Princeton and Columbia squared off to open their 2022 Ivy League seasons before a Jadwin
Gymnasium crowd of about two dozen faculty, staff and several members of the Tiger women’s
team. They were treated to one of the best performances over an entire half that the Tigers
have managed thus far.
Led by Tosan Evbuomwan and Jaelin Llewellyn and aided by six three-pointers, the Tigers roared past the Lions in the second half to secure an 84-69 victory.
Before Princeton’s comeback, though, the COVID protocol-reduced crowd was also treated to the Lions’
best outing in a half this season as well.
Blasting out of the gate, the Lions (3-10, 0-1 Ivy) stunned the Tigers (11-3, 1-0) over the first 20 minutes, scoring 45 points, capped off by a 40-foot three at the buzzer to take a 45-33 lead into the locker room at intermission. Senior forward Ike Nweke stayed on the court for 31 minutes in this one, scoring 22 points on 11-for-18 shooting from the field, mostly from in close. Nweke was complemented by sophomore forward Liam Murphy, whose 13 points included three three-pointers. Junior forward Patrick Harding’s 11 rebounds kept the Lions in the game, especially in the first half when it appeared that the
visitors might spring a huge upset.
Columbia, entering the game with a 3-9 record, was a 16-point underdog.
While the Tigers found themselves in a deep hole after 20 minutes, coach Mitch Henderson and his staff
were encouraged by the feeling that the Lions would probably not sustain their first-half production in the second stanza. Columbia shot 60% from the field and made five of seven shots from beyond the arc. Princeton, on the other hand, was ice cold after not facing a Division I team since Dec. 13.
The rust was apparent from the start. One of the better long-range shooting teams in the Ivy
League was shut out in the first half (0-for-9) and shot a dismal 38% overall.
Henderson was right. A different Tiger quintet came roaring out of the locker room, determined
to take control early. Back-to-back threes by captain Llewellyn and senior Drew Friberg got the
Tigers off the schneid, helping Princeton close the gap to 47-43 after three minutes. Layups by
Evbuomwan and junior Ryan Langborg finally drew the Tigers even at 47 with 16 minutes remaining.
The announced crowd of 35 breathed a barely audible sigh of relief.
The best was yet to come. Columbia chose to defend Evbuomwan head-to-head with the taller
Harding, leaving four players to defend the three-point line. The plan was perfect in the
Evbuomwan, however, was not to be denied all night. His speed, agility and jumping
ability proved too much for the Lion defenders. An acrobatic layup just under the 12-minute
mark ignited a three-and-a-half-minute 15-0 Tiger run to restore order and give the home team a
70-56 lead. The rally was capped by a gorgeous long-range bomb by Langborg.
Columbia outscored Princeton over the final eight minutes, 13-10, to make the final score 84-69. The
Llewellyn landed awkwardly in a loose ball melee late in the game, requiring assistance from two teammates to get to the bench. He immediately grabbed the back of his right leg – an ominous sign. The Mississauga, Ontario native walked to the locker room after the game, albeit
gingerly. His status for Saturday night’s game is as yet unknown. Llewellyn finished with 21 points and four assists.
Evbuomwan’s 22 points led the Tigers, and his four assists will keep him atop the league in that
category. Old Reliable, Ethan Wright, overcame a slow start, canning 17 while grabbing a
team-high eight rebounds.
In the absence of Keeshawn Kellman, who was not dressed, Henderson used Elijah Barnes to
spell Evbuomwan. Barnes collected four rebounds in his 10 minutes. Matt Allocco’s three assists and steady ball handling displayed talents that may be put to the test if Llewellyn is out for any length of
time. Max Johns came off the bench productively, scoring a tough basket inside to give the
Tigers their first lead of the ball game.
In the first season of the revamped Ivy schedule, the first full weekend has back-to-backs just like the old days. The Tigers entertain Brian Earl and his Cornell Big Red (9-4, 1-1) Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN+. Cornell suffered a double-digit loss to Penn (5-10, 2-0) Friday night, although the game was much closer than the 79-65 final score would indicate.