November 23, 2022

Getting on Winning Track by Topping UMBC, Marist, PU Men’s Hoops Flying High Heading into London Event

HEADING HOME: Princeton University men’s basketball player Tosan Evbuomwan drives to the basket in recent action. Last Saturday, senior star Evbuomwan tallied 11 points with six rebounds and five assists to help Princeton defeat Marist 62-55. Evbuomwan, a native of Newcastle, England, is heading home this week as the Tigers, now 2-2, will be competing in the London Basketball Classic. The Tigers will face Army on November 24 in the opener of the tournament with the victor advancing to the final against either Northeastern or Manhattan on November 26. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While millions of Americans will be headed home for the Thanksgiving holiday this week, the Princeton University men’s basketball team is jetting across the Atlantic Ocean to play in the London Basketball Classic.

After falling to Hofstra (83-77 on November 7) and Navy (74-73 on November 11) to start the season, Princeton will be bringing a two-game winning streak into its battle of Britain, having topped UMBC and then topping Marist 62-55 last Saturday.

Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson likes where his team is at as it goes across the pond to an event which will see it face Army on November 24 in the opener with the victor advancing to the final against either Northeastern or Manhattan on November 26.

“We played really well, we needed a game where we came unstuck on making some shots,” said Henderson, referring to the win over UMBC which saw Princeton shoot 57.8 percent from the floor (37-64) and 63.2 percent from the three-point line (12-19). “We guarded well, that is where we made the difference. We did the same thing on Saturday, we were able to guard. We didn’t play great on Saturday, that is a tough one on the road. John Dunne is a terrific coach. Those are really good wins.”

Princeton sorely needed those wins after the setbacks to Hofstra and Navy.

“We got off to a little bit of a tough start but it was really a learning experience,” said Henderson. “I am happy that the schedule is the way that it is. Hofstra is very good, that was a really great game for us to start off with and similarly with Navy. Those were really great learning opportunities for us.”

The Tigers have been getting some really good play from junior guard Matt Allocco, who scored 19 points against Navy and then followed that up with 18 in the win over UMBC and 14 against Marist.

“Matt is such a good scorer but we haven’t asked him to do that here at Princeton,” said Henderson of Allocco, who is now averaging 14.0 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. “He is a big-game shotmaker. He made a couple of threes there on Saturday where we were really struggling. The game was hanging in the balance. He had a terrific night against Navy. As much as his helping and scoring, he is an incredible leader. He is always the same. He is always all-in, positive, hard changing, and hard working. We are really happy to have him on our team.”

Henderson is happy to have senior forward Keeshawn Kellman in the starting lineup after he was hampered by injury  over much of his career.

“We are thankful and happy about the fact that he is playing, it changes us in so many different ways,” said Henderson of the 6’9, 240-pound Kellman, who is averaging 14.8 points and 5.0 rebounds a game, teaming with senior star Tosan Evbuomwan in the paint. “It makes the other team have to adjust accordingly, we are still learning about how to play like that. I am thankful for the opportunity that we are getting to play the two big guys together and to play the two big guys separately when they are in there alone.”

The trip to London will be a homecoming for Evboumwan, a native of Newcastle, England.

“We were really looking for these tournaments called MTEs (multi-team events) to play in and this one came around,” said Henderson, noting that the games will be Princeton’s first regular season games ever played outside the U.S. “Tosan’s family has never seen him play in person since he has been a student so this is the opportunity for him and for us to go over there and play in front of his family and friends.”

Henderson sees the journey as a special opportunity for all of his players.

“It is cool, it is just a great experience for the guys,” said Henderson, noting that the team’s itinerary will include some tournament functions and a bus tour. “They are excited, we have a lot of people coming to watch us.”

While Henderson wants his players to enjoy the sights, the focus of the trip will be taking care of business.

“You bring your show on the road, you are going to another country and it is a tournament as well,” said Henderson. “The goal is to go over there and be champs, that is where our mindset is.”