Princeton Men’s Hoops Defeats Penn in Ivy Opener As Schwieger Explodes in 1st Start Against Quakers
CHOKED UP: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ryan Schwieger fights through a choke hold on the way to the basket in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday at the Palestra in Philadelphia, junior guard Schwieger poured in a career-high 27 points to help Princeton defeat Penn 78-64 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. The Tigers, now 5-8 overall and 1-0 Ivy, have a rematch with the Quakers on January 10 at Jadwin Gym. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Ryan Schwieger had scored his only previous two career points against Penn for the Princeton University men’s basketball team, hitting a pair of free throws two years ago.
One year after sitting on the bench through a pair of Princeton victories last winter over their archrival, the versatile junior guard exploded for a new career-high of 27 points to lead the Tigers to a 78-64 win over Penn last Saturday in the Ivy League opener for both teams at the Palestra in Philadelphia.
“He likes to remind me he did not play one minute last year,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson. “You can see that we’ve missed him.”
Schwieger made 10-of-16 field goals, including a 3-pointer just before halftime to forge a 39-27 lead in a game in which the Tigers never trailed. He hit on 6-of-7 free throws as well and added three rebounds to a 40-35 rebounding edge for Princeton.
The Tigers outscored Penn inside, 52-46, with senior Richmond Aririguzoh going for 15 points and 14 rebounds and freshman Tosan Evbuomwan chipping in eight points. Sophomore point guard Jaelin Llewellyn also made an impact in the paint, tallying 18 points and grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds and was later named the Ivy Player of the Week.
“We’ve been trying to go inside all season between Richmond and myself and Tosan and other guys,” said Schwieger, a 6’7, 205-pound native of Matthews, N.C. “I thought tonight it just showed up more so than other nights. That’s what we do – go inside and score.”
The performance against Penn marked the fifth straight game in double figures scoring for Schwieger, whose scoring average has climbed to 13.3, third best on the team. Not coincidentally, the Tigers have won four of those five games to improve to 5-8 overall, 1-0 in Ivy play.
“Every game we get better,” said Schwieger. “And in practice, we’re focused on that and if we keep going as hard as we do in practice, we should keep that going.”
Schwieger came on strong to end last year, scoring in double figures in seven games after the Princeton exam break. In his final four games, he scored 23 against Cornell, 20 against Columbia and a then-career high 26 points against Dartmouth before finishing with 10 points against Harvard. He was poised to pick up where he left off before an injury cost him five games early this season. His return has helped the Tigers improve.
Princeton returns to the court when it hosts Penn in a rematch on January 10 at Jadwin Gym in its last action before a two-week exam break.
Looking ahead to round two against Penn, Henderson knows that the win last Saturday doesn’t guarantee anything.
“They hurt us on the boards,” said Henderson. “We’ll look closely at everything. Last year we played two terrific games. I enjoy this stuff very much when we get to do playoff-type coaching. I’m sure Penn will make some changes and so will we. It’s the second game of the league, so we want to keep working.”
On Saturday, Princeton jumped out early on the Quakers. They went inside early and more effectively than Penn had seen in their game preparation.
“Both of us play each other similarly and force you to take a lot of twos,” said Henderson. “We scored a lot of points in the paint, but so did they.”
The Tigers showed a commitment to get the ball in the paint. Their size made a big difference in a game in which they only attempted 11 3-pointers compared to Penn’s 23.
“We’re a really big team,” said Henderson. “We’re skilled at a lot of different positions. I’ve had multiple people come up to me and say it’s good to see you guys playing with three bigs. I say, ‘Who? What are you talking about?’ They’re talking about Tosan and Ryan, who are big guards and can do a lot of different things.”
A 10-8 Princeton lead jumped to 20-10 on a layup by Aririguzoh only nine minutes into play. Penn came as close as 29-25 before Schwieger keyed a 10-2 run with seven of his points to end the half and gave the Tigers the start that they needed to the Ivy campaign.
“I think we just prepare for these games really well,” said Schwieger. “We come ready to play, maybe more than those other games for some reason, but I think it comes down to our preparation. Going back-to-back, I think we can really lock in for two weeks and lock in on this game specifically.”
The Tigers maintained a double-digit lead through the second half. Princeton hasn’t been accustomed to playing with that sort of lead this season, but weathered a late Penn run and never really was challenged.
“That’s a really good win,” said Henderson. “They’ve been such a difficult team to prepare for. It’s a really interesting stat sheet. They hurt us on the boards. I thought our defense was terrific, and our inside play between these two (Aririguzoh and Schwieger) and Tosan and Jaelin, we got some nice layups. It’s a great way to start out the year. I’m really happy with the win. I think it’s a terrific road win.”
Princeton, which came into the game ranked last among Ivy teams in scoring defense, put together one of its finest efforts of the year. The Tigers held Penn to 3-for-23 from 3-point range and 37 percent shooting overall.
“It was good,” said Henderson of his team’s defense. “They missed some shots, but so did we. We were 2-for-11 and we have really good shooters. It was a really interesting game. We maintained control.”
A maturing Princeton squad would like to take control in the second meeting with its travel partner on Friday.
“It’s a young team but we’ve played a lot of games,” said Henderson. “It’s time for us to grow. I thought Tosan gave us terrific minutes inside and got to the basket.”
The inside play helped the Tigers keep momentum on their side, a perfect recipe on the road in Ivy play. It showed their season-long development and earned them an important win to start the league season.
“I just think our guys were locked in tonight and it went our way,” said Henderson. “We have to do it again in a week and it’s really hard to prepare for.”