BOOK OF ELIJAH: Princeton University males’s basketball participant Elijah Barnes defends Keondre Kennedy of UMBC final Monday night time at Jadwin Gym. Senior ahead Barnes tallied 9 factors in 13 minutes off the bench in opposition to the Retrievers, going 4 of 4 from the flooring, to assist Princeton draw back to an 89-77 victory. The Tigers, now 9-3, might be on a hiatus for exams and can return to motion after they host Kean University on December 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
With the Princeton University males’s basketball staff deadlocked at 71-71 in opposition to UMBC final Monday night at Jadwin Gym, an unlikely one-two tandem turned the tide in favor of the Tigers.
Little-used senior reserve Elijah Barnes scored seven factors on a jumper, a dunk, and a three-pointer whereas senior star guard Jaelin Llewellyn hit a three-pointer and a layup to spark a 12-0 run as the Tigers pulled away to an 89-77 victory, posting their fourth straight win in enhancing to 9-3.
For Barnes, who had simply performed 33 minutes this season in six appearances off the bench getting into Monday, developing huge was a matter of staying in the second.
“I come to work every day in practice and try to be there for my teammates and support them,” mentioned the 6’7, 215-pound Barnes, who ended up with 9 factors in 13 minutes on 4 of 4 capturing with two rebounds and a blocked shot.
“Whether it is helping somebody else get extra work in everyday or talking to Tosan [Evbuomwan], Zach [Martini], or Mason [Hooks] and making sure they know what they have to do. It prepares me. I watch to see that they are doing and what they need to do. As a senior, being here for a fifth year is big time. I have been around the program for a long time and I have waited my turn. I got an opportunity and I made the most of it so that is all anybody has to do.”
Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson was thrilled to see Barnes make the most of his alternative in opposition to the Retrievers.
“I am very proud of Elijah; he hasn’t been playing but he comes in and he works every single day,” mentioned Henderson.
“He never says anything other than in support for his teammates. In fact he is the best communicator about what is needed for other guys on the team in that moment, even if it’s somebody in his position. I am just really happy for him. Elijah was just amazing today.”
Llewellyn, who ended up with a game-high 24 factors in the win, centered on taking the ball to the hoop.
“It was a key to the game, trying to get inside and look out when they closed in,” mentioned Llewellyn. “I was just trying to get to the rim and be aggressive.”
Henderson credited Llewellyn with steadying the ship for the Tigers.
“Since the Drexel game, not that anything before that wasn’t great, his poise has been next level,” mentioned Henderson.
“He has been super verbal on the court, talking all the time with his teammates. He is always drawing the other team’s best player.”
Princeton wanted poise to overcome UMBC because it had a fast turnaround from an 84-73 win at Lafayette final Saturday.
“I put these guys in a really tough spot; at Lafayette and then one day of preparing for this,” mentioned Henderson.
“We didn’t practice yesterday, we just walked through a bunch of stuff. We spent the first 25 or 30 minutes of the game just trying to figure out how to get sharper. We have exams coming up so this is a terrific win. That is a really difficult team to guard.”
In Henderson’s view, Princeton has been exhibiting some great things 12 video games into the season.
“I think we are a bit ahead of schedule, it has felt like a grind for these guys with the hard part of the schedule up front,” mentioned Henderson.
“Traveling to Asheville and the going to Oregon State was difficult and they responded. A large part of that is the connectedness of the group. We have barely practiced. I have never practiced less because the game turnarounds have been so short and our schedule is quite different. I am really looking forward to practice once we get through exams, I am not sure they are.”
Barnes, for his half, believes the Tigers don’t shrink back from onerous checks.
“The biggest thing about our team is that when we hit adversity, we come together instead of spreading apart and going inward,” mentioned Barnes.
“We come back to the bench and we talk about what the mistake was. We all agree that we need to be better and then we come out and we execute.”
The squad’s particular chemistry has helped foster that mindset.
“I have been on four teams here and this is the closest knit group that we have ever had,” mentioned Barnes, a local of close by Freehold Borough who has now performed in 50 video games off the bench for the Tigers, totaling 68 factors in his profession.
“My junior year got cut short; we were really close but this is the most family I have had at Princeton. All of these guys are my best friends and we spend every day together inside of practice and outside of practice. I think that is the biggest difference.”
Henderson is hoping that togetherness can translate into some stingier defensive play by the Tigers going ahead.
“We can be great, we know that but it is going to hinge on the defensive end,” mentioned Henderson, whose staff will return to motion after the examination break by internet hosting Kean University on December 21.
“Our numbers are consistently good on the offensive end. We have some very specific goals internally defensively that we are not quite meeting. If we can string together stops and have that be in our DNA, we can be special. They know that, we have got to get back to that and I think we can do it.”