late charges by the Peacocks to win 75-72 in the first game at Dillon Gym since 1969.

Forward Henry Caruso ’17 scored 20 points in the second half, tying a career-high of 23 points in the game, on 7-for-9 shooting. He added eight rebounds as well. Starting in place of Hans Brase ’16, who suffered a season-ending knee injury just before the Nov. 13 opener at Rider, Caruso showed a knack for working his way inside against the Saint Peter’s defense.

“Henry saved us in a lot of different ways, getting to the rim,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said. “Our defense has been very good so far but tonight let us down a little bit, just lapses — but overall, happy to get a win.”

Princeton (2-0) scored more than half of its points in the paint, a significant development for a team that launched 46 percent of its shots from behind the three-point arc last year.

“We’ve got to go inside, because eventually you’re going to play some ugly games,” Henderson said. “Last year we got a little perimeter happy, so we’ve put a lot of emphasis on that.”

President Eisgruber ’83 poses with Mitch Henderson ’98, who wore a Class of ’83 Reunions blazer for the game at Dillon. (Beverly Schaefer)

Point guard Amir Bell ’18 (12 points) and small forward Steven Cook ’17 (nine points) joined Caruso with aggressive drives to the basket. The interior scoring made up for poor three-point shooting (1-for-7 in the second half) and uncharacteristic struggles from the foul line (20-for-38 on free throws). Saint Peter’s, meanwhile, shot 5-for-10 on three-pointers in the second half, keeping the Peacocks in the game until a last-second heave from half-court drifted wide of the rim.

A vocal sellout crowd of 1,306 filled Dillon, which served as the varsity gym from 1947 until the opening of Jadwin in 1969. When PAW compiled an oral history of the 1965 Final Four team, more than one of the alumni interviewed recalled Dillon as a “pit,” in a good way — a place where players could sense the energy of the crowd, just a few feet away. (About 3,000 fans would cram into the Dillon bleachers in those days.)

On Saturday, the Tigers saw glimpses of that environment, with students standing on risers that stretched the entire length of one sideline. Princeton wore orange “throwback” uniforms, Henderson donned a Class of ’83 Reunions blazer with alternating orange and black stripes, and Pete Carril, the last coach to pace the Dillon sidelines, sat in the front row with basketball alumni Gary Walters ’67, Ed Hummer ’67, and John Hummer ’70.

“It was great to have a packed venue,” said Caruso, the star of the game. “I thought we really fed off that.”

Quick Takes

Thomas Nelson ’16 scored four goals as men’s water polo edged Johns Hopkins 7-6 on Sunday to win the Collegiate Water Polo Association championship and earn the league’s bid to the six-team NCAA Championships field.

Princeton and Harvard, the Ivy League women’s volleyball co-champions, faced off Nov. 20 in Cambridge for the right to represent the league in the NCAA Championships. The Tigers won the opening set, 25-20, but the Crimson came back to sweep the next three and earn the postseason berth.

Led by Lizzie Bird ’17’s 58th-place finish, the women’s cross country team placed 21st in the team standings at the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 21.

Princeton football dropped its third straight game, 17-10 at Dartmouth, to finish the season 5-5 overall and 2-5 in Ivy games. The Big Green shared the Ivy title with Harvard and Penn. All three finished the league season 6-1.

Women’s soccer dropped a 3-0 game to Southern California in the second round of the NCAA College Cup Nov. 20. It was the Tigers’ first loss since Sept. 10.

Colton Phinney ’17 saved 31 shots as men’s hockey shut out No. 20 Clarkson at Baker Rink Nov. 21. The Tigers split their weekend games, falling 5-1 to No. 14 St. Lawrence Nov. 20.