January 1, 2020

Tiger Men’s Hoops Pulls Away from Lehigh, Bringing Confidence into Ivy Opener at Penn

INSIDE STUFF: Princeton University men’s basketball player Richmond Aririguzoh goes up for a hoop in recent action. Last Sunday senior star Aririguzoh scored a game-high 23 points to help Princeton defeat Lehigh 71-62. The Tigers, now 4-8, play at Penn on January 4 in the Ivy League opener for both teams. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After suffering an 87-72 defeat to Hofstra in its last action before Christmas, the Princeton University men’s basketball team did some soul-searching over the holidays.

“We all just recognized that it was a really bad game,” said Princeton senior star Richmond Aririguzoh, reflecting on the loss to the Pride on December 19.

“We put up a bad performance for us and our fans.  We just came back to basics and competing and doing the little things right.”

Last Sunday against visiting Lehigh, Aririguzoh did a lot of things right, scoring 23 points to help Princeton defeat the Mountain Hawks 71-62 before a crowd of 1,927 at Jadwin Gym.

“I let the game come to me a little more, but I didn’t shy away from being aggressive, said Aririguzoh, who picked up a technical foul with 8:10 left in the second half and later returned to the game to help the Tigers hold off a Lehigh rally.

“I think the refs let me play a little bit, offensively speaking. The way they were guarding me, the doubles were few and far between.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson credited Aririguzoh with triggering the Tiger offense through his sharp shooting in the paint.

“Richmond is 10-for-12 from the field, it is common to see him do that now,” said Henderson, whose team has posted three wins in its last four games and is now 4-8.

“I am just so pleased with the win as we head into a hugely important two weeks.”

Henderson was pleased with the defensive effort as the Tigers held Lehigh to 44.7 percent shooting from the floor (21-of-47) and forced 20 turnovers.

“We have had a couple of heartbreaking losses but for the most part, the defense has not been good,” said Henderson.

“We took a huge step backwards defensively against Hofstra. It was better tonight, much better. Lehigh turns the ball over a lot, we had something to do with that. We are playing a team (Penn) with seniors on Saturday so we are going to have to be much sharper.”

With the Tigers opening its Ivy League campaign by heading down to Philadelphia  on January 4 to face archrival Penn (6-4), Henderson is hoping his team can build on the win over Lehigh.

“I am really happy for the guys but the most important part of our year starts now; we all know it and so do they,” said Henderson who got 12 points apiece from Jaelin Llewellyn and Ryan Schwieger in the win over the Mountain Hawks.

“I love playing Penn; I don’t know if love is the right word to use for them and I don’t think they would use that word for us, which is fun. Everybody needs to have a rival. It is the league so the littlest things matter the most, that is basically what I am going to say to the guys tomorrow. It is a big prep week.”

In addition to paying attention to detail, Princeton will need to bring some fortitude to the storied
Palestra in order to defeat the Quakers.

“Especially when you are on the road, it is not turning the ball over,” said Henderson.

“If you can have the toughness to get more and better shots, generally speaking, I think that helps your defense set up. That is the mentality I want the guys to have, that is how you are going to get it done. We are almost too young to have a mentality. We just haven’t been there yet, it is coming.”

Aririguzoh, for his part, is fired up for another tough battle with Penn.

“A.J. Brodeur has been a staple in our league since he was a freshman,” said Aririguzoh, referring to the Quaker senior star forward.

“They have really been good the last two years so it is really exciting for me personally. Last year when they came here, that was what you could call my breakout game. It is always a fun matchup with some really hard fought games. I am really excited for it.”

Like Henderson, Aririguzoh sees taking care of little things as the key to success in the matchup.

“It is a completely different game than non-conference, the details matter so much more,” said Aririguzoh.

“Because we have a young team, we older guys have to set an example. I think we have to get back to doing things right always.”