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Men’s basketball opens season with blowout win against Rutgers-Camden

<h5>Freshman guard Blake Peters looks on as sophomore guard Matt Allocco shoots the ball.&nbsp;</h5>
<h6>Matt Drapkin / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Freshman guard Blake Peters looks on as sophomore guard Matt Allocco shoots the ball. 
Matt Drapkin / The Daily Princetonian

 

The smell of fresh rubber soles. The sound of squeaking across the hardwood. The splash of the rock from deep. All of the elements of basketball that have been missing from Jadwin Gym for the past year and a half were finally back on display last night.

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In a tune-up game for the season ahead, men’s basketball opened up their season with a 94–28 win over Division III opponent Rutgers-Camden (0–1) on Nov. 9.

“It was a calibration,” said head coach Mitch Henderson ’98. “Being off for so long, we just needed to put on the uniforms. We needed to play with people watching and evaluating us. Feeling that was crucial for us.”

Senior captain Ethan Wright spoke to the challenges of the team’s extended off-season.

“I just played as much as I could,” he said. “We got to practice last spring together, but it was hard to find gyms for a long time. We’d go and play outside. We’d play pickup, work out, talk with our strength coaches and keep up with our conditioning.”

It didn’t take long for the Tigers to re-calibrate against Rutgers-Camden. Princeton’s momentum picked up when junior guard Ryan Langborg went on a 9–0 run by himself early in the first half. He hit three consecutive threes to stretch the Tigers’ lead to double digits.

“Coach was emphasizing getting off to a hot start,” added Wright, “so we could try to get in a bunch of guys.” 

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Seventeen players got playing time in the win, but the most impressive statline may have come from freshman forward Mason Hooks. Hooks got the start and offered consistent production, leading all scorers with 12 points, along with five rebounds and one block. Inexperience was not an issue tonight, but it still remains a prevalent factor for the Tigers this season.

Even key players like junior forward Tosan Evbuomwan, Langborg, and sophomore forward Zach Martini have gotten little playing time in the past due to the pandemic. 

“These are guys that we think can play a lot for us, but have never played in this gym,” Coach Henderson said.

With the team lacking experience, Henderson is looking to the upperclassmen to lead the rest of the roster.

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“We had to do a lot of growing up,” said Wright. “But, because we’ve had a lot of great leaders in the past, we’ve been able to grow into leaders ourselves. We’re ready to make the jump to being senior captains.”

The leaders embraced their roles last night, as Princeton seemed to be in mid-season form in the blowout win.  Princeton’s pressure defense resulted in 20 steals and forced 32 total turnovers. On the other end, the Tigers shot 54 percent from the field. Although content with their performance, the team knows not to get complacent.

Princeton will travel to play the South Carolina Gamecocks (1–0) on Nov. 12.

“The big test is going to be on Friday,” Wright said. “But we’ve been preparing for over a year now. I think we’re ready. We know our game plan, we just have to go out there and execute.”

Matt Drapkin is a contributor to the ‘Prince’ sports section. He can be reached at mattdrapkin@princeton.edu.

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