Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Patrick Saunders & Douglas Davis:
Win or lose, up or down, for 112 games as a Princeton Tiger, senior guard Douglas Davis’ demeanor has remained the same. In his first outing after a 2-12 struggle to connect at Yale, Davis got rolling in the second half, leading his team to a win over Dartmouth.
Davis scored 14 of his game high 20 after intermission, including four three pointers in five tries as the Tigers flipped a two point halftime deficit into a 33-25 lead.
All the while, his expression didn’t change.
“Don’t play poker with Doug,” joked head coach Mitch Henderson.
Princeton had to fight through dreadful 0-12 shooting to open the game and an unexpected 0-11 mark by leading scorer Ian Hummer, but after falling behind by 10 points early the Tigers rallied behind their senior co-captains Davis and Patrick Saunders for the 59-47 victory.
“Doug’s pretty quiet. If he goes 0-11 or 11-11, it looks pretty much the same,” Saunders said of his stoic classmate.
While it was the Tigers going 7:54 into the game without a basket, it was Dartmouth who turned cold the opening 7:24 of the vesper half.
Saunders had seven points and five rebounds, providing needed post defense with Mack Darrow and Brendan Connolly in foul trouble.
Connolly was able to stay on the court long enough to score 10 points in 15 minutes of action.
Freshman John Golden’s 12 led the way for the Big Green.
It was hard to be dissatisfied with the shots Princeton was getting in the initial eight minutes of action and it was difficult to show displeasure with who was taking them. The ball just didn’t find the bottom of the basket at any point from anywhere on the floor – paint, arc or otherwise.
Off the opening tip a posting T.J. Bray diagonally spotted Mack Darrow open on the arc but Darrow’s clean try came up short.
Freshman big man Gabas Maldunas dropped a pass over Princeton’s defense to David Rufful in the far corner for a three.
Darrow’s handoff screen to Hummer resulted in a second open trey try that missed the mark. Hummer slipped on defense guarding the post at the other end and Maldunas went right by him.
Hummer deep inside could not convert a shot his coach estimated he makes 80% of the time. Maldunas scooped one home at Darrow and it was 7-0 Big Green.
Finally Hummer was able to go low enough that he split a double team and drew a foul, splitting a pair at the line.
Dartmouth had a decent strategy to limit Hummer. He would draw single coverage in the post but a second defender would sag down right under the rim to take away any one-on-one attacks to the rim. It was less “help defense” than “supporting defense.”
Darrow handed off to Davis behind him and Davis’ first three of the game spun out. Darrow was also too strong going to his right on a drive.
A posting Maldunas set up Rufful outside with his right toe on the line for a long jumper.
Saunders camped on the arc and could not connect. Hummer ran down the offensive board but his slashing drive was off the mark, the ball deflecting out to Dartmouth.
Davis even had a steal, grabbing the ball out of the air with the shot clock low and fed Hummer ahead on an outlet but Hummer’s bursting layup was far too strong.
“Ian is an aggressive kid,” Henderson acknowledged. “He really doesn’t have an unaggressive bone in his body.”
A putback by freshman Jvonte Brooks sent the Tigers down 11-1.
After nearly eight minutes of futility Brendan Connolly was able to spin right and finish with his right hand. 20 seconds later and Connolly’s good will was snuffed out by his second personal foul in less than two minutes of action.
As Princeton grew more comfortable with playing a Division I team at home after two+ months on the road, their execution also improved. Bray passed to Jimmy Sherburne in the far corner and instead of forcing a shot Sherburne zipped the ball down the baseline to Darrow under the hoop for a little flip.
Momentum stopped briefly as John Golden mastered an easy path to the basket.
Denton Koon was a touch too lazy with his dribble and Jabari Trotter stripped him. The other way R.J. Griffin missed on the left wing and coming back up the floor Bray went to a crossover and leaned into a three from the top for a 13-8 count.
A textbook backdoor bounce pass from Maldunas to Griffin boosted Dartmouth back by seven.
Ben Hazel barely broke up a second backdoor look by Randy Melville’s son Tyler and Hummer’s hook was blocked by Griffin conveniently into the hands of the recently-returned Connolly for a basket and a foul on Mack McKearney. Connolly converted the three point play and then committed his third foul of the half on Maldunas’ slip to the rim.
It was still a seven point lead for the Big Green with 5:52 left on a Brooks free throw, fouled by Darrow after a hesitation to the left.
Darrow showed he could also switch speeds on a drive, stuttering to a reverse for a 19-14 count.
“We wanted to create some tension in the game by jumping out a little bit but it didn’t work, Henderson admitted. “Our defense was able to help us tonight.”
It was here were Princeton’s defense went from decent to several steps beyond. Griffin was blocked loudly out of bounds by Hummer. Golden missed from outside with Darrow all over him. As the Tigers came up the floor Darrow drove and tried to kick to Davis in the corner but play stopped for Darrow’s offensive foul, his second personal.
Davis stayed with Melville to the free throw line and contested a jumper that clanged off the rim. Darrow found Saunders up top for a rainbow three that drew Princeton within two.
A second Hummer block, this of a Griffin drive, deflected back to Matt LaBove for a fortunate layup.
Following a wild runner by Golden that he lost control of going up but still dropped through the netting, Saunders could not hit from outside. Denton Koon battled for an offensive rebound and Davis passed up an open three, instead sliding forward to the left elbow for a pure jumper.
Dartmouth could not take advantage of Rufful posting the smaller Davis, settling for a Trotter miss outside. The Saunders/Davis pairing combined to spot up Davis on the right wing and the game was tied for the first time since tip.
Bray should have known better than to get beaten backdoor by Golden and Maldunas found him in stride. Davis looked to put his team up one or even on the half’s final possession, but using a Saunders screen he drifted left kept floating, eventually losing the ball into the near corner as time ran out. Henderson came out onto the floor after the horn to question Davis’ decision-making.
Princeton shot 8-28 (28.6%) after a 0-12 start. The Tigers were 3-10 from three point range (30.0%) and 4-7 from the line (57.1%). Davis had six points and Hummer was 0-7 from the floor, good for a single digit.
Dartmouth was 11-29 from the floor in the first half (37.9%), 1-6 from three with their only make their initial attempt (16.7%) and 2-4 on free throws (50.0%). Golden had six points and Brooks grabbed 10 rebounds.
As play resumed, Saunders broke up a cut off a screen and Hummer’s jumper from inside the free throw line was too strong.
Brooks and Darrow got tangled up in the post and in a call that benefited Princeton, Brooks was whistled for his third personal with the offensive instead of Darrow drawing his third.
Hummer drove to his left, setting up Saunders on the left baseline. The jumper was off but Hummer controlled yet could not finish. On his second try Hummer was fouled by Rufful and made one of two at the line.
A skip drive from Kirk Crecco came up short, the ball going back to Princeton. Davis at the top of the arc connected, providing the Tigers with their first lead on Friday.
The Tiger captains shared a nifty sequence. A pass came out of the post to Saunders on the wing who hit Davis up top. As soon as Davis got the ball he rifled possession back to Saunders still on the side for a now-open three that made it 30-25 Princeton.
Davis was able to get Trotter in the air and step to his left for his third three and an eight point Tiger advantage.
His team having run off 10 straight, Davis fouled Trotter on his way to the rim and Trotter ended his team’s drought with two from the line.
Another nice three man combination saw Hummer finding Sherburne backdoor and after a slight bobble Sherburne saw Koon approaching diagonally for a layup.
Golden posting Sherburne traveled and Golden guarding Bray too close on the perimeter fouled the sophomore on a three point try. Bray made two of three for a 37-27 edge.
Koon baseline was blocked by the backboard and Golden kept his team in the conversation with a left wing three. A diagonal alley oop from Sherburne to Connolly going glass was countered by LaBove airballing a long deuce with Connolly in his face and the ball coming to Brooks in front of the rim for a gift.
Saunders’ three was slightly off to the left and Melville’s quick slash drew Dartmouth within five. Connolly tried to run down a Davis miss and committed his fourth personal. 14 seconds later Darrow picked up foul number foul guarding Brooks in the post and Henderson inserted Koon in his place, moving Hummer to de facto “center.”
Melville was well wild on a drive and Hummer across the lane drove until Koon slipped behind the defense for a 41-34 game. An impressive fading jumper by Trotter seemed to set the stage for a tense final 10 minutes but Davis had other inclinations.
Hummer’s 10th miss sailed long and both Koon and Bray battled for the offensive board, Davis rewarding the effort with a one-legged three from the top of the circle. Davis used a Hummer screen the next time down and popped again. Suddenly the Princeton lead was a game-best 11.
Davis didn’t show it externally, but his stroke was with him again.
“I’ve played with him for four years. You can tell when he’s feeling it,” Saunders said. “Usually more often than not.”
Brooks went up and under around Hummer and after a Saunders free throw Maldunas drove for two.
Davis was off out of the right side – his only missed three of the half - but a crashing Saunders tipped the ball to Koon who was fouled and made both attempts.
Maldunas at Saunders came up short and Hummer quickly to his left was fouled, making both tries.
While Hummer couldn’t put the ball in the basket on Friday night, he could still pass out of the near block to Connolly on the far block for a lay-in and a 50-40 game.
Dartmouth, who has had difficulty scoring this season, would not get within single digits again.
As Hummer drove into a pair of forced offensive fouls, a Connolly free throw and Davis’ long two over the outstretched Golden kept the Big Green at bay.
There was no urgency to foul and prolong the game from the Dartmouth staff. Bray’s body control allowed him to finish a drive off the glass and a pair of Golden free throws with :20 showing provided the final margin.
Davis dribbled out the final seconds without pressure. Princeton had the victory, but by looking at Davis’ poker face, you never would have known.
-Princeton shot 11-23 in the second half (47.8%) and 19-51 for the game (37.3%). After their 0-12 start they were 19-39 (48.7%). The Tigers made 8-17 three pointers (47.1%) an 13-20 free throws (65.0%).
-Dartmouth countered with 19-49 shooting (38.8%), 2-8 from three point range (25.0%) and 7-14 at the line (50.0%). The Big Green had five assists (all belonging to Maldunas) and 13 turnovers.
-The last time Hummer scored four or fewer points in a game was also versus Dartmouth at Jadwin Gym. He had two against the Big Green in a 71-43 Tigers win late in his freshman year.
-Sherburne dished four assists versus zero turnovers in 12 minutes off the bench.
-(Non-stat) line of the night goes to Henderson, who remarked “We haven’t been home since the Packers were undefeated.”