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In his return from injury, freshman guard Jordan Dingle put up 21 points for Penn men's basketball in its loss to Princeton.

Credit: Chase Sutton

All that matters is how you play starting now. 

After an up-and-down 7-4 start to nonconference play, Penn men’s basketball began its Ivy League season Saturday night against a Princeton team that struggled early in the season. However as the Red and Blue learned last season, anything can happen once Ancient Eight play begins.

The Tigers came out of the gate firing, took an early lead, and never looked back. The visitors would emerge victorious with a 78-64 score.

“They out-toughed us, they outplayed us, they outworked us, and they outcoached us,” coach Steve Donahue said. 

Penn's strategy in the first half was clear: attack the interior and look for shots inside. However, a physical defensive effort from Princeton senior center Richmond Aririguzoh helped hold the Quakers to just 40% shooting from inside. 

“[Aririguzoh] Did a good job being physical, I thought all of us settled for some hard shots,” Donahue said.

Strong play in transition allowed the Quakers to hang around for much of the first half, but they mustered very little offensively to cut in to the Princeton lead. After junior guard Ryan Schwieger knocked down a contested three to end the half, the Tigers took a 12-point lead — their largest of the night at the time — into the locker room.

The second half was just as tough to watch for the home fans. The Quakers began to get more looks to go down, but for every Penn run the Tigers had an answer to keep the Red and Blue at a safe distance off the lead.

Credit: Son Nguyen

Senior forward AJ Brodeur.

Yet the Quakers would not go down quietly. After a 12-1 run from Princeton seemed to all but ice the game, the Red and Blue responded with a 10-0 run of their own, although it would be too little, too late. The Princeton lead would never escape double digits in the second half.

One of the main reasons the Quakers struggled to get back in the game was their inability to get anything going beyond the arc. Penn went a dismal 3-of-21 from three in the contest, only making two of 13 attempts in the second half.

“I thought we were getting good looks … for whatever reason I thought we were tight,” Donahue said. “When they had an open look we were really tight, just not confident and relaxed.”

The Tigers were led offensively by a three-headed monster of Schwieger, Aririguzoh and sophomore guard Jaelin Llewellyn. The 6-foot-7 Schwieger was especially impressive, taking advantage of his often shorter matchups en route to a game-high 27 points. Llewellyn and Aririguzoh contributed double-doubles to the effort.

“That's the way they thought they could go at us with post-ups,” Donahue said. “We didn’t do a good job guarding them for sure.”

Penn was led with 21 points from freshman Jordan Dingle, who returned to the starting lineup tonight after the game missing the win against Howard with an injury.

Outside of the rookies the Quakers struggled to find offensive production, as senior forward AJ Brodeur scored a below-average 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Fellow senior and guard Ryan Betley was just 3-of-11 from the floor and missed all four of his three-point attempts.

“[Brodeur] Took some shots where he just really pressed, because he wanted to score and took more difficult shots then he needed,” Donahue said.  

The Quakers will need to immediately bounce back from their third consecutive loss to their rival, as they face Princeton once again this Friday evening in New Jersey.

“I need to get this group playing up to their capabilities [for next week's matchup] because we didn’t do it tonight,” Donahue said.  

As the Penn showed last year, it's still possible to recover from a slow start to Ivy League play. However, for a team with NCAA tournament aspirations, the Red and Blue will hope that this was just one bad game and not a sign of troubles to come.