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PRINCETON — The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
That seems obvious, but at Princeton, where some of the brightest and most quizzical minds gather, that can sometimes sound too simple.
Not for Matt Allocco.
“Sometimes at Princeton you have student-athletes who think the shortest distance between two points is a curve,” coach Mitch Henderson said. “Matt is like it’s a straight line. It is always, ‘yes, I’ll go that way; yes, I’ll do that.’ Always. It’s a joy.”
Allocco — to his coaches and teammates he’s Mush — is the team’s vocal leader. Mush is the nickname his father gave him as a kid because “I was always running my mouth.”
That hasn’t changed even though Allocco has grown into the 6-foot-4 starting point guard for an NCAA Tournament team.
Allocco and his teammates are preparing to face Arizona in a first-round game on Thursday in Sacrament after they captured the Ivy League Tournament title with a victory on Sunday over Yale.
“There’s still basketball to be played, which is the beauty of it,” Allocco said. “We’re happy to be in this position, but I don’t think we’re satisfied.”
Henderson calls Allocco a relentless competitor. It’s why he often assigns him to defend the opponent’s best perimeter player.
In the Ivy semifinal, Allocco played all 40 minutes and even though he only scored four points, he spent the majority of time chasing around Penn’s Jordan Dingle. He guarded the nation’s second-leading scorer to 19 points, four below his average, and to 1-of-6 on 3-pointers.
“You can feel his presence on the court, and I’m sure you can see it, too,” Henderson said. “He’s getting everything out of himself.”
In the Ivy final, Allocco had 15 points and seven rebounds, including a clutch jumper and free throws in the final three minutes to help hold off a late Yale push.
“The mindset is always to just win the game,” said Allocco, who was a Second Team All-Ivy selection. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as you are winning at the end of the game.”
Against Arizona, the Tigers face a team that is bigger and more athletic.
Just don’t count them out.
“I’m expecting it to be a great game,” Allocco said. “We’re going to compete.”
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