Princeton is still searching for a rotation after Indiana loss

The Tigers arrived in Bloomington to meet the Indiana Hoosiers as 18-point underdogs. Off to a 4-0 start under Archie Miller, the Hoosiers have fired up their rabid fan base fueling hopes of a return to contention at the top of the Big Ten. With low expectations regarding the outcome, Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was prepared to use the game as an opportunity to continue his search for a reliable rotation.In the continuing absence of scorer Ryan Schwieger, tonight’s wrinkle involved the first career start of freshman Tosan Evbuomwan (hereafter “Tosan”), a rangy 6’6” player from England. He was joined in the starting lineup by Richmond Aririguzoh, Jaelin Llewellyn, Drew Friberg and fellow freshman Ryan Langborg.

Although Llewellyn got off to a slow start, the Tigers found some defensive stability overcoming an early 17-11 deficit to seize the lead at 19-18 at the eight-minute mark. The Hoosiers had not faced a similar situation in any of their three prior wins, all at Assembly Hall. At this point Llewellyn found his stride, flashing his truly unique offensive skill set to keep the Tigers very much in this contest. Two last-minute baskets sent the Hoosiers to the locker room nursing a narrow 35-31 lead.

Henderson was very much encouraged by his team’s defense over the first 20 minutes. The offense was another story. RA was limited by two early personals and by the outstanding play of Indiana big man, graduate transfer Joey Brunk. Brunk put on a post play clinic as he scored 16 points in 25 minutes. Llewellyn’s 13 first-half points gave the Tigers a ray of hope.

The Indiana broadcasters on the Big Ten Network noted that Miller kept his players in the locker room for almost the entire intermission, speculating that it was probably a most uncomfortable environment for the players. Whatever Miller said to his club, it worked.

The Hoosiers quickly claimed the momentum in the second period, employing their superior quickness at both ends of the court, turning a most interesting game into the rout anticipated by the oddsmakers. Neither RA nor Llewellyn was a factor in the second half, nor was the Tiger defense. The Hoosiers exploded for 44 while limiting the Tigers to a paltry 23. The final score was 79-54.

Three Tigers reached double figures: Llewellyn (15), and the freshmen Langborg (13) and Tosan (10). In terms of benefits from the game Henderson can point to his club’s defensive play in the first half, perhaps  its best sustained effort so far. Shooting remains a serious problem. Princeton shot 37% from the field and a miserable 6-for-27 from deep.

It is apparent the RA will not sneak up on anyone going forward. He has established himself as a deadly weapon close to the basket. When teams adjust to him, it will leave opportunities for other players to score. To take advantage the Tigers must shoot much more efficiently than they have to date, continuing a trend that crippled the team last season. Henderson remains confident in this group, noting that every one of his players has shown individual talent. He knows it’s his job to blend those individuals into a cohesive unit. It’s called coaching and it’s what he does best. The search for that elusive rotation continues, however, and one is not at all certain that this game offers many answers.

The Tigers’ challenging out-of-conference schedule continues next Tuesday when Arizona State visits Jadwin seeking revenge for last season’s monumental upset in Tempe.

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