Princeton done in by second-half collapse at Duquesne

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.

4 thoughts on “Princeton done in by second-half collapse at Duquesne”

  1. Excellent recap, George. I don’t want to read too much into one game, especially when that one game is a season opener on the road, but last night’s game may have been revealing about the 2019-20 Tigers in a couple of significant ways.

    The big takeaway for me is that the team currently lacks depth. While Aririguzoh, Friberg, and Llwellyn all looked great last night, they received very little support from anyone else on the team. I know it’s only one game, but I’m concerned this team may not have many weapons beyond the big-3.

    The other issue is the defense. To me, the key to the game was Duquesne’s ability to shoot the three with impunity all night. We couldn’t run their shooters off the line even when it became obvious that they were killing us from behind the arc. Frankly, I was disappointed at the lack of adjustments on that issue.

    Again, I don’t want to sound too pessimistic, especially after only one game. There certainly were significant positives from last night, including the way we executed in the first half. That was exhilarating to watch. I was especially happy to see Llewellyn finish his drives to the hoop. To me, that was a missing ingredient in his game at times last season, and it looks like he’s greatly improved in that area. (Next, he needs to work on his free throw shooting).

    Finally, to some degree, the blowout last night can be explained by Duquesne simply catching fire in the second half. If they play like that many times this year, they’re going to beat a lot of good teams in the A-10.

    So, overall, it was pretty disappointing to see Princeton get blown out the way they did last night. But there were some positives to build on and I’m confident there will be some exciting games and hopefully some big wins ahead. Go Tigers!

  2. I share your concerns re: depth. I wasn’t there so I could not find out anything about the rather surprising personnel usage.
    Llewellyn could do a lot of things in high school that he found difficult against college defenders. He will adjust to the stepped up environment and began to do so toward the end of last season. His performance against Yale demonstrated his great progress. That said, he can play a full game in 25-30 minutes, but not in 40. He plays hard every minute, but he needs some rest to maintain peak efficiency. Morales is not the answer to this issue, IMO, unless he remains in control. I recall at least two poor decisions on his part that resulted in easy baskets at the other end.
    We don’t know the injury status of Wright and Schwieger, nor can I explain the lack of time for DeRosiers. This team needs to take a lot of threes, make a decent percentage and trust RA, and perhaps Kellman, to clean up on the boards. It is troubling that the team in the second half bore no resemblance to the first half quintet that scored 42 points while yielding 37.
    I admire Mitch’s willingness to expose his kids to a national schedule, giving them opportunities to play in venues like Butler Fieldhouse, MSG, Cameron, Barclay’s Center and Chase Center. The list goes on and on. Wins and losses are far less important than the preparation for league play for which the OCC is designed. We all realize this. Issues will be identified. The question is: can they be resolved? After 8 seasons I am confident this guy knows what he is doing.
    Thank you for sharing your typically astute observations. Glad the new season is underway.

  3. I was pleasantly surprised to flip the car radio on as I headed home from work with the Tigers up 14. When I got home, I plunked down 49 bucks to purchase a year of ESPN+ only to witness one of the all time Princeton collapses—from 14 up to losing by 27 (although I turned it off when the Tigers went down 20).

    Being an eternal optimist, I saw much to be intrigued by this Much-less Tiger squad. Henderson and his assistants have a hell of a lot of work to do though.

  4. George: Completely agree on Morales. He can be an amazing spark plug but ball control is a huge issue with him. It’s not only the fact the he frequently commits TOs, it’s also how often they result in points for the other team. It would be interesting to see a stat on how often a player’s TO results in points. My guess is that Morales would “lead” in that category for Princeton. But again, I don’t want to dwell too much on the negatives. There are some great story lines yet to unfold for this team. How about the amazing Richard Aririguzoh? He just keeps getting better and better. And like you I have complete faith that Mitch and Company will find ways to improve this team. Go Tigers! Beat Dartmouth on Saturday!

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