Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Ian Hummer & T.J. Bray:
Like happened last March in memorable fashion at the end of an Ivy League playoff in New Haven and as even ensued somewhat prematurely when the two teams met further north at Lavietes Pavilion the week prior, for the third consecutive occasion when Harvard and Princeton faced one another in basketball a court was stormed.
The stakes were not as high as they had been in either of these previous two meetings. There was no trip to the NCAA Tournament directly on the line, but as time ran out at Jadwin Gym on Saturday night the hardwood transformed into a sea of orange and black jubilation as the Crimson suffered their first loss in conference play.
Princeton (13-10 / 4-3) was downright magnificent in the final 5:14 on Saturday night versus nationally-ranked Harvard (21-3 / 7-1), first scoring on six straight possessions to turn a 46-46 game into a 10 point Tiger lead and then making nine of 12 free throws in the last 71 seconds to fend off the Crimson’s endless loop of drives to the basket.
Junior forward Ian Hummer clearly was the best player on the floor, recording 20 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing six assists including a pair of jaw-dropping passes. Hummer was one of five Princeton players in double figures. T.J. Bray had all 12 of his tallies in the second half, making his first start in 17 games Brendan Connolly was a needed force inside with 11 as the displaced Mack Darrow and freshman Denton Koon each added 10 from the bench.
Keith Wright had 16 to lead three Crimson starters in double digits.
It was Princeton’s first win over a then-ranked team since besting Wake Forest in 1997 and the first victory versus a team in the AP Top 25 at home since a memorable game against #2 Notre Dame in 1977.
Connolly returned to the starting lineup and both won the opening tip and recorded the night’s first field goal with a hesitation over Wright.
Connolly also provided a bigger frame for Wright, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, to have to go around in the post. Connolly’s footwork made a Brandyn Curry layup try more difficult than it could have been and Douglas Davis rebounded.
“[This lineup change] was something we’ve been talking about quite a bit in the office,” head coach Mitch Henderson said. “Because Mack and Brendan support each other so much on and off the floor it was an easy thing to do. It presented a really nice matchup for us with Keith Wright.”
A circling drive by Hummer was deflected and at the other end Laurent Rivard put back a Wright miss to even the score.
After missing 13 straight shots between Friday against Dartmouth and the first three minutes versus Harvard, Hummer finally connected, knocking down a three in the far corner, set up by Bray out of the post.
“To get that first one to go down was quite a bit different from yesterday,” Hummer said with a chuckle. “I just knew shots were going to come my way.”
Wright to his left kept his team within one and it was Bray a second time to Hummer, this time catching and immediately popping up a mid-range jumper.
Steve Moundou-Missi was whistled for an illegal screen, giving the ball back to Princeton and sending the game into its first media time out.
Darrow entered the lineup, but for Hummer instead of Connolly, providing Princeton a larger five of the just-inserted Denton Koon, Darrow, Connolly, Bray and Davis.
It was Davis splitting the defense and pulling up for his only basket of the game and a 9-4 Tiger edge.
Christian Webster, who now comes off the bench for the Crimson, was open for a jumper that somehow popped out. Connolly also had bad fortune, using a great drop step on Wright but unable to finish the deal. Webster glided by Connolly to the basket.
Corbin Miler, playing his first season for Harvard before departing on a two year Mormon mission, crossed over Ben Hazel and showed a lovely touch from just inside the arc.
Darrow got into the lane and spun to his right, fouled by Monudou-Missi, the freshman’s second personal. Darrow made one of two from the line.
Both teams were drawing down the shot clock and it was clear that as expected possessions would be at a premium.
A fancy backdoor bounce feed from Hummer to Koon made it 12-8 Tigers at the midway point of the half.
Kyle Casey was dared to shoot over Saunders and he sized up Harvard’s first three of the contest off the left wing.
That was a nice shot, but a line drive backdoor feed by Hummer to a slashing Saunders was even nicer. As the Crimson aggressively overplayed the perimeter, exact passing by Princeton was giving the Tigers chances right at the rim.
Casey’s wrapping block-to-block pass to Wright made it 14-13, before Connolly with one hand scored off the glass above Wright’s reach.
Hummer missed a three and the loose ball came to the floor. As two Princeton players and one for Harvard battled on the ground the rebound bounced to Curry who started a three-on-two the other way, resulting in a silky three point shot by Miller.
Wright went hard at Connolly and scored, providing Harvard with their first lead of the contest at 18-16.
Next Wright doubled his team’s advantage and Casey slipped to his left underneath Connolly to triple it.
Connolly stopped this 9-0 run with a two hand slam as Bray recognized that Connolly was alone by the basket.
Jonah Travis lowered his shoulder into Hummer, knocking him down for the offensive foul, one of three charges Princeton took for the game.
Davis was able to create some space but his three try was off the mark.
A driving Rivard set up Miller outside for a game-best seven point Harvard edge.
Princeton’s ability to regroup the final 3:20 of the half kept them in the frame. Bray to Koon made it 25-20. Bray also contested a Miller three and Hummer went all the way to his left for a three point game.
Wright scored as Hummer came over to bump his team’s lead up a pair. While 1:48 remained, these were the final points of the half.
Darrow spun right but didn’t get a call. Casey spotted up again up top but his shot sailed off to the right. Davis floating left fired from the apex of the circle but was not near the target. It was a quick shot with just under a minute to go, perhaps because Princeton was looking to go two-for-one on offense.
Wright missed twice more inside and Hummer’s dead on look at the horn was off left.
Thus, Princeton trailed by five at the break. The Tigers shot 10-26 overall (38.5%), 1-7 from three (14.3%) and 1-2 at the line (50.0%). Hummer had seven points on 3-9 shooting while Connolly added six. The offensive numbers were about on par with expectations facing one of the nation’s top 20 defensive teams.
Harvard shot 12-29 (41.4%), 3-7 outside (42.9%) and most importantly did not attempt a free throw. Wright scored 10 and grabbed six rebounds.
As play resumed, a Casey three came up short and Saunders from the far corner could not connect. Hummer to his left finished in the lane.
With Harvard inbounding under their own basket, Princeton did not check Casey who was ignored by Connolly with his back turned for a dunk. Casey was called for a dubious technical foul yelling up on the rim and Davis tried to negate the play with two free throws but made just one of his chances alone at the line.
Help defense from Casey blocked a posting Bray and Curry, who was scoreless to this point, drove and was swatted down by Connolly, providing Harvard with their first free throw attempts of the game. Curry made both his tries for a 31-25 score.
Hummer helped alter an Oliver McNally drive and a confident Bray sized one up from in front of the Princeton bench to halve the deficit.
Curry drove a second time and Darrow fouled him, resulting in two free throws. Darrow more than atoned with a three up top. Hummer on the far wing found Saunders cutting and Saunders passed out to Darrow setting up for this basket.
Moundou-Missi came up short of the rim and Darrow’s running lefty hook evened the ledger at 33.
Rivard was alone for three but did not connect as Webster battled Davis for an offensive board. Next Curry used Wright’s screen to drift back and fire for three of his own.
Hummer strong to his right got a shot to go as Moundou-Missi fouled him, Hummer slapping his hands with pride. A free throw later and the game was tied a fourth time. With this point Hummer caught his uncle John for 28th on the Princeton scoring list.
Darrow to his left could not score and in transition Curry tossed a lob up in front of the rim for Casey to grab out of the air and slam home. Both teams missed chances to change what stood as a 38-36 Harvard lead.
Davis out of the left wing was off the mark. Webster pushed off Jimmy Sherburne for an offensive foul on a drive. Connolly’s hook on Casey was short. Hummer to his left over Wright rimmed off. Finally Casey established himself in deep and scored.
“[Harvard] had been playing games where it was almost like a fight, they have been defending so well,” Henderson said. “Up until 12 minutes left in the game it was the same thing for us.”
Princeton began to take advantage of back screens, with Bray cutting behind one and laying in a Hummer feed.
Wright scored over Darrow and as soon as the ball went through the net Henderson called Connolly off the bench.
Hummer floated across the lane long enough for Koon to drift behind the defense and score.
Rivard was well short on a three. Like they did a year ago using Kareem Maddox, Princeton defended Rivard with either the long arms of Hummer chasing him from side to side or Koon’s extra length. Rivard - who was Harvard’s leading scorer entering the weekend - did not connect on more than a pair of layups.
Bray controlled his body on a spinning drive and was fouled by Wright but missed both of his chances at the line. Princeton was struggling to 3-7 on free throws.
Extra footwork from Connolly at Wright resulted in a lefty layup and a 42-42 score. Wright out of a double team met Hummer at the rim and the result looked first like a clean block but was a goaltending whistle the loud crowd could not hear.
Again Bray got free on a “chin” back screen and Hummer found him, with Bray waiting for McNally to sail by and then scoring.
“We found something that worked on offense and we just kept going to it,” Bray admitted. “We tried to get a couple looks each time at the same thing.”
Curry missed on the left elbow and Saunders’ unexpected fading jumper over McNally was a pure delight. Princeton went back in front.
A clutching drive from McNally, his only basket of consequence, set the stage at 46-46 with 5:37 to go.
Princeton played with poise while the ranked Crimson looked to feel a different sort of pressure than they were accustomed to.
Bray posted Miller for a second, went to his right an instant in the left block and then back baseline where he floated up a short lefty push.
Casey dipped to his left under Saunders and was fouled, missing one and making one. Bray, who was the recipient of several Hummer passes in the second half, returned the favor and Hummer went down akimbo, fouled by Casey. Hummer made both chances and it was 50-47 Tigers.
Casey got by Saunders on a drive to his right but his shot was too strong as Saunders pushed him in the back. It negated a layup and when Casey missed a pair at the line it seemed like a genius decision.
Hummer’s drive to the right block had too much on it, sailing over the rim to Darrow weakside and Darrow cradled the rebound with his left arm going right back up for a five point lead.
Curry got into the lane and stopped to flip in a shot. 52-49 Tigers with 3:33 showing.
Princeton continued to convert. A posting Connolly found Hummer on the near baseline for a jumper. Then, after Casey missed the front end of a one and one it was Koon to a cutting Connolly who lumbered in diagonally as Casey fouled him for a three point play, his free throw following a chest bump from Hummer.
The time was decreasing and the Tiger lead was increasing. McNally took a panicked three pointer and Hummer had an insane weakside rebound with his chin up by the rim and the ball in both hands.
Bray hesitated on a drive and was fouled by McNally, dropping in two free throws. Princeton led 59-49 with just over two minutes left.
Wright sawed off two with free throws after Bray fouled him hard going to his left. Connolly tried to squeeze a backdoor bounce to Hummer and the ball ticked off Hummer’s knee. Attempts to save came too late. Curry went around Hummer off the glass and Harvard had closed to down six.
Rivard fouled Hummer who made one of two. Princeton did not slow the Crimson guards in the final minute and Rivard was able to fight off Hummer to his left for a layup and a 60-55 count.
Bray inbounded to Koon who passed right back to Bray in the field of play. A foul came immediately. Bray’s first free throw hit the back iron, popped way up and then sailed through the rim. The second was simply off target. Now Curry drove at Davis. The lead was down to four with :53.3 showing.
Hummer made it 63-57 with a pair of free throws and Rivard from the top was long. Koon rebounded and was fouled, heading the other way for two successes at the stripe.
Another Hummer free throw and a pair from Darrow made it a nine point lead with :27.8 on the clock. Miller’s deep three try came to Hummer who pushed the ball and capped an excellent evening with a pass to Koon for the two hand exclamation point.
Hummer jumped, twisted and shook in the air as the large crowd roared.
All McNally’s three with less than a second to go did was prolong a madcap celebration.
“I felt like the team that showed up in the last 12 minutes of the game is a group that’s pretty tough to beat,” Henderson said.
“We just keep talking about sharing the ball and making each other better. When we’re committed to that we can be pretty good.”
Good enough to best a Top 25 team and see the court stormed once more.
-Shooting 15-24 in the second half (62.5%), Princeton was a tidy 25-50 for the game (50.0%), 3-11 on three pointers (27.3%) and a crucial 17-24 on free throws (70.8%).
-The Tigers scored 1.4 points per possession in the second half.
-Harvard made 25-56 attempts (44.6%), 5-18 from deep (27.8%) including 1-10 in the second half before McNally’s meaningless shot. The Crimson were 7-11 on free throws (63.6%), all in the second half.
-Harvard is 18-0 when attempting 15 or more free throws, 3-3 when attempting 14 or fewer.
-All 15 of Curry’s points came after intermission.
-20 for Hummer bring his career total to 1,039. He's now five behind former coach Sydney Johnson and 15 removed from former teammate Dan Mavraides.
-The Crimson have not won at Princeton since February of 1989.