Princeton men’s basketball is back on track with their first win of the season.
On Monday, Nov. 14, the Tigers (1–2 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) came out on top on the road over UMBC (1–2, 0–0 America East) with a 94–64 victory.
The Tigers were hungry coming into this matchup. Their start to the season did not go as planned, as Princeton opened with back-to-back losses in their first week of play.
The first loss was the result of a late-game momentum shift against Hofstra, ending 77–83. This past Friday, the Tigers, again, came up short, 74–73, to Navy at the Veteran’s Classic.
Princeton’s struggles prior to Monday’s game were a culmination of cold streaks on both ends of the floor. Before this week, the team’s three-point rate was 28 percent, and their free throw clip was down to 57 percent. And the team lacked their usual grit on the defensive end as well. Their opponents were shooting a combined 54 percent from the field through two games and a scorching 49 percent from three-point range.
But the latest game against UMBC was a major step in the right direction for Princeton.
The UMBC Retrievers wasted no time in attacking the winless Tigers. In just the first three minutes, they took hold of a double digit lead. Their hot start was fueled by the play of guard Colton Lawrence, who gave his team eight quick points early on.
Princeton was quick to get into their half-court sets and slow the game down. Once they took control of the pace, things started opening up much more easily on the Tigers’ offensive end.
Sophomore guard Blake Peters hit a spot up three behind a screen set by senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan to push the Tigers’ offensive run to 7–0. Soon after, senior forward Keeshawn Kellman went to work in the low post, dishing a sharp pass to the right corner for first-year guard Deven Austin, who also managed to hit a three. The two teams stood tied 15–15 with 13 to go in the half.
It didn’t take long before the Princeton guards’ red hot shooting blew this game wide open. Senior guard Ryan Langborg made a contested three look easy from the right wing, extending the Tigers’ lead to 25–17. Their momentum was further inflated by back-to-back three-pointers from junior guard Matt Allocco, giving Princeton a 14–0 run.
Going into the locker room, Princeton maintained some distance from UMBC, holding a 41-27 lead at halftime. Princeton shot 8/12 on three-pointers in the half.
The second half saw more of the same. The Tigers came out swinging, with Kellman opening up the second half with a monster slam in transition.
UMBC was unable to make another run of their own. The game would end in a blowout for Princeton, with the score at 94–64. Both their shooting and their defense took major steps forward in this game.
“We just stayed with it and continued to get good open shots on offense, and tonight we were able to make them,” Evbuomwan told The Daily Princetonian.
Allocco, Langborg, and Peters all ended with three successful three-pointers each. As a team, the Tigers shot 63 percent from long range and 58 percent from the field. UMBC, on the other hand, only shot 24 percent from three and 35 percent from the field.
“I think we were a little more focused on some smaller details, and honestly I think we just played harder,” Allocco told the ‘Prince.’ “We played with more urgency defensively and got great shots on offense for the most part.”
“Our defense definitely had a different intensity tonight,” Evbuomwan added. “It was good to see how we moved as a unit helping each other out.”
Princeton saw four players in double figures scoring tonight. Leading the Tigers in scoring was Allocco, with 18 points on an efficient 70 percent shooting. He also added seven rebounds and three assists. Evbuomwan also added 17 points, seven rebounds, and three assists with zero turnovers. Kellman put up 12 points, and Peters had 11.
“Keeshawn and Tosan are so good in the post and they attract a lot of attention,” Allocco said about the squad’s big men. “They are very unselfish, so I think they are a big part of why us guards were able to get open.”
Head Coach Mitch Henderson ’98 lauded the “really nice contributions from the bench” that marked the team’s success.
“We took care of the ball and played together tonight,” Henderson told the ‘Prince.’
For UMBC, Lawrence took charge on offense, finishing with 17 points and three three-pointers. Forward Tra’Von Fagan almost tallied a double-double, contributing eight points and nine rebounds.
“A much needed road win for us!” Henderson said in a statement after the game.
Next up for the Tigers is a quick one game road-trip to New York next weekend. The Tigers will take on Marist (1–1 overall, 0–0 MAAC) on Saturday, Nov. 19.
“We continue to improve and build each game on the little things that make you win games as we look to start stacking wins,” Evbuomwan said.
Matt Drapkin is an assistant editor for sports section at the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.