Three games into the season, Princeton men’s basketball (0–3) is still looking for answers.
Princeton remained winless Wednesday night after falling 72–65 to Lafayette (2–1) in the team’s home opener at Jadwin.
“We got beat in almost every single aspect of the game,” said head coach Mitch Henderson ‘98. “You’re seeing us grow right now. This was an opportunity that we missed, and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Tigers trailed by double digits for much of the game, but they put together some runs late in the second half to keep things interesting.
A 7–0 Princeton rally midway through the half cut a 14-point Lafayette lead to seven, but a four-point play from Lafayette guard Justin Jaworski, who led Lafayette with 23 points on the night, put the Leopards up 63–52 with 7:01 to play.
Later in the half, seven quick points by sophomore guard Jaelin Llewellyn followed by a layup from senior center Richmond Aririguzoh cut the deficit to 69–65 with 36 seconds left, but by that point it was too late. Lafayette made its free throws to close the game, and Princeton dropped to 0–3 in non-conference play.
“We’re a young team, and we don’t really understand exactly how hard it is to win yet,” said senior guard Jose Morales, who scored eight second-half points off the bench to spark Princeton’s comeback attempt. “[But] we’ve got some guys that can really play, and this is something we’re going to learn from.”
Princeton struggled to contain Lafayette on the perimeter in the early part of the game; the Leopards made 9 out of 11 three-point attempts in the first half and took a 45–31 lead into halftime.
“I don’t think any of [those shots] were contested,” Henderson said. “It’s a ‘make shots’ game, they have good shooters, we just weren’t up to the task guarding them the way we need to.”
One upside for Princeton was the performance of sophomore forward Drew Friberg, who shot 4–8 from beyond the arc and scored 16 points. Aririguzoh scored Princeton’s first six points and led Princeton with 19 points and 9 rebounds despite facing consistent double teams in the post. Llewellyn’s struggles from the field continued with a 5–19 shooting effort, but he started to heat up with a series of baskets late in the second half.
For the second straight game, junior guard Ryan Schwieger sat out with an injury. According to Henderson, he hasn’t practiced since leaving the first half of Princeton’s opener against Duquesne, but his status is still considered day-to-day.
The Tiger’s quest to pick up their first win won’t get any easier in the immediate future. Princeton next plays on Nov. 20 against Indiana before returning to Jadwin on Nov. 26 to play Arizona State, another power conference opponent.
Before those games, Princeton will try to figure some things out.
“What’s our identity defensively? We have to develop that. What’s our identity when Richmond doesn’t score, and Jaelin’s not in the ball screen?” Henderson said. “It’s hard to win, but five guys playing together, committing to each other, that’s what I’m looking for.”