PRINCETON, N.J. -- So many players have participated in the historic Penn-Princeton rivalry over the past century, and when Penn freshmen Tony Hicks and Darien Nelson-Henry got a chance to be a part of it themselves, they made the most of the opportunity.
As for the rest of the Quakers, well, thats another story.
Hicks and Nelson-Henry combined for more than half of Penns points as Princeton coasted past the sputtering Quakers, 65-53, in an earlier-than-usual Ivy League opener Saturday at Jadwin Gym (see Instant Replay).
I cant say tonight we played with the right sense of urgency as far as rebounding, defending, taking care of the basketball, doing all the little things it takes in order to win on the road, Penn head coach Jerome Allen said. Without trying to put too much emphasis on the rivalry or it being our first league game, I just did not think we had the right focus that it would have taken to win this game.
Allen has been singing a similar tune throughout much of the season about the Quakers (2-13 overall, 0-1 Ivy League), who have now lost eight straight. And for good reason.
On defense, Penn allowed Princeton to shoot open three-pointers all game -- and the Tigers made half of them (11 for 22). On offense, Penn couldnt get hot from long range itself, missed open layups and continued to turn the ball over in large chunks.
Princeton has now won seven of its last eight games against Penn in a rivalry that dates back to 1903. Penn leads the all-time series, 123-104.
For me, being a participant in this rivalry as a coach as well as a player, I question how hungry we are to compete for a championship, said Allen, who as a player led the Quakers to three straight Ivy titles from 1993-95. Im not really putting too much emphasis on them beating us seven out of eight times, but some might look at that as some kind of motivation. Or our first league game -- maybe thats the motivation.
Two players that certainly looked hungry were Hicks and Nelson-Henry. In the second half especially, Hicks drove past the slower Princeton defenders with ease, at one point scoring eight straight points for the Quakers. He finished with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in his first foray into the rivalry.
You know, its Penn-Princeton, the freshman from Chicago said. Me coming into the game, I didnt really know what to expect. I just tried to treat it like any other game.
Nelson-Henry added 11 points off the bench, shooting 5 for 7 from the floor.
No one else on Penn scored more than six points, as leading scorer Fran Dougherty missed his fifth straight game with mono and Miles Cartwright continued to slump to the tune of six points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Afterwards, Allen, whos often reluctant to praise individual players in a losing effort, said many nice things about Hicks and Nelson-Henry, while perhaps putting pressure on other players to play as well as those two rookies.
Most people tend to think freshmen arent supposed to lead, but were a collection of leaders, the Penn coach said. It doesnt necessarily have to be someone who has the longest tenure or is a senior. If youre a leader, youre a leader. You figure out ways to lead from the position youre in. And I just thought those two guys not so much gave us hope but played the way theyre capable of playing -- and thats a bright spot going forward.
Princeton, meanwhile, counted on their upperclassmen, with junior T.J. Bray pouring in a career-high 23 points on 6-for-11 shooting from three-point range.
Bray made four of those three-pointers in the first half to help the Tigers build a comfortable nine-point halftime lead and continued to make big shots as Princeton opened up a 20-point lead early in the second half.
From that point on, the Quakers never got within single digits.
Hes the brains of our operation out there, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson said of Bray. And hes often LeBron, too.
Princeton senior Ian Hummer, one of the frontrunners for Ivy League Player of the Year honors, chipped in with 13 points and six rebounds.
In an interesting and curious move, 6-foot-2 guard Steve Rennard guarded the 6-foot-7 Hummer for most of the game. And Hummer, who committed six turnovers, said it bothered him.
Even the refs talked to me about how surprised they were that he was guarding me, Hummer said. You gotta give to the kid. He did a great job. He frustrated me a lot and that led to some of my turnovers. Hes one of tougher guys I faced, even though I outweigh him by 100 pounds.
Sophomore Denton Koon added 10 points for the Tigers, who shot 49 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range to move to 7-7 on the season and 1-0 in the Ivy League.
Most people believe Princeton will compete with Harvard for an Ivy League championship, but Allen did not seem overly impressed with the Tigers.
I think theyre OK, the Penn coach said. We lost tonight as a direct function of what we did not do.
Dave Zeitlin covers college sports for CSNPhilly.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.