Love that home cooking! The Princeton Tigers, whose opening game on the road against Harvard was postponed, played its third straight Ivy League game in Jadwin Gym’s friendly confines on Saturday afternoon against the Brown Bears.
The statistical battle was a virtual dead heat. The only stat that matters, the final score, had Princeton on top, 76-74.
The game came down to the final play. Unlike last week, when the Tigers (11-3, 2-0) had the ball at the end
, the Bears (9-9, 1-3) were in possession needing a two to tie, a three to win. The few fans in attendance and many thousands more watching the ESPN+ feed were surely remembering Desmond Cambridge’s shot from the third row
to give Brown a wild victory a few years ago.
Brown’s hero today was Kino Lilly, Jr., perhaps the best first-year player in the league. He can score from anywhere and did so today. He scored 25 points on a very efficient 10-for-13 from the field (4-for-5 from deep).
After a Brown timeout with eight seconds remaining, the Tigers effectively denied Lilly, forcing Brown’s Paxson Wocjik to launch a deep three from the left corner. It missed, but Tamenang Choh’s awkward putback teased the rim before falling away. The Tigers escaped again.
Princeton played again without Jaelin Llewellyn, whose status going forward is unknown. Because of Brown’s big-man tandem of Choh, playing in what seems like his eighth season, and Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Jaylan Gainey, Princeton coach Mitch Henderson gave the start to Elijah Barnes. This experiment lasted three minutes.
Tosan Evbuomwan was, once again, the mainstay for the Tigers with 21 points, although he was joined in double figures by four others: Drew Friberg and Ryan Langborg with 15 each, Ethan Wright with 13 and last weekend’s last-second hero Matt Allocco with 10. Allocco played 35 minutes off the bench. Evbuomwan’s eight assists will keep him solidly atop the league’s standings in that significant category.
The Tigers once again got off to a slow start, their third straight, but, fortunately, so did the Bears. After almost nine minutes, the score was 18-16 Princeton. Brown’s 7-0 run gave it a five-point lead, but a tough inside move by Evbuomwan and a Langborg three tied it up at 23. The pattern was set for a back-and-forth affair for the rest of the contest.
An Evbuomwan jumper after a Wright three gave the Tigers their largest lead of the half at 33-27 with time down to 4:39.
Brown kept pace with Princeton through the remainder of the half. An Evbuomwan layup restored a two-point Tiger margin under a minute. After Allocco missed a three, the Tigers, under the limit, fouled.
This gave Bruno coach Mike Martin a chance to get Lilly back on the floor. He hit a long-range bomb to send the Bears into the locker room with a narrow 42-41 lead.
After six minutes of the second period Princeton established some daylight, grabbing a six-point lead, 56-50. Three minutes later, Brown closed to 56-55.
With 8:30 to go, Brown held a 62-59 lead on a long Tyler Cowan three, his only score off the game in 21 minutes of action.
The teams exchanged the lead several times over the final minutes. A Choh free throw at 2:59 gave Brown its last lead, 71-70. Two free throws by a determined Evbuomwan restored the lead for the Tigers. His jumper at the 1:31 mark made it a 74-71 game.
Choh struck back at 1:15, 74-73. Evbuomwan then picked the perfect moment for the defensive play of the afternoon, cleanly blocking a Choh jumper in the paint, leading to an Allocco free throw and a 75-73 lead.
Seconds later, Wright fouled Lilly giving the rookie a chance to tie the game. Sadly, he missed his second shot, somewhat overshadowing his terrific performance. Langborg then made one of two, 76-74, with eight ticks left.
Choh with 18 and Dan Friday with 10 joined Lilly in double figures for the visitors. Brown shot the ball extremely well, 29 of 51 from the field, including a sizzling 8-for-17 from beyond the arc. Princeton’s comparable stats were 54% and 44%. The Tigers collected two more rebounds than the Bears while each team had 14 assists.
Without Llewellyn, at least the Tigers have a little wiggle room in terms of making Ivy Madness.
Princeton concludes its home stand on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 4 p.m. when the Penn Quakers, sporting an impressive 3-1 Ivy start, visit Jadwin. Stream the game on ESPN+.