Wright’s Emergence as All-Around Contributor Helps PU Men’s Hoops Enjoy 2-0 Ivy Weekend
WRIGHT ON: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ethan Wright dribbles past a foe in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore guard Wright tallied a team-high 15 points with four rebounds and three steals to help Princeton edge Harvard 70-69. The Tigers, now 9-8 overall and 4-0 Ivy League, play at Cornell on February 7 and at Columbia on February 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Ethan Wright’s progress has mirrored the collective improvement made by the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it has bounced back from a 1-7 start to post wins in eight of its last nine games.
In the first eight games of the season, sophomore guard Wright totaled 27 points and 13 rebounds. Over Princeton’s hot streak, Wright has piled up 70 points and 38 rebounds.
Last weekend, Wright displayed his all-around value to the Tigers, contributing six points and eight rebounds as Princeton defeated Dartmouth 66-44 and then had team-high 15 points with four rebounds and three steals in a 70-69 win over Harvard a night later.
Reflecting on his effort in the win over Harvard, Wright said he was in the right spot at the right time.
“They have a bunch of athletes who like to get into you so we just tried to spread them out and make good cuts,” said Wright.
“They are cut conscious so it was a real battle getting in and out; that opened things up for me and Drew and some other guy. They play real aggressive and that is something you have to be aware of at all times.”
Harvard’s aggressive play saw the Crimson go on a 13-1 run in the waning moments of the contest to turn a 67-56 deficit into a 69-68 lead.
Princeton senior star Richmond Aririguzoh took matters into his own hands battling Chris Lewis in the paint on the Tigers’ final possession of the game, getting two shots blocked before drawing a foul and cooly swishing two free throws for the margin of victory.
“I didn’t exactly know how much time I had but I knew I had to try to get a quick shot up,” said Aririguzoh, who had 10 points and seven rebounds on the night as Princeton improved to 9-8 overall and 4-0 Ivy League before a crowd of 3,590 at Jadwin Gym.
“I just tried and tried again and on the last one, he fouled me. Then it was down to mechanics. I didn’t like the fact that I missed the first three free throws of the game so I stuck to what I needed and they went in. I take a deep breath, I clear my mind.”
Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was relieved to see Aririguzoh come through in the clutch.
“I thought it was a terrific play between Jaelin [Llewellyn] and Ryan [Schwieger] to get momentum to the rim,” said Henderson.
“Richmond is just a force and to make the free throws and for there to be no doubt, he is a senior and he made us win. We were sloppy. It was a great game, it must have been fun to watch.”
Henderson acknowledged that the Tigers had to weather a storm to get the win over the Crimson.
“We got a little lucky with the last play,” said Henderson. “You have got to make plays; I thought the game would come down to four or five plays. They made three really big ones and then Richmond made the biggest play of the game.”
Henderson credited Wright with making big plays in both wins.
“I am so proud of Ethan, he came into the weekend averaging a little over two rebounds a game and he had 12 in the weekend,” said Henderson. “Ethan has emerged as a lock down defender; he wasn’t to start the season and now he is.”
Wright, for his part, attributed his newfound rebounding prowess to a combination of attention to detail and teamwork.
“It is something I was focused on in practice, coach would tell me to focus on it because I was not getting a lot of rebounds,” said the 6’3, 180-pound Wright, a native of Newton Centre, Mass.
“I think the bigs do a really good job of clearing guys like Chris Lewis out so I am just able to kind of get in there and clean it up. It is something I have been trying to focus on.”
Aririguzoh is proud of how the Tigers kept their focus as they struggled through the 1-7 start.
“It is a lot about buy-in and resilience; there were definitely points in the non conference when we first started where it got tough for us,” said Aririguzoh.
“A lot of the guys, especially the younger guys, could have gone the other way in terms of how they approach everyday but they stayed with the message of the older guys and coach. We were able to persevere and start to turn it around.”
That mindset helped Princeton persevere in crunch time against Harvard.
“This team is really good at looking toward the next play and just making plays down the stretch and not letting stuff from before effect us,” added Aririguzoh.
“No matter the combination of the five guys on the court, we all have the same mentality. We have to get a stop or we have to make a play. We just commit to that.”
With Princeton playing at Cornell on February 7 and at Columbia on February 8, Henderson is looking for the Tigers to maintain that commitment to working together.
“I have been around a lot of really good teams and good players and there is just such an unselfishness in this group,” said Henderson. “They want to see each other do well.”