Amir Bell led Princeton with a game-high 22 points.
Two rookies started a season opener for the Princeton men’s basketball team for the first time in nine years, and lots of Tigers got a look in Sunday’s 85-75 loss at Butler.
Jerome Desrosiers and Sebastian Much were the freshmen getting the start alongside veterans Amir Bell, Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens, and fellow rookie Ryan Schwieger saw time to give the Class of 2021 42 collective minutes in their debut as Princeton looks to fill three starting roles, among them the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Spencer Weisz ’17 and fellow first-team All-Ivy player Steven Cook ’17. In all, 11 Tigers saw time in the opener, with Cannady, Bell and Stephens combining for all but 13 of a possible 120 minutes and Schwieger leading the remaining eight Tigers with 19.
Douglas Davis ’12 and Patrick Saunders ’12 were the last pair of Princeton freshmen to start a season opener, doing so against Central Michigan on Nov. 14, 2008 in Jadwin Gym.
Butler’s early lead was no greater than six in the first 10 minutes as Princeton trimmed it to one on a split trip to the line for Richmond Aririguzoh. Butler, though, went on a 13-4 run to break open a 10-point lead at 33-23 with less than six minutes to go in the opening half and took that 10-point lead into the break.
Both teams shot well in the first half, with the Tigers outdoing the Bulldogs from the field 61.1 percent to 53.3, but Butler outrebounded Princeton 15-9 before the break and had two turnovers to eight for the Tigers, leading to 10 Bulldog first-half points off those turnovers.
After the break, though Butler’s lead grew as large as 14, Princeton clawed back within four as late as with 3:37 to go on a Mike LeBlanc bucket, but the Bulldogs stopped the run there.
Bell led the Tigers with 22 points as the Cannady-Stephens-Bell trio accounted for 55 of Princeton’s 85 points on the night. It was Bell’s second career 20-point game, joining the 28-point effort he had at Penn on Jan. 9, 2016, and Stephens had 21 points for his fourth career 20-point game, all of which have come in Princeton’s last 10 games and three of which have come in the last four.
Princeton ended up shooting 55.6 percent from the field to Butler’s 54.4, the Tigers’ best shooting clip in a loss since shooting .578 in an 82-67 loss at Penn on Jan. 30, 2012. Butler ended up winning the rebounding stat 31-18, and though Princeton committed just three turnovers after the break, the Bulldogs won that stat 11-7 including 15 points off those Tiger turnovers.
Kelan Martin, a preseason first-team All-Big East pick, led the Bulldogs with a double-double on 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Princeton will host BYU (1-0) in the home opener Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Jadwin Gym on the Ivy League Network and NBC Sports Philadelphia.