Through 13 games this season, Princeton men’s basketball has shown a propensity for outside shooting, averaging more than 10 made three-pointers per game and firing from behind the arc at a school-record pace. Will Barrett ’14, the most prolific shooter for the 11-2 Tigers, said that the focus on three-pointers feels like a natural part of the offense.
“It’s so organic,” Barrett said. “It’s just the that way our team is: Everyone is trying to hunt for threes, and when people drive, we know how to shift and get the open shots.”
The Tigers, who open Ivy League play at Penn Jan. 11, seem to look for three-pointers, layups, and very little in between — and so far, that formula has worked well. Four players are averaging double-figures in scoring, and two more are close behind. T.J. Bray ’14, who missed four games with a hand injury, has returned in impressive form, averaging 17.2 points per game and dishing out 58 assists while turning the ball over just 13 times.
When looking at where the team can improve, Barrett turned to one of the most often-repeated phrases in sports: Defense wins championships. “I always just thought that was something that older people said to get you to play defense, but it’s actually true,” Barrett said. “The past few games, our defense has been up and down a bit, but we’ve shown in spurts that we can get five or six or seven stops in a row. We’ve got to continue that.”
The Princeton women, who also open their Ivy schedule at Penn Jan. 11, are eyeing defensive improvement as well. The Tigers (9-5) have won six of their last seven games, and leading scorer Blake Dietrick ’15 said that three wins in that stretch stand out: a 73-57 victory at Navy Dec. 6, which showed that Princeton could “defend as a unit”; and wins over Delaware and Drexel, which proved that the team could stay sharp in close games.
Dietrick has played a significant role in nearly every game, emerging as one of the nation’s leading three-point shooters by draining 44.6 percent of her attempts. She also helps to set the pace of the offense — a new responsibility that came with her new role as a full time starter.
Penn (8-2) is riding high after an upset win at Miami Jan. 1, so whichever team comes out on top Saturday will take an important early edge in the Ivy title chase.