Princeton 71, Yale 52: Complete Performance From Cannady, Tigers

Devin Cannady’s minutes increased this season, as happens with many players who move from freshmen to sophomores in college basketball. His numbers have not, however. Last season, he torched opponents by shooting 45.6% on three-pointers (48.3% in Ivy League play) and 48.5% overall.

This season, although Cannady moved up from 11.6 to 12.6 points per game, he was shooting 37.9% from behind the arc and 41.0% overall. Amazingly, Princeton was winning anyway, 11 straight heading into Friday night’s game at Yale, which included a game two weeks ago at Harvard in which he was shutout on 0-8 shooting, and a 6-point performance at Penn three days later. In the first meeting against the Bulldogs, Cannady had seven points on 2-11 from the field as Yale nearly stole it before falling 66-58.

Offense isn’t everything, of course, and Cannady has helped the Tigers grab a two-game Ivy League lead in other ways, but there is one conference game that leaps off his stat page: the opener against Brown, where Cannady shredded the Bears for 29 points on 10-14 from the field, 7-9 from three. The result was a 97-66 bludgeoning for Princeton that set the tone for what it has done since.

So when Cannady came out on fire Friday, Yale was correct to be a bit concerned. Cannady had 20 by halftime as the Tigers got out to a fairly sizable lead early and never looked back in a relatively easy 71-52 win at Lee Amphitheater, a place where they hadn’t won in six years.

Cannady finished with 29 overall and was joined by Myles Stephens with 20 more as Stephens took advantage of the extra attention on Cannady to get to the rim whenever he pleased. Princeton (16-6, 9-0) does not have Henry Caruso or Hans Brase, both lost for the season with injuries, but they still have plenty of depth. Slowing things down (Princeton is now 324th in adjusted tempo) has made them look more like the Tigers of old: lots of dribble-screen handoffs and false motion.

“Last year, my role was different,” Cannady said. “I’m playing more minutes. I feel like the scouting report is probably out that I’m a shooter. At any point in time, anyone can put up 29 points and shot the ball well. We have a team full of, in my opinion, really good basketball players, and it’s very beneficial when you can come together as a unit.”

When they shoot like they did Friday (26-44 overall, 13-23 from three for a cool 73.9 eFG% against a normally stingy Yale defense), there will be no stopping them in the Ivy League, and they have a really good chance for the conference’s fourth NCAA Tournament win in six seasons.

“They played more zone this time, and a zone always has its weak spots, and I was able to find them,” Cannady said. “Then it was just knocking down the shots.”

But consistency will be the key. And as it stands this season, a bad shooting night by Cannady and friends in Philadelphia in three weeks could mean an entire season of wins would only be good enough for the NIT. Of course, that goes for any mid-major team come conference tournament time, a world the Ivy League now inhabits, for better or worse.

What else did we learn Friday night in New Haven?:

1) Don’t forget about the defense

Yale (14-8, 6-3) finished at 0.88 points per possession Friday in another plodding pace game by Princeton (59 possessions). It was the Bulldogs’ second slowest (and they don’t play fast anyway) contest of the season, the other against Virginia (56). Princeton looked a lot like Virginia (who has actually struggled of late) for much of the game, forcing a pair of shot clock violations in a two-minute span in the first half and making players like Alex Copeland and Miye Oni into some seriously high degree of difficulty on their shots, even ones they made.

Princeton (who also leads the Ivy in offense) now leads Harvard in defensive efficiency by .056 ppp, which is about as dominant as you get in nine games. A lineup with Amir Bell, Stephens, Cannady, and Spencer Weisz is just very tough to break down, and that has saved them and will continue to do so when their offense struggled. Alas, Princeton had it all going Friday.

“I thought we played on both sides of the ball very well,” Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. “We were able to get our hands on a lot of deflections. There’s a lot of guys that are very hard to guard on their team, but I thought we did a good job on a couple of their key guys.”

2) A little concern for Yale

It would still take quite the confluence of events to knock Yale out of the Ivy League Tournament, as they likely will need just one more win in their final five games to get the job done. But with two straight losses at home (particularly as sound as this beating was) and a red-hot Penn team coming into New Haven on Sunday, they could use a big performance to help their confidence.

“They have five guys that are all almost the same size and they do a great job of switching any time you run someone across, so the looks that we usually get offensive just weren’t there,” Yale coach James Jones said. “They did a good job of bodying us and keeping us out of the paint and just making it hard for us to score. We tried to force some things and it just wasn’t working.”

There was no real smoking gun Friday, either, except possibly in the hands of Cannady and Stephens. Yale gave up 1.27 ppp in the first half, then recorded just 0.77 ppp offensively in the second half. Trey Phills was 0-7 from the field, Jordan Bruner struggled mightily on offense, and even Miye Oni didn’t make a three (0-4) as the Bulldogs finished with eight assists (and 14 turnovers). Sunday should be interesting.

“I want to go right back at it,” Jones said of the odd (by Ivy standards) weekend day off. “Can we play right now?”

3) Zero offensive rebounds

Princeton finished the game with zero offensive rebounds, which is pretty hard to do when you think about it, a ball can go out of bounds off a defender in a rebound scramble, a lucky bounce, anything.

However, it is the eighth time (thanks to some quick work by Kevin Whitaker and www.sports-reference.com) this season it’s happened in a Division I contest including Liberty able to do it through overtime against Radford last month. With Princeton’s victory, teams that finish with no offensive rebounds are now 4-4 this season.

It’s not terribly alarming, by the way. Princeton doesn’t get many offensive rebounds anyway and had just two in the only defeat Yale had in Ivy League play last season, a 75-63 win at Jadwin Gym in February.

Game on from New Haven! #TMMLegacy

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