Princeton men finish strong to best UMBC, powered by Elijah Barnes

Senior forward Elijah Barnes posted nine points in just decisive 13 minutes in the Tigers’ win over UMBC. (Princeton Athletics)

Princeton continued its recent hot streak Monday night, winning its fourth straight and ninth of 12 overall by dispatching the Retrievers of UMBC at Jadwin Gym, 89-77.

Although Princeton (9-3) was in charge, UMBC (5-5) was very much in it until the final six minutes.

The Retrievers could not get the lead in the opening period, although they managed to level the score on three occasions. An Ethan Wright three-pointer and two Jaelin Llewellyn free throws sent the Tigers to the locker room on the long end of the 42-39 score.

Against Lafayette on Saturday, Tosan Evboumwan struggled due to the superior length of the Leopard big men. On Monday night, Evboumwan did himself no favors by getting into early foul trouble, which limited him to 21 minutes of playing time. Freshman Mason Hooks has struggled of late, causing Mitch Henderson to turn to senior Elijah Barnes, the most popular player on the squad and a particular favorite of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. Barnes hails from Middletown.

Barnes responded heroically, with nine points, including a long three, in 13 minutes. He came up big in the final six minutes, when the Tigers were able to put this one away.

The Tigers started quickly in the second half. Layups by Llewellyn and Evbuomwan pushed the lead to eight, 47-39. The Retrievers hung around. With 11:31 left, UMBC crept to within four, 64-60.

Four minutes later, the score was tied at 71. Enter Elijah Barnes. A short jumper put the Tigers back in the lead. He followed that up with a thunderous two-handed dunk, and, for good measure, canned a long three to run the lead up to 10, 81-71.

The Tigers closed the game on 19-6 splash. Final score: 89-77.

For Princeton, aside from Barnes, the usual suspects played huge roles. Llewellyn continued his hot hand on offense, finding consistency in shooting that Henderson has been hoping to see. Llewellyn led the Tigers with 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field in 37 minutes. Henderson trusts him with the ball on every possession. His single turnover shows the wisdom of this.

Ethan Wright was once again simply outstanding. His fifth double-double of the season included 20 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. As noted, Evbuomwan was limited to 21 minutes but he made the most of them. He canned 18 points and dished out seven assists. Evbuomwan stands atop the Ivy League in that category.

Once again, the Tigers hit on more than 50% from the field, 35-for-68, and made 10 of 29 from deep. UMBC shot a respectable 46% from the field but was outscored by 12 from beyond the arc, The Tigers turned the ball over only six times, bringing a smile to Henderson’s face, while forcing the Retrievers into 13.

Hopefully, the Tigers can maintain this positive momentum through the exam break and into the Ivy schedule, now very much on the horizon.

The Tigers now adjourn for semester exams, with only a Division III matchup against Kean in the next 17 days.

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