Brown Hangs Around, Tops Men's Basketball, 57-54 (with video)
But after how Saturday night played out in Jadwin Gym, such a consolatory note doesn't quite soothe the pain after a three-point upset loss to Brown, 57-54.
How the Tigers arrived at the defeat makes the loss that much more difficult to take.
"In terms of the effort, it just wasn't there tonight," senior captain Marcus Schroeder said. "No matter if you win or lose, you want to hold your head high just because you played hard and gave the best effort you could. Tonight we just didn't do that, so it's tough."
Video: Sydney Johnson, Marcus Schroeder and Kareem Maddox in the postgame press conference.
All season, head coach Sydney Johnson has said that the Tigers will be in games when the offense wasn't working quite right as long as his team played strong defense. Princeton fell short on both sides, and the result was a loss.
"We made a few shots early, but I think our players know we didn't play hard," said Johnson, the Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green '40 head coach of men's basketball. "We just didn't play hard. We made a few shots and so we got a lead, but the effort is about as bad as it's been all year."
Princeton hit on five of its first nine shots to open a 12-4 lead less than eight minutes into the game, but Brown (10-17, 4-6 Ivy) refused to wilt. The Bears went on a 10-2 run to tie it.
Even an 8-0 run to close the half couldn't spark the Tigers, who lost their first game this season when leading at the halftime break after winning 12 such contests.
Princeton's last significant lead was seven points less than a minute into the second half after a Douglas Davis three-pointer put the Tigers ahead 33-26.
Brown answered by scoring the next six points, and no team led by more than four points the rest of the way in a game that saw 12 ties and seven lead changes.
The Bears ended the game shooting 57.6 percent, the highest percentage for a Princeton opponent since Harvard hit 58.5 percent of its shots last season in Cambridge.
The key difference in that contest was that Princeton shot 56.8 percent and won. Saturday night against Brown, going 22 of 53 from the field (.415) and 6 of 25 from three-point range (.240) wasn't enough compared to what the Tigers were giving up.
"We broke down a number of times defensively in areas that we addressed as a team," Johnson said. "We just didn't respond and we didn't correct them, so we lost."
The loss overshadowed a 17-point performance from Schroeder that tied a career high from late in his freshman season of 2007. Despite leading all scorers, Schroeder was not immune from being off-target on offense, hitting 7 of 16 overall and 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.
"I wish I made a few more," Schroeder said.
Princeton (16-7, 7-2) will head to Cornell for a game that, before tonight, was for control of the Ivy race with just a handful of games remaining. Now that the loss to Brown cancels out the advantage gained by Cornell's loss to Penn last weekend, the Big Red have the upper hand after winning at Jadwin Gym a week ago.
"We'll get to Sunday and Monday and we'll start preparing for Cornell and Columbia," Johnson said. "For right now, I think it's important that we look at this and learn from it."
If the lessons from Saturday night can take hold, the Tigers can still claim an Ivy League championship by winning out. But if performances like Princeton suffered against the Bears return, the goal of a conference title will have to wait for another winter.