Like its game Tuesday night in Alicante, the Princeton men's basketball team led early, only to see its professional Spanish competition roar back and put the Tigers in too deep a deficit.
In the team's final game of the Spain trip, Princeton fell to Melilla Baloncesto 79-76 Thursday night in Torrejon de Ardoz, Spain.
The basketball portion of the trip ends with Princeton's record at 1-3 against various levels of Spanish professional basketball teams, facing players as young as 17 and as old as 46 but mainly opponents several years older than any current Tiger.
Princeton's comeback against Melilla, a team based a city of the same name on Spanish land carved out of the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, was an improbable one.
The Tigers shot out to an earlty 13-4 lead less than five minutes into the game but saw Melilla run off 11 straight points, part of Melilla's scoring 22 of the next 24 points, to gain a cushion. Melilla's lead, which was as high as 18 on a bucket by 33-year-old Spaniard Francis Sanchez with 5:27 to play, didn't get below eight points until Princeton's frenetic late comeback.
Princeton went on a 13-0 run over four minutes to make it a 77-72 game with 1:20 to play, but the Tigers were never able to quite close the gap. Princeton had the ball down three on the final possession, but Melilla fouled Chris Clement before he could potentially attempt a game-tying three pointer.
Clement, a junior guard with 18 points, and Sanchez, with 25, were their teams' leading scorers on the game, as Princeton had four players in double figures. Senior forward Ian Hummer chipped in 14 points, while junior forward Will Barrett had his second straight double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Clay Wilson added 10 points.
Melilla's making more of its opportunities helped it to the win, as the Spanish club shot 46.9 percent (30 of 64) on the night, better than Princeton's 39.5 percent (30 of 76). The Tigers were cold from three-point range, hitting just 4 of 25. The Tigers managed forcing 20 Melilla turnovers while comitting just 12 of their own, also grabbing 13 steals.
While the game was the last official activity of the day, most of Princeton's Thursday revolved around the pitch rather than the hardwood. The Tigers began the day with a ride to Real Madrid's soccer practice facility on the outskirts of the Spanish capital, followed by a tour of the team's monolithic home stadium, Santiago Bernabeu. With that, the Tigers have been in the facilities on both sides of the multi-annual El Clasico after having seen an FC Barcelona game last Sunday at Camp Nou.
Friday, Princeton will head to the Royal Palace in Madrid for an official tour before taking in the sights at their leisure. Saturday, the team will visit the Prado Museum art exhibits, and Sunday will bring the team's return to the Garden State.
Below, Ian Hummer contributes the daily blog entry for Thursday.
Hola a todos!
It's hard to believe but our trip is almost over. In looking back on yesterday, which was our eighth of the trip, all I can say is wow. As we do everyday, the whole team gears up for a full day of travel by coming down early to eat breakfast. While it is usually hard to make college kids ge up early for anything, many of us are eager to eat breakfast, not only because it is free but also because the quality of the food is just so amazing. After eating, our entire group headed down to an area that very few people get to see, the practice facility of Real Madrid. With the help of out wonderful tour guide Pablo, we were able to get a behind-the-scenes look at what makes Real Madrid one of the most successful soccer teams in the world. Being that many of my teammates, especially Mack [Darrow], are huge soccer fans, the magnitude of this opportunity was not lost on them. However, due to the secret nature of where we were, we were not allowed to take photos during certain portions of the tour over fear of revealing too many secrets. While it was kind of sad that we were not able to see the locker room because some of the players were still milling around, the tour was still something to remember.
After we left the practice facility, we headed over to the stadium where Real Madrid plays. While not as big as the stadium in Barcelona, the overall look of the stadium in my opinion is better. Once again our tour guide Pablo outdid himself by taking us on a guided tour all around the stadium which included trips to the upper decks and the field. After leaving both sites, we headed back to our hotel where our pregame meal was set up in the middle of the square outside our hotel.
In respect to the game, our team played very well. While we were not able to quite comeback from the deficit, the team fought to the very end. After our game however, the team once again spent the night relaxing in the square outside out hotel. With multiple one-Euro hotdogs and drinks in front of us, many of my teammates including myself spent most of the night just talking and laughing with each other. With the eighth day of our trip now in the books, all of us wish it would never end. In fact, I don't think I would have chosen a better city to end our trip than Madrid. No matter what happens in our last few days, this trip has definitely been one to remember. I think I can speak for all my teammates when I say thank you to all those who helped us make this trip possible. Without you, these memories and experiences would never have happened. Mucho gracias.