10.03.09 Princeton bat Penn State par 59 à 56

Publié le par Jean-Marie Tartane

Men's Basketball Closes Season, Beats Penn 59-56 at The Palestra
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Palestra has seen larger crowds for more meaningful Princeton-Penn games, at least more meaningful as far as the Ivy League standings go.

But Sydney Johnson, the Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green '40 head coach of men's basketball, has been through enough of these games to know it isn't just about how many people are in the seats or whether the Ivy title is on the line. Those factors add to it, but at its core, it's still Penn against Princeton.

This time, for the first time in five years in The Palestra, Princeton came out on top, 59-56.

Johnson has lost in Penn's building more than he has won, coming up short his first three times as a player and his first time as a coach. It made Tuesday night's win that much sweeter.

"I can't put it into words," Johnson said. "If I tried, I'd probably break down."

Certainly, an Ivy League title chance would have been nice. If Princeton (13-14, 8-6 Ivy) had swept last weekend, the Tigers would be in position to tie Cornell with this win and force a one-game playoff.

"It's bittersweet," Johnson said of the near-miss of the regular-season finale having Ivy title implications. "But Princeton beat Penn, and I'll focus on that."

It was never more than a two-possession game. Princeton led by two at the half, 27-25, and led by six at 38-32 with 13:29 to play.

But Penn (10-18, 6-8) pulled ahead at 56-55 on a Jack Eggleston dunk with just under a minute to go, and for a moment The Palestra's home roar had every bit of the Penn-Princeton rivalry behind it.

Dan Mavraides converted two free throws on Princeton's next trip, Jason Briggs pulled down a rebound on an Eggleston missed three-pointer and Mavraides sealed it with two more from the stripe with 4.4 seconds left.

Mavraides, who scored a game-high 17 points, finished as Princeton's second-leading scorer as a sophomore a year after scoring 11 points in the whole of his rookie season.

Douglas Davis, a freshman who, with 10 points, was one of three players in double-figures for the Tigers, became the first freshman in program history to finish the season leading the team in scoring, at 12.3 points per game. His 333 points this season were the third-most for a freshman in Princeton history, behind Spencer Gloger's 336 in 2000 and Chris Young's 387 the year before. Davis outpaced the 329 scored by Kit Mueller, who went on to become the program's career runner-up in scoring.

The victory also gives Princeton its first winning Ivy League season since 2006, its most wins overall since 2005, its first second-place finish in the Ivy League since 2006 (rebounding from two finishes at the bottom of the Ivy standings in 2007 and 2008), an end to a five-game losing streak to Penn overall and a stop to a four-game skid at The Palestra.

So, there are all of those superlatives to celebrate. But Johnson called the win bittersweet for a reason, and the Tigers will work toward giving the regular-season finale more meaning in the Ivy standings in 2010. There are plenty of areas to work on, and Johnson and Mavraides took a moment to point out the 16 offensive rebounds Penn pulled down.

"We didn't do a great job with that," Mavraides said, no doubt also remembering that Penn grabbed 18 boards in an overtime win at Jadwin Gym last month. "We did end up pulling the game out, but that's something we're going to work on."

The offseason will be long and the work plentiful, but closing the season with a win over a rival makes that time pass just a little more smoothly.

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