Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Brendan Connolly & Douglas Davis:
It might be a touch cutesy, but it as good a lede as any.
Sitting courtside at a now near-empty Palestra, trying to fight through a troubled wireless connection, an acquaintance came up to me while I was writing.
“This should be an easy recap for you,” he said. “Just type ‘Zach Rosen’ again and again and again.”
Rosen put on a phenomenal performance in his final chance to defeat Princeton at home, scoring 28 points on an array of difficult jumpers and snaking drives as his Penn Quakers led wire to wire for an 82-67 win over the Tigers.
“We really had no response or answer for Rosen. I thought he was terrific tonight,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson after his team had allowed the most points versus the Quakers in 40 years. “His understanding of tempo is special.”
“He was just under control the whole game,” Henderson added. “We didn’t give him anything to think about.”
A mixture of inattentiveness guarding shooters and tough perimeter jumpers afforded Penn the opportunity to knock down seven of their first nine three point attempts building an 33-18 lead.
“I thought four of them were big time shots,” Henderson acknowledged. “[It was] a combination of us just giving up some easy shots and not understanding what you need to do to win, which is defending together.”
Princeton would close to 40-32 on a Douglas Davis laser jumper right before halftime and while the Tigers cut their deficit to five on three occasions midway through the second half they were never able to get any closer.
Rosen finished with 28 on 10-18 shooting, leaving to a well-earned standing ovation after 37 minutes on the floor.
Ian Hummer scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half for Princeton, shaking off a horrid 1-7 mark at the free throw line prior to intermission. Brendan Connolly added 15 on 7-8 shooting and Davis contributed 14 along with five assists.
11 of Tyler Bernardini’s supporting 14 for the Quakers came in the opening frame, including a trio of three pointers.
Backing up two hours, Princeton won the opening tip and Hummer started the Tigers’ first possession with a long baseline jumper over Rob Belcore that sailed off the far rim.
Bernardini was unable to can an open three and Hummer was fouled collecting a loose ball on an inbounds under his team’s basket. Shooting into Penn’s “Red & Blue Crew,” Hummer missed both of his attempts, setting the tone for a ghastly half at the line by the Princeton junior.
Miles Cartwright could only do a fraction better, converting one of two after being fouled by T.J. Bray on a long jumper.
Bray did an adequate job cutting off Rosen’s lanes to drive but he couldn’t do much about Rosen using a screen and drifting to his left for an NBA-distance three.
Hummer posted Cartwright and drew the guard’s second personal just 2:15 into the affair, sending the sophomore to the bench for the duration of the stanza. Davis then got Princeton on the board with a move to his left for a step back jumper.
Rosen answered with a step back of his own over Patrick Saunders.
A skip pass to Saunders resulted in a three point try from the far corner that went in and out. The other way Rosen dished a no look feed to Henry Brooks for a layup and Penn held an 8-2 lead.
Belcore’s skip out of a media time out to Bernardini resulted in an open three.
Connolly made his presence felt, taking a Sherburne delivery and dunking it home.
Rosen ran a pick and roll with Brooks who swished a left baseline jumper that initially looked to be outside his making range.
The next time Connolly touched the ball he swiftly spun 180 degrees on Brooks out of the post and had a clear path for his second straight dunk.
(If you know when a Princeton player last had consecutive dunks on consecutive possessions, please don’t keep that information to yourself.)
Again Bernardini connected, this time over Hummer’s outstretched reach. Hummer answered with his first field goal, a right elbow jumper but it is my understanding that three is a larger number than two and Penn was pulling away both slowly and swifty simultaneously.
High/low action from Belcore to Brooks dunking made it 18-8 Quakers.
Their lead eight, Bernardini completed a left baseline jumper floating towards the end line which was so lovely someone should write a sonnet about it.
Davis got Rosen in the air faking a long shot and stepped in to a closer one.
Connolly could not convert a short bank off the glass and Rosen was quickly heading the other way. Sherburne fouled Rosen as his shot skidded off the rim, but the 89%+ free throw shooter missed both his tries.
Fouled by Fran Dougherty hanging on his hip, Connolly went to the line and made one of his two chances for a 20-13 score.
A rare Rosen turnover, passing off a spin straight into Bray’s gut set Princeton up and Ben Hazel located Bray at the top of the arc for his only basket of the contest.
The Quakers responded with three straight triples. First Rosen fired over Mack Darrow from the top. Marin Kukoc was found by Rosen in the far corner and Rosen made it a 13 point game when he drifted to his left and still had the strength to hop back and stay square. It was equally impressive and effortless. During this outburst Princeton missed three consecutive times from similar distance.
Connolly stopped this stretch with a layup, found by Hummer off the opposite block. Bernardini wasn’t done, connecting from well behind the arc.
A slashing Hummer was fouled by Bernardini. Frustrated he could not convert his layup, Hummer slammed the ball on the floor with two hands but did not stop the ball before it went high over his head and into the backboard support. The officials did not say anything at the time, but after a brief conference assigned a technical to Hummer.
Rosen went to the other side of the Palestra and made a pair of free throws. When it was Hummer’s turn he could only manage one of two. With 5:43 remaining Princeton trailed 34-19.
Connolly blocked a Rosen drive loudly out of bounds, leading to a Penn shot clock violation. Then Connolly sealed his man in the post and a third dunk was his.
Rosen, who was so good at running the Quakers in a “four wide, one high” set with his teammates providing ample space, split two defenders and scooped the ball home the first time he went all the way to the rim.
Davis pulled up at the free throw line for a 36-23 game. An illegal screen by Brooks gave the ball back to the Tigers and Hummer rifled a no look pass to a cutting Denton Koon.
Steve Rennard, who played ample first half minutes with Cartwright out, looked unsure on his first three point try and the result was off the mark. In a sequence typical of the half Hummer was fouled by a reaching Dau Jok on a drive but missed the front end of his one and one. Belcore going left at Koon drew body contact and made both chances.
Connolly in the post passed out to Davis on the right wing for three over Rosen and the Tigers, despite all their issues, were down only 10.
Hummer missed a pair of chances at the line after Jok fouled him again and Rennard muscled out of a reach and fed Belcore for a basket and a Sherburne foul. Belcore missed his free throw as well.
Connolly slid in to the basket and Hummer found him in time. Right before time expired a jumper from Davis inside the circle made it 40-32 going to the break.
Princeton shot an incredible 13-19 from the floor (68.4%), 2-6 from three (33.3%) and 4-11 on free throws (36.4%). They still trailed by eight. Davis and Connolly each had 11 for the Tigers, who handed out seven assists versus three turnovers.
Penn was equally successful, 14-22 in the half (63.6%), a ludicrous 7-10 from three (70.0%) and 5-10 at the line (50.0%). Rosen (15) and Bernardini (11) combined for 26 of their team’s 40.
There was only one offensive rebound and it went the Quakers’ way.
Connolly got a long arm down low to steal a post entry by Bernardini when play resumed. In a telling segment Hummer’s drive off glass was called a foul on the floor and instead of a chance at the three point play Hummer’s bounce pass to Connolly as play resumed was intercepted by Belcore.
Back on the floor, Cartwright had an easy time getting all the way to the rim without help defense to obstruct him. Cartwright topped that with a steal of a Bray pass and a coast to coast layup.
Connolly spun right for two and it was Connolly’s block of Dougherty that started an outlet to Hummer for the high flying slam.
Within single digits again, Bernardini hung in the air and scored over Connolly.
Hummer continued to play like someone wanting to atone for an awful first half. He connected for a left wing three off a Davis drive then had an easy layin when Connolly’s initial cut off an inbounds drew attention. It was 46-41.
Almost as if he was toying with Princeton, Rosen picked this spot for his only three of the second half. Bray was screened off and Rosen fired from the near corner.
A posting Bray found Hummer cutting and Rosen fouled him hard from behind. Unlike in the first half Hummer had no trouble with either try at the line.
Again Rosen split the defense, bounced off Bray for a whistle and scored.
Davis had a three point play of his own, curling into the lane and hanging as Dougherty committed his fourth personal.
Like in Ithaca to open conference play, every chance Princeton had to turn their opponent’s lead into a one possession battle was unsuccessful. Davis on the break passed off to a trailing Hummer for a 53-48 game.
You could only marvel at Rosen’s next and perhaps hardest step back jumper.
Denton Koon got inside over Rosen to make it 55-50.
Rosen faked Koon in the air but missed the open three try. The other way Hummer caught a pass in motion on the right wing and launched in rhythm but came up too strong to draw the Tigers within two.
If there were a pair of sequences that defined the second half, this was the first. Despite a serious size gap, Penn was the faster team to the ball on Monday night. Rosen’s pull up three was rebounded offensively by Belcore. Then Belcore tried inside and controlled his attempt. A Cartwright corner three came to Rennard.
“I don’t think there were a lot of rebounds to get, but when they were there to get it certainly seemed like Belcore was all over it,” said Henderson. “They were just quicker to everything than us.”
Following a media stoppage the pain prolonged. Bernardini’s jumper over Connolly was an airball, but an airball that Mike Howlett cleaned up at the rim. Oof.
Hummer responded with a fading post jumper of his own and a 57-52 count.
Three misses and two offensive boards later, Princeton had the ball back but Davis was off the mark from the left elbow extended.
He lacked confidence in his shot in the first half, however Rennard’s three on the right side was poised, assured and a killer. It was only his sixth trey of his Quaker career.
Davis’ three try came up short of the rim but Connolly slid over from the weakside to place home the miss. It was 60-54 with 6:13 remaining.
A Sherburne steal looked like a break the other way but Sherburne could not get around Rosen and became caught in the air. His attempted pass out to the wing was into Belcore’s hands and the result was Rosen slithering to his left for a layup.
The second sequence that defined the second half could have been the above paragraph, but instead it was a similar series where with Princeton down six following two Hazel free throws Hazel came up with a steal. Davis on his way to the bucket bobbled the ball and could not convert. Hazel rebounded but the ball slipped in and out of a few different pairs of hands until Hazel was fouled by Rennard on the floor. Hazel missed the front end of his one and one and to twist the dagger some more Rosen dropped a pass over Princeton’s zone to Rennard in the near corner for his second three.
While Hazel answered from distance on the opposite side with 3:53 left, that was as close as the Tigers could manage. The Quakers’ next two points came again via offensive rebounding as Brooks ran down a Rosen miss in front of Connolly by the Penn bench and was fouled.
The Quakers scored seven straight at the free throw line and made 9-10 down the stretch.
Rosen capped his first win over Princeton in four home tries with a drive that began around Davis, crossed over Connolly and ended at the iron with a flip as Hummer fouled him.
The senior headed to the bench a minute later. His work was done.
Now it is Princeton with serious work ahead of them, looking up at Harvrd, Penn and half of the league from 1-2 in conference.
-Princeton shot 26-45 for the game (57.8%) but it wasn’t the offense that was the issue. The Tigers were 6-16 from three (37.5%) and used 5-6 second half shooting to improve to 9-17 at the line (52.9%).
-Davis had a career high five assists in defeat.
-Penn made 26-49 tries (53.1%), 10-18 from three (55.6%) and 20-30 on free throws (66.7%).
-The Quakers outrebounded the taller Tigers 33-19, grabbing 12 second half offensive boards. An unacceptable 62.5% of all offensive rebound chances went to Penn in the final 20 minutes.
-Hummer upped his career scoring total to 988. He will soon become the 29th 1,000 point scorer at Princeton.
-Davis passed Bob Scrabis for sixth all time in points as a Tiger. He has 1,371 for his career. Next up is current assistant Brian Earl with 1,428.
-Penn scored 1.39 points per possession. That’s bonkers.
-Princeton drops to 1-2 in conference for the first time since the 2004-05 season. They were also 0-4 to open 2006-07 in the Ivy League.
-Will Barrett was at the Palestra on Monday, cheering his team on from right behind the Tiger bench.