Princeton shot just 2-for-11 from deep, got outscored by double-digits in second-chance and fastbreak points and didn’t score a field goal in the game’s final 6:37.
And yet the Tigers never trailed en route to a surprisingly easy 78-64 win over Penn at the Palestra Saturday night, their sixth win there against Penn in six seasons (including their 2017 Ivy League Tournament quarterfinal victory).
So what did Penn (7-5, 0-1 Ivy) do wrong against Princeton (5-8, 1-0) this time?
Losing in isolation inside
AJ Brodeur had more success defending Richmond Aririguzoh in the paint as the game went on, but Aririguzoh set the tone early with eight points in the first 9:52, working Brodeur in the post. Eight of Ryan Schwieger’s 16 first-half points came off layups, and six more points off layups followed for Schwieger in the second stanza. (Schwieger finished with a career-high 27 points.) Princeton coach Mitch Henderson clearly liked matching Schwieger up to attack in isolation, dispensing with unnecessary ball rotation and just letting him (and a deceptively quick Jaelin Llewellyn) penetrate Penn’s defense repeatedly.
“That’s the way they thought they could go at us with post-ups,” Steve Donahue said, per the Daily Pennsylvanian. “We didn’t do a good job guarding them for sure.”
The Tigers dished just seven assists on the night, including only two on 15 first-half field goals. Ball movement didn’t win the day. Bully ball did.
While Princeton made 20 of 29 layup attempts Saturday night, Penn converted on just 12 of its 23 layup tries. Although the Tigers shot just 18.2% from long range, Penn managed an even worse clip, 13%, trying more than twice as many triples, 23. Penn made only three treys, and only Jordan Dingle looked like he could be on the verge of any kind of shooting rhythm whatsoever even though Dingle and company got plenty of open looks. Penn is now 14-for-64 (21.9%) from deep in its last three games against Princeton, and it’s not surprising that they’ve all been losses. (There were ample open looks in Penn’s defeats last year too.)
Some of Brodeur’s misses were forced attempts destined to rim out or get nothing but air. Brodeur was an unusually inefficient 5-for-16 (31.3%) from the field.
“[Brodeur] took some shots where he just really pressed, because he wanted to score and took more difficult shots then he needed,” Donahue said per the Daily Pennsylvanian.
What Penn must do now
With just six days between matchups, Penn won’t have to wait long to avenge this loss. But in the rematch with Princeton, Penn will have to work toward a game with more movement pretty much everywhere. Better positioning on post-ups and doubling when necessary to encourage kick-outs could bring Princeton’s field goal percentage down and allow for more transition buckets for Penn at the other end of the floor. And then there’s the goal of just plain shooting the ball better.
Donahue observed that his team looked tight, and an alarming number of short-armed layup attempts and hurried threes appeared to back that up. Penn has started 0-3 in Ivy play in three of Steve Donahue’s four seasons at the helm, and to avoid falling two thirds of the way there Friday, his team has to loosen up on offense and tighten up on defense. Easier said than done.