Princeton ekes past Dartmouth, 69-68

Princeton’s Tigers and Dartmouth’s Big Green staged another Ivy League street fight Saturday night at Jadwin Gymnasium.

Princeton survived, 69-68, despite going cold from deep and another memorable shooting night performance from Dartmouth junior guard and New Jersey native Brendan Barry.

Once again, Richmond Aririguzoh was the best player on the floor for the home club, nabbing a decisive offensive rebound with 19 seconds left that helped Princeton build a three-point lead that Barry couldn’t erase, missing a trey with seven ticks to go that led to a Chris Knight putback that cut the Tiger lead to one, too little and too late.

. He wrote another page in his lengthening application for first-team All-Ivy honors with 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. His scoring came very efficiently: 7-for-9 from the floor, 4-for-5 from the free throw line.

Barry canned 26 for the Big Green, including four three-pointers, and shot 10-for-17 from the floor. Barry remains among the nation’s leaders in three-point accuracy.

Princeton got off to a good start, for a change, as it appeared the “Saturday night road back-to-back” syndrome may have found another victim. After five minutes, a welcome three-pointer from Myles Stephens gave the Tigers an early 11-2 advantage. But there are no nights off in this year’s Ivy League schedule. Midway through the first period Dartmouth drew even at 13-13. While the scoring pace picked up for both teams for the rest of the opening half, neither could create much separation. Five points from RA in the closing two minutes sent the Tigers to the locker room with a 37-32 lead. RA and Stephens combined for 20 points while Dartmouth’s dazzling duo of Barry and James Foye shared 21.

Any hopes that the Tigers might coast a bit in the second half were very quickly dashed when Dartmouth notched the first eight tallies to retake the lead at 40-37. Two long Barry threes helped the Big Green to their biggest lead of the game, 49-44 at the 13:44 mark. Princeton suffered flashbacks to Bryce Aiken’s second-half splurge of the previous evening.

The Tigers, determined to defend their home court, hung tough thanks to some great defense at the rim and rebounding by RA. A most welcome Jaelin Llewellyn three-pointer tied the score at 51 with 9:28 to go. With Devin Cannady continuing his struggles (0-for-3 from beyond the arc) it was crucial that Llewellyn find his stroke. He did, shooting 60 percent from the floor, on his way to 14 points for the game.

Meanwhile, Barry, with some quality help from Foye, kept the Big Green in it.

With four minutes left, Barry hit a long three over Llewellyn, putting Dartmouth up, 61-57. Llewellyn countered with a layup and one reducing the lead to one. Barry continued his abuse of the Tiger defense, drawing Llewellyn’s fourth personal. Barry naturally made both free throws, and coach Mitch Henderson assigned Stephens the task of defending Barry for the remainder of the game, as Llewellyn’s offense was too important to risk another personal. A Llewellyn layup followed by a great defensive effort from Max Johns, a freshman who has drawn some quality minutes lately, resulted in two foul shot attempts by RA. He made them both to give the Tigers a 64-63 lead at 2:40.

A Chris Knight free throw tied the score. Cannady then threaded a beautiful pass to Stephens underneath for the lead. Stephens harassed Barry at the other end into a rare miss. Max Johns grabbed the rebound. The Tigers looked for RA down low and found him for a layup. 68-64 with 1:08 to go. Twenty seconds later, a Foye layup reduced the lead to two. A Stephens miss set off a wild scramble for what everyone realized would be the decisive rebound. Somehow RA , in the middle of what appeared to be the Big Green roster, came up with the ball. He was fouled and converted one of two, rendering Knight’s layup at the end of the game meaningless.

Once again, the statistical battle was pretty much a dead heat. The Tigers’ struggles from beyond the arc (4-for-18) continue. One of the factors aiding the Tigers on this night was their ability to defend the three-point line. The Big Green were held to 12 attempts from deep and, aside from Barry’s four makes, the other Dartmouth shooters didn’t hit much. Henderson noted that his perimeter defenders are well aware of the inside help they get from RA, allowing them to cover the arc aggressively. Stephens had another great night (17 points, eight rebounds), as did Llewellyn, as noted.

Max Johns enjoyed what might be a breakout performance for the freshman from High Point, N.C. He played 17 minutes, canned a huge three and made three steals. In an interview earlier in the week Johns showed the maturity of an upperclassman, explaining  that he understood his role to make the team better, particularly on defense, if given an opportunity. One senses that he will have lots of opportunities the rest of the way.

Cornell’s weekend split sets up a terrific battle next Friday between Brian Earl’s Big Red and the Tigers, who will come into the game tied for third place in the Ivy race at 5-3. In their last two games against each other these teams have played four overtime periods. You can expect the next one to go down to the wire.

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