The Ivy League launched the 2019-20 campaign with an impressive 5-2 men’s record on opening night, highlighted by Penn’s nail-biter at Alabama, 81-80. (Dartmouth was idle.)
The evening’s lowlight occurred at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, where the Tigers collapsed in the second half, losing to A-10 foe Duquesne, 94-67.
Coming off a 19-win season, the Dukes are looking for more from terrific returnees Sincere Carry and Marcus Weathers, who combined for 39 points and 12 rebounds, mostly in the second-half runaway. Grad transfer Baylee Steele, a 6’ 10” big man appearing for his third school, came off the bench to score 19 points, including 3-for-5 from deep.
Princeton’s first half reminded many observers of the second-half performance against Yale in the Ivy Tournament. Behind four first-half threes from surprise starter and State College product Drew Friberg, the Tigers raced out to a 20-9 lead. For the game Friberg played a career high 35 minutes, tied for the scoring lead with Richmond Aririguzoh (19), and corralled five rebounds. RA played 30 minutes, shot 8-for-10 from the field and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. If possible, he looks even better than last season. Jaelin Llewellyn ran the offense with confidence and appeared to shake off last season’s shooting woes with a 7-for-14 night from the field.
The Tigers managed a 42-37 lead at halftime, an excellent performance that will be overlooked, followed as it was by the dismal second half. The Dukes made enough adjustments after the break to more than right the ship. Taking advantage of superior size, strength and speed, Duquesne blistered the Tigers in the second stanza, 57-25. The home team shot 23-for-36 after the break, including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc.
Turning up the defensive intensity, the Dukes held the Tigers to 10-for-28 from the field and an abysmal 1-for-10 from deep, a sad reminder of last season’s worst-in-the-Ivy performance.
Henderson has always used the out-of-conference to find out what kind of team he has. Obviously Friberg’s night was a very pleasant surprise. But this game raised far more questions than it answered. Friberg started in place of Jerome Desrosiers, one of last year’s major contributors, who got on the floor for an inconsequential seven minutes. Ryan Schwieger started but left the game after six minutes, apparently suffering from an undisclosed injury. Bench sparkplug Jose Morales turned the ball over three times in 13 minutes, nearly a double-figure rate projected over a full game. The oft-injured Ethan Wright remains at less than 100%, limited to 14 mostly unproductive minutes. Max Johns did not score in 28 minutes but did contribute a team-high four assists.
Senior big man Will Gladson, after losing his junior year to knee miseries, was on the bench but not in uniform. For the Tigers to prosper, help for RA must be found. Freshman Keeshawn Kellman, at 6’ 9” and 245 pounds, demonstrated last night why he may be the answer to that issue. He got into the game during garbage time, making an immediate impact by scoring six points and gathering five offensive rebounds in six minutes.
The Tigers travel to San Francisco Saturday to meet the Dons at Chase Center. The Yale Bulldogs, who escaped last night with an 74-69 overtime win against Stony Brook, play the Dons next Monday. While early-season comparisons against common foes are frequently meaningless, we shall all be looking very closely at the results.