Princeton and Penn closed out the regular season at The Palestra this evening in the only Ivy matchup involving teams that will play next weekend in the Ivy League Tournament.
Since the field was set prior to this weekend, the games had no impact on the seeding for the tourney. But the way the Tigers manhandled their traditional rival on its homecourt in a 93-70 shellacking must have been as unsettling for the Quakers as it was exhilarating for the Tigers.
Princeton’s 12-2 Ivy record caps off one of the better coaching jobs accomplished by Tiger skipper Mitch Henderson. His club set the early pace along with Yale, although Tiger home wins against Cornell, Brown and Penn were by narrow margins. Yale jumped out to an early 17-point lead at Jadwin and then held on for an impressive road win. Since the Tigers were on the road for much of the second half of their schedule most observers expected a two, three or even four-team dog fight for tourney slots.
The Tigers were having none of it. They finished the season on a seven-game winning streak which included road wins at Penn, Columbia, Brown, Harvard and, most significantly, Yale. The win Saturday night clinched the regular season championship, Henderson’s second.
The rout at Penn was a perfect example of the Tigers’ winning architecture. Princeton is among the nation’s leading three-point shooting teams, so opponents know they will see a hail of long-range bombs when playing Princeton. The problem for them is more than the Tigers’ volume of shots. It’s the quality of the shooters.
The Tigers have no less than five players who flirt with the 40% mark from deep. At The Palestra, the Tigers shot 46% (12-for-26) from beyond the arc, 55% from the field overall (37-for-67). Incidentally, they shot better from the field than from the line (7-for-14)!
Of the five players hovering around the 40% clip from deep, one, Ryan Langborg, was unavailable Saturday night. Another, All-Ivy candidate Ethan Wright, was ineffective, apparently from trying to catch up with Penn scoring dynamo Jordan Dingle.
The Tigers found other options in Jaelin Llewellyn, Tosan Evbuomwan and Drew Friberg. Llewellyn, lately reaching the level of dominance predicted for him for years, went over the 1,000-point mark for his career, canning 24 points and going 4-for-9 from deep. Evbuomwan had his way in the paint, going 9-for-14, for 23 points and adding eight rebounds and seven assists.
That last stat is crucial for the Tigers. Evbuomwan has an uncanny knack for finding the open shooter behind the arc. Most of his league-leading assists result in three-point buckets.
Friberg was another Tiger hero tonight, although his three-point prowess was by no means surprising.
Friberg hit five from deep on his way to an 18-point effort. First year player Matt Allocco, who got the start in place of Langborg, hit two triples and scored 12 points.
The game was close for 10 minutes. Princeton mounted an 11-0 run to take control over a three-minute stretch in the later stages of the first half. By the end of the half, the Tigers were up, 45-31.
Penn crept back within eight twice in the second half, primarily due to the scoring efforts of Dingle, who reached the 30-point mark for the sixth time this season. But other than Dingle, the home team’s offense was mostly missing in action.
Penn coach Steve Donahue and first-year guard George Smith missed the game due to COVID-19 protocols. Let’s hope we won’t have that issue next season.
The Tigers will meet Cornell on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the first men’s Ivy League Tournament semifinal, followed by the Yale-Penn tilt at 2 p.m.