December 1, 2021

Sparked by Evboumwan’s All-Around Play, PU Men’s Basketball Defeats Scrappy FDU

TRIPLE THREAT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Tosan Evboumwan dribbles to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, junior forward Evboumwan scored a career-high 19 points and added eight rebounds and five assists as Princeton defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 89-79. The Tigers, now 5-2, play at Hofstra on December 1 before hosting Drexel on December 4 and Bucknell on December 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Tosan Evboumwan was sidelined when the Princeton University men’s basketball team played at Monmouth last Wednesday, and he was missed.

Princeton built a 46-39 halftime lead against the Hawks but faltered down the stretch, falling 76-64, lacking the inside presence and playmaking ability that the 6’9, 215-pound junior forward Evboumwan brings to the table.

Last Sunday,  Evboumwan, a native of Newcastle, England, returned to the lineup as the Tigers hosted Fairleigh Dickinson University and he certainly made a difference. Evboumwan tallied a career-high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists as Princeton topped FDU 89-79.

“It is great to be back and playing with my teammates,” said Evboumwan.

“We got a win after the loss to Monmouth. It was tough to watch and not be out there. I am glad to be back.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was certainly glad to see Evboumwan back in action.

“Tosan scored and did very well but he can be so much better and he knows it,” said Henderson, whose team improved to 5-2 with the win.

“His discipline is where he is going to be great. He has got to get his rhythm back. We are glad to have him back. I wasn’t supposed to play him that many minutes but we needed him.”

The Knights made things hard on Princeton, hitting eight three-pointers in the first half to trail by just 38-36 at halftime. After Princeton forged ahead 73-55 with 5:54 left in regulation, FDU went on a 16-7 run to narrow the Tiger lead to 80-74.

“I thought FDU played really well,” said Henderson. “We took multiple shots by them. We needed great performances in order to win that game.”

In addition to Evboumwan’s effort, Henderson got great performances from senior guard Ethan Wright, who  had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds, with junior Ryan Langborg tallying a career-high 16 points.

Henderson marveled at the rebounding prowess of the 6’4 Wright, who is averaging a team-high 8.0 rebounds a game.

“Ethan’s rebounding number could be in the top 50 in the country and he is the third tallest guy on the team,” said Henderson of Wright, who hit 7 of 12 three-pointers against FDU.

“He is an unreal rebounding guard. I would hope people come to watch our games just to watch him rebound. It is a treat. I am yelling at him a lot and he takes the yelling but I think he can do more. He can constantly improve. It is getting to the point where he is putting us on his back with his shooting. We needed it bad, they were making every shot.”

Wright, for his part, credited his teammates with helping him on the glass and the perimeter.

“Our bigs, guys like Tosan, are the ones who have the hard job of boxing out the big guys and then my job is coming in and clean it up,” said Wright, who is leading the Tigers in scoring average with an average of 15.3 points.

“Shooting is all about confidence. My teammates and coaches have been telling me to shoot ever since I set foot on campus. We have guys who attract a lot of attention in the middle, and that puts me in a good position. I am going to keep shooting with confidence if they keep putting me in those positions. Today the shots were going in.”

Evboumwan, who leads the Tigers in assists with 29, enjoys getting his teammates in position to score.

“It just working and practicing with the coaches and these guys in practice every day,” said Evboumwan, who is averaging 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.

“They do a good job of moving and getting open. When you have guys around you who can make shots, that makes it a bit easier.”

While Henderson was pleased with the team’s shooting, he is looking for better play at the defensive end.

“I have been pleased at points with the defense but we have some standards and some goals that we set for ourselves internally and we have got to meet those in order to reach our goals,” said Henderson.

“It is December — now we have a really tough slate before we hit exams and then we don’t play for a while. It is time to make their move right now. We can’t wait until the end of the month, it has got to go right now.”

The emphasis on defense makes sense to Evboumwan. “We are trying to get better but as coach said it is time for your defense to come along and really lock in and have that be a priority every game and meet the goals that we set as a team,” said Evboumwan.

“It is definitely time for us to do that, that is how we become a great team.”

With the Tigers playing at Hofstra on December 1 before hosting Drexel on December 4 and Bucknell on December 7, Henderson will be looking for a sense of urgency.

“We play a very good, tough Hofstra team, that spanked us two years ago here, on the road on Wednesday,” said Henderson.

“We have got to get tougher and better on the defensive end if we want to be good.”

Evboumwan, for his part, believes the Princeton team can develop into something special.

“I think we can be really good; our offense is good, the way we move the ball and look for each other,” said Evboumwan.

“So it is really the defense that has to come along and become consistently good. The main emphasis is to be consistent there.”