William McCormack

PRINCETON — Basketball fans filed into Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium expecting a battle Friday night, a showdown between two teams that entered the evening tied for first in the Ivy League.

Instead, Jadwin was remarkably quiet, 2,163 spectators stunned into near silence as the Elis opened up an early lead and continued to double it. 12–6 became 20–10, and 20–10 turned into 50–25. With 8:02 to play in the second half, Yale led by 31, 74–43.

A halftime performance from acrobat Rong Niu, better known as Red Panda, offered some fun, and a Princeton fan drained a halfcourt shot to win 5,000 dollars late in the second. But for Tiger supporters, there was little else to applaud.

With its 88–64 win, Yale (18–5, 6–1 Ivy) sent Princeton (10–10, 5–2) into second place with a statement. Guard Azar Swain ’21 contributed more than 20 points for the fourth consecutive game, scoring 23 on 10-of-14 shooting from the field. Captain and guard Eric Monroe ’20 and first-year guard August Mahoney ’23 each ended with 12, and forward Paul Atkinson ’21, who sat for most of the first half with two fouls, still managed to offer a dozen in 18 minutes. 

After missing last weekend’s win over Dartmouth with a left knee injury, forward Jordan Bruner ’20 returned to the Yale lineup to register game-highs with five rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks, leading the Bulldogs’ collective effort on defense.

“We got back to playing our brand of basketball defensively,” head coach James Jones said. “We were not as good in the last few games. Our second half against Dartmouth was good, but [our] first and second half [against Harvard] were not good, and the first half against Dartmouth wasn’t good. So we got back to playing defensively and working hard and getting stops, and when we do that, we’re really a good team.”

 

Princeton’s trio of leading scorers — guard Jaelin Llewellyn (14.3 points a game), center Richmond Aririguzoh (13.4) and forward Ryan Schwieger (12.6) — combined to finish with just 10. The Tiger bench scored 36, more points than the starters provided.

Starting forward Tosan Evbuomwan led the Tigers with 11, scoring a pair under the basket for the team’s first four points. Yale responded each time, earning a midrange pull-up from Swain and a finish near the basket from Bruner before the Bulldogs blew things open with a 16–6 run that featured four triples on perfect shooting from behind the arc.

Bruner sported a long black brace on his left leg but showed no signs of a limited return. He contributed seven of Yale’s first 15 points, shooting four-of-five from the field to start and playing a team-high 29 minutes on Friday night. Atkinson, whom referees whistled for two fouls in the first ten minutes of the game, sat for much of the frame, shifting the defensive responsibility of 230-pound center Aririguzoh to Bruner.

“We felt like last weekend we took a step back defensively,” Bruner said. “Paul guards a lot of bigs, and Aririguzoh’s a big, physical kid, so it’s not a surprise that Paul got into foul trouble. I was just [the[ next man up to guard Aririguzoh, so we slid over, our three guarded the four, and that’s just how we went about it. We get stops as a team, and it doesn’t matter who’s on the court. We’re trying to prevent them from scoring any buckets.”

Bruner said he and Yale trainer Drew Moore played it “by ear,” adding that adrenaline helped him overcome any remaining discomfort. He scored all of his 13 points in the first half, converting his final basket — a fadeaway jumper at the end of the shot clock to inflate the Eli lead to 35–21 — with four minutes to play in the period.

 

Meanwhile, Swain sunk a stepback three on Schwieger for his first three-pointer of the night, hitting another early in the first and one in the second to bring his season total to 71, one shy of Yale’s single-season record. 

10 of his 23 came at the rim, as the 6-foot guard dissected the defense with dribble moves and strong takes to the hoop all night. Layups on three straight Yale possessions at the end of the first helped extend the Elis’ halftime lead to 17.

“Like I’ve preached all year, the work stays consistent,” Swain said. “I have a weekly routine and a gameday routine to make sure my skills are tight and my shot is tight. I’m trying to prove myself every night. That’s kind of how I got here. Just trying to redo that and trying to make a name for myself and prove something every time I step out.”

 

The Elis opened the second with nine straight points, bringing their lead to 52–25. Atkinson converted an and-one to start the scoring.

Princeton’s first field goal did not come until guard Ethan Wright drove for a three-point play with a little under sixteen minutes remaining.

“Don’t have a stat sheet, don’t need one,” Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson told The Trentonian post game. “It was a good old-fashioned… What’s the right word?… Destroyed. They kicked our butt bad.”

Although Yale registered 16 turnovers Friday, its defense remained strong in the second half, shutting down the Tigers and setting up strong looks for the Elis. Steals from guard Jalen Gabbidon ’21 and Bruner bookended a very deep three-pointer for Swain at one point in the second.

Jones removed his leading scorer with 11:16 to play and the Elis leading 63–38. Swain did not return to the game afterward, while Mahoney scored a dozen in the game’s final 11 minutes. 

 

“He’s just really good,” Jones said of Swain. “I said at the beginning of the year, his shooting percentage was down, but I knew it would come back around to what he is… He’s done a great job with his shot selection, and he’s getting to the rim which is really key for us as well. When they take away that three, now it opens the ability to drive because people are posting up on him. And he’s gotten really nifty with the ball.”

Following the win, the Elis bussed to Philadelphia, where they face Penn at The Palestra Saturday at 6 p.m.

William McCormack | william.mccormack@yale.edu