The Tigers claimed one of the four slots available in the Ivy League Tournament with a 71-49 thrashing of the Brown Bears in Providence last night. The key to the win was a signature defensive effort reminiscent of some of the best Tiger teams in the long and illustrious history of the program.
Princeton focused on the Bears’ formidable “Big Three” of Brandon Anderson, Zach Hunsaker and Tameneng Choh, holding the talented trio to a combined 33 points on 12-for-39 shooting from the field. No other Bear player scored more than six.
The game did not start out as a Tiger rout. Brown jumped out to a 5-0 early lead, but two Jaelin Llewellyn threes restored order after five minutes. Jerome Desrosiers and Drew Friberg came off the bench to spark a 9-0 Tiger surge giving the visitors an 18-10 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the opening period. Later, Desrosiers would feature prominently in a 13-0 Tiger run leading to a 40-28 halftime advantage.
Drew Friberg continued his hot streak in the second half. His long three at the 17:05 mark maintained the 12-point Tiger lead, but sparked a 14-0 run to put the game away. With eight minutes left and the score 56-33, Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was able to reach far down the bench.
For the first time in memory the Tiger bench outscored the starting lineup. Ryan Schwieger was held scoreless in 26 minutes, continuing a distressing slump over the past three weeks. His team-high six assists is an encouraging sign to Henderson, who is certain Schwieger is about to return to form. Last night, Desrosiers and Friberg picked up the slack neatly, combining for 25 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field, including 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. Each played about half the game.
Teams are figuring out how to defend Richmond Aririguzoh, at least to a certain point. The Bears limited him to seven shots, of which he made three but could not prevent him from grabbing a team-high nine rebounds and dishing out three assists.
With each game, Jaelin Llewellyn grips the leadership helm of this club just a little tighter. His three made three-pointers, 19 points and six rebounds versus only one turnover in 32 minutes filled out a most enviable stat line for the sophomore. He should be on his way to All-Ivy recognition.
Princeton enjoys basking in the glow of a well-earned tournament berth but remains motivated. This team’s work is far from over. Tonight’s visit to Yale offers an opportunity to avenge one of the worst home losses in this century. The Tigers are well aware that Yale stands in the way of every club striving to reach the Big Dance.
Then there is the little matter of tournament seeding. The Tigers are still in the running for the No. 1 seed and, with it, the chance to face a team they will have beaten twice this season. Come to think of it, be careful what you wish for!
Henderson deserves a lot of credit for keeping his squad together after a very disappointing start to the season. They have compiled an 8-3 League record with huge contributions from nine different players. They are deep, skillful and experienced, ready to play their best basketball in March. Happy Leap Day to all!