On a windswept Friday afternoon, Princeton men’s basketball (9–4 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) defeated the Kean Cougars (12–1 overall, 5–0 New Jersey Athletic) in an 88–70 victory at Jadwin Gymnasium.
Coming in with a height advantage against their Division-III opponents, the Tigers began the game with a 10–0 run and didn’t look back. The run was sparked by a show of strength in the paint from senior forward Tosan Evbuomwan, who dropped in a tough layup to open the scoring. He finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and a game-high six assists.
The Tigers were also led by senior guard Ryan Langborg, who finished with a career-high 23 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 5-for-9 on three-pointers. Langborg began his clinic by drilling a three just over a minute into the game.
37 seconds after Langborg’s basket, junior forward Zach Martini was subbed on. Martini made an impact immediately, grabbing a defensive rebound and sinking a long three at the wing off of a swing from sophomore guard Blake Peters. Having suffered a collapsed lung just under three months prior at an October practice, Martini was adamant about contributing to his team’s win.
“I was hospitalized for about five nights,” Martini explained. “I’m just really fortunate to play and be back on the court again for my team.”
Soon after, Martini fed senior forward Keeshawn Kellman under the rim in transition for a ferocious two-hand jam with 16:26 remaining in the half. Following the dunk, senior forward Jacob O’Connell ignited an 8–0 Princeton run with a three-pointer that gave the Tigers an 18–3 lead with 13 minutes left in the first half. However, Kean guard D.J. Alicea put out the Tigers’ flame with a neat jab-step into a drive from the top of the key, finishing with a right-hand layup over Langborg.
What followed was four scoreless possessions — a mess of fouls, turnovers, and substitutions from both sides that eventually culminated in a timeout being called by head coach Mitch Henderson ’98. After the timeout, a flurry of missed three-pointers were salvaged with offensive rebound after offensive rebound from Peters, who eventually found first-year guard Deven Austin in the corner to bring the Tigers back into scoring territory.
Then, after a reverse layup from Kellman, first-year guard Jack Scott put up two points off a backdoor feed from Evbuomwan to put Princeton up 29–13. Kean forward Letrell West quickly answered back with a tough hesitation-crossover into a layup on the left side with 4:25 remaining in the half, but a trifecta of Langborg and Pierce three-pointers allowed for the Tigers to take a 48–31 advantage with them into halftime.
Princeton, however, couldn’t seem to escape the ever-present turnovers problem, already having coughed up the ball 16 times by the end of the first half.
“Hopefully we didn’t set the record on turnovers,” said Henderson. “It was a sloppy game. I had the young guys out there [for] maybe too long.”
To start the second half, however, Martini noted that the Tigers “did a good job … taking care of the ball,” recording only two turnovers within the first five minutes of the period. Langborg soon extended the Tigers’ lead to 20 with his fourth triple of the game, sparking a 13–0 run that was only stopped after a transition and-one from the Cougars’ West. Kean’s attempts to battle back were futile, even after a 6–0 run later in the half. The short run of momentum for the Cougars was halted by a Peters pull-up three-pointer that put Princeton out in front, 82–55, with 6:57 remaining.
To seal the win, Austin bolted into the paint and threw down an explosive tomahawk dunk with less than three minutes left in the game, helping Princeton to fend off a final Cougar claw and emerge victorious, 88–70.
The Tigers will remain at Jadwin to begin conference play Saturday against the Harvard Crimson (8–5 overall, 0–0 Ivy League). The Crimson are coming off of a 68–54 loss to the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks (11–1 overall, 0–0 Big 12).
“We go on the road for almost the entire month of January, so it’s very important we get off to a good start,” said Henderson. “There’s growing pains right in front of your eyes and it’s pretty obvious we have some work to do.”
Yousif Mohamed is a contributor to the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.