Pacific (8-1) vs. Princeton (8-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 20, 10:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Arena & Equestrian Center (4,600) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: Pacific 4-0, Princeton 4-0. Away Record: Pacific 2-1, Princeton 4-1. Neutral Record: Pacific 2-0, Princeton 0-0. Conference Record: Pacific 0-0, Princeton 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Fresh off an improbable comeback victory, the Princeton Tigers will get set to mix it up in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic against the Pacific Tigers at the Arena & Equestrian Center in Las Vegas.
This is a quite a matchup based on overall record, as each of these teams is 8-1 entering play. The Tigers have reached such lofty heights with wins in their last four games. The most recent victory was not an overly impressive one, with the win coming over NAIA foe Menlo College (84-73). In the second day of the event Pacific will take on Bradley.
Somehow, some way, Princeton was able to rally from a 20-point deficit to eventually top Penn State, in overtime, 81-79 last Saturday. The win was the seventh straight for the Tigers, whose only loss was a 70-67 road stumble against Butler. Their next opponent in the Classic will be Portland.
Friday's matchup will be the first ever between these two programs.
Controlling the boards, especially the offensive variety, keyed Pacific to victory over Menlo. The Tigers had 20 offensive rebounds, which led to 21 second chance points. Meanwhile, Menlo had just five caroms on the offensive end.
Khalil Kelley led the way for the Tigers in the victory, scoring 27 points on 11-of-13 shooting, while collecting 11 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive glass. Kelley (8.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is normally a solid performer but such outbursts are not common for the senior forward. In fact there are four players averaging in double figures for the Tigers that are more consistent in that regard. Andre Bock (12.6 ppg), Tony Gill (12.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Sama Taku (12 ppg) do so as starters, while Ross Rivera (11.7 ppg) is a critical piece off the bench.
With 8:29 to play against Penn State, Princeton trailed, 56-36. The game was far from over however, as the Tigers were able to slash their deficit and even the score at 66-66, by closing the second half on a 30-10 run. The momentum carried into overtime when they connected on 3-6 attempts from the floor and 8-of-12 from the free-throw line to secure the victory.
As always the Tigers relied on balance during the contest, with five players scoring in double figures, led by 24 points from Will Barrett. On the season Princeton has five players in double figures, with T.J. Bray (15 ppg, 7.2 apg) normally the top scoring option. Bray is also a talented distributor. Hans Brase (12.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) represents the second-best scoring option, while Denton Koon (11.7 ppg), Barrett (11.1 ppg) and Ben Hazel (10.8 ppg) all contribute as well. The Tigers will have some added depth on Friday as Jimmy Sherburne (7.2 ppg) is expected to return after a three-game suspension.
A major deciding factor in this game will be whether or not Princeton can get back up after such an emotional win over Penn State. With nearly a week to recover and some fresh legs from Sherburne, they should be focused and ready to knock off Pacific.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Princeton 74, Pacific 72
12/20 10:31:47 ET