Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Patrick Saunders, T.J. Bray & Ian Hummer:
Of the 10 sour choices, January 13th was the night this season Princeton wished most they could have back. Missing more than their fair share of clean jump shots and unable to take advantage of late opportunities to rally on the road past the Big Red, the Tigers fell 67-59 to open their Ivy League schedule.
“The guys understood that this was a game up in Ithaca – and all credit goes to Cornell – where we really did not feel good about how we played,” Head coach Mitch Henderson admitted.
This evening at Jadwin Gym was poles apart.
“We looked like a completely different bunch,” Henderson said. “I’ve watched that Cornell game probably five or 10 times now. I just don’t recognize us up there. This was a little bit more of who we really are tonight.”
After scoring on their final 12 possessions to finish Columbia off on Friday night, Princeton picked up right where they concluded. The Tigers had five baskets from five different players their first five times down the court.
“I thought we brought a lot of energy right from the tip,” said junior forward Ian Hummer. “We just kept it going all night and tried not to hit a wall.”
While Cornell was able to keep pace offensively for the initial seven minutes, Princeton never let up as they shot 69.2% in the opening frame and maintained a double digit lead over the night’s final 27:47.
“We knew if we came out in the second half and really put our foot to the pedal we would be fine,” Hummer added.
Balanced scoring again was the story for the Tigers in their fourth straight conference victory. A confident T.J. Bray struck four times from behind the arc on his way to a career high 16. Patrick Saunders, who struggled with open jumpers in Tompkins County, came up with 14 as Hummer added 13 and Douglas Davis 11.
Davis passed Craig Robinson for fourth on the Princeton scoring list with a three point shot in the second half but it was a ludicrous Hummer dunk over Jonathan Gray for a three point play that everyone wanted to talk about afterwards.
Chris Wroblewski and Galal Cancer paced the Big Red with 10 each.
In a designed play off of the late 1990s Bill Carmody clipboard, Princeton center Brendan Connolly pushed the opening tip forwards instead of backwards right to a waiting Saunders who was already passing to Bray cutting to the basket. It was a sequence that both gave Princeton an immediate lead and established the tone of the night.
Cornell’s leading scorer Drew Ferry, who went point-free the last time these two teams played, responded with a three point shot at the top of the arc.
With Bray on the scoreboard, next came Saunders who executed a righty jump hook off the left block. Shonn Miller’s three point try bounded high off the rim twice to Connolly and Hummer backed down Miller with a hook of his own.
Three times with the ball. Three baskets. Three different Tigers.
Eitan Chemerinski drove at Connolly for two and a 6-5 count.
Next up, Davis going around Wroblewski for a pair. Four for four.
A wild pass by Gray lined over the Princeton bench and as play resumed Bray penetrated and Connolly was alone for a two hand flush.
Hummer’s help defense led to a block of Chemerinski but up the floor Hummer lost the ball off his foot to end the Tigers’ perfect run at 17 possessions and set up Wroblewski driving the other way. Cornell was within 10-7. The Big Red subbed five players in for their starters and the just-inserted Dwight Tarwater launched a three over Saunders’ outstretched reach. A putback by Davs LaMore of Dominic Scelfo’s three point try pushed the Big Red up a pair with 14:43 left.
The assist went to Miles Asafo-Adjei, who was playing his first minutes since a December injury.
Denton Koon became the sixth Princeton player to score in as many field goals, going left to right for a layup. Koon was also the recipient of a pass from Bray curling across the lane as Koon cut diagonally.
Devin Cherry’s flip made it 14-14, but Princeton promptly ran off 10 straight. Hummer out of the left side was long on a three so who else but Mack Darrow kept possession alive with an offensive board. Given another chance Hummer sealed his man and had a basket off the glass. A no look pass from Bray to Koon doubled the Tigers’ lead.
As Princeton settled into what appeared to be a 1-3-1 on defense Wroblewski was long from outside but tracked down his own rebound. Cancer’s drive went over the rim to Darrow.
At the other side of the floor a cutting Davis freed Bray on the far wing and Darrow set him up for three, the Tigers’ first of the ballgame.
LaMore could not stay still for an illegal screen, giving possession back to Princeton. As Darrow drew double coverage on the right wing Davis was happy to stay in the far corner and bury a three pointer.
The Tigers actually had two chances to increase their lead following a miss from Wroblewski. Darrow in the left corner was off from three but Jimmy Sherburne slapped the ball out. Davis from the top came up short.
Scelfo had no such issues, chucking one in over Koon for a 24-17 game. Darrow had a nifty split of two defenders and went right up to the rim before Scelfo connected a second time, this off the left wing.
Bray answered from the right side to push his team back up nine. Wroblewski got two back going around Davis and reversing the ball home as he was brushed. The 86.5% free throw shooter missed at the line.
Davis did not, taking a Bray pass and converting behind the arc on the right side. Princeton’s lead would be double digits from here on out.
Miller traveled on his first move and Princeton posted Bray who lobbed the ball out to Saunders at the top. Saunders stepped backwards as the pass reached him and fired for a 35-22 count.
Cornell threw a press at Princeton inbounding under their own basket. Davis from the Tiger paint tossed a pass ahead to Saunders on the far sideline well over midcourt. As Gray rushed back to check Darrow under the basket Hummer was already approaching swiftly from the three point line. Hummer caught Saunders’ pass just inside the circle, took one dribble and planted. Gray tried to come over from between two assignments. Gray tried to jump. Hummer rose and kept rising.
Two words follow in my notepad: “Oh lord.”
Hummer dunked on Gray with his left hand as the whistle sounded. It was insane. Cheerleaders, the baseball team wearing practice jerseys, otherwise stoic professors, the guy dressed as Gumby – everyone went berserk.
An informal poll after the game couldn’t come up with a more impressive dunk by a Princeton player. Sorry, Kareem Maddox from Marcus Schroeder at Columbia or Ray Robins with a reverse slam on a backdoor cut.
“It seemed like jumped and then he jumped again,” said an impressed Henderson. “It was hard not to smile for him.”
“That’s the best dunk I think I’ve ever had in a game,” Hummer added with a grin. “Dunking on somebody, you see it all the time but to have one under your belt is pretty nice.”
Hummer went blank trying to think of the slam this throw down replaced at the top of his list. “Nothing even close to that,” he said.
Even Hummer’s teammates didn’t know how to process what they witnessed.
“My jaw dropped but I couldn’t do anything but laugh,” Bray stated. “I was just amazed that he was up that high.”
After Hummer’s free throw there was still 6:21 left before halftime.
Cancer’s righty runner dropped prior to Darrow faking Miller into a statue on the three point line. As Darrow went around Miller there was zero help defense waiting. Darrow will be the first to admit he’s not the fastest individual to suit up wearing orange and black but no member of the Big Red was prepared to slide down into the lane as Darrow went the full 20 feet for a slow motion one hand dunk. Cornell’s Bill Courtney called a none-too-pleased time out.
Scelfo’s third three of the half banked in from the top of the arc and made it 40-27. Saunders answered with a right hook over the previously posterized Gray.
Gray’s lone bucket was a three from the top to slice the Big Red deficit into 42-30 with 2:04 before halftime.
Sherburne misfired to Saunders in the post but Scelfo could not make Princeton pay. Cornell also was unable to take advantage of Sherburne guarding Chemerinski on a mismatched switch. A lob came late and Bray drew back to knock it out of bounds.
Faced with another possible two-for-one situation Sherburne drove from the far wing strong and was fouled by Chemerinski, making both free throws. Ferry traveled at Sherburne with the shot clock just having turned off and the Tigers held for a final shot.
Sherburne to his left shuffled his feet with :04.3 showing, which was enough time for Wroblewski to take an inbounds pass, go up the near sideline, use a back screen, get into the lane and bank a shot home off the glass as time ran out.
Princeton was up 44-32 at the break, hitting 18-26 from the floor in the half (69.2%). The Tigers made 5-10 three pointers (50.0%) and went 3-3 on free throws. Bray had eight points and five assists versus zero turnovers. Davis also scored eight.
After scoring 40 points in the opening 16:18 the orange and black slipped slightly at the half’s close but Cornell could only cut four points off their largest deficit as Princeton finished with 1.44 points per possession.
The Big Red shot 13-27 (48.1%), 6-14 from three (42.9%) and 0-1 at the line.
Holding a decided 16-6 edge on the glass was another huge difference from this matchup in Ithaca.
As the vesper 20 minutes drew down the Tigers were able to incrementally increase their lead. A Hummer jumper was an airball but Saunders battled for the board and was fouled by Gray, converting twice. Davis stepped in front of a Gray pass to the post and took a Hummer pass from the low block and launched the 157th true three pointer of his Princeton career, passing Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson in the process.
Ferry to his left for three made it 49-35 but the Tigers chinned Cornell as Bray slid behind a back screen and laid in the Saunders pass which met him at the basket.
“Every single guy on the team was aware the way they would get back in the game was making threes,” said Henderson. “It is a dangerous group because they spread you out a little bit. I thought the defense was very good.”
Princeton’s guards, especially Davis, chased Ferry and the other Big Red shooters around constant curls. More often than not as the ball reached its recipients’ hands a Tiger had arrived at the same spot in time to defend.
An unexpectedly wide open Ferry on the left side was off for three. As Cornell pressured, Hummer to Connolly spotted Saunders for a short jumper and a 53-35 count.
It must have been an unpleasant feeling on the Big Red sidelines as each time any headway was made Princeton took their lead back to its high water mark or improved it by a point.
Ferry faked Koon in the air and hit a long deuce for a 14 point game with 14:35 left. Plenty of time unless the following actions are “chin” getting Koon to the post and throwing across his body to Bray for three followed by Bray with a loud steal pushing to the rim and not finishing but Hummer crashing and getting fouled. Hummer added a free throw and the score was 57-39.
With the shot clock about to expire and the lead down to 16, Darrow to Sherburne from the corner in front of the Princeton bench was flung towards the iron to beat the buzzer and the ball kicked the rim before going straight up and back down inside the netting. The second career Sherburne three pointer and second in as many nights had his team up 60-41.
So it went. Lead down to 14? Saunders for three as Hummer from the free throw line drew the defense and Darrow to Bray on the right side from behind the arc took the edge up to 20 for the first time with 8:00 to go.
Bray to Darrow playing the classic Princeton center leaving a bounce pass for a cutting Hummer resulted in a three point play as Tarwater fouled on the layup. The free throw increased the Tiger advantage to 21.
As a capper Darrow got a lefty hook to drop over Chemerinski for a 73-50 total.
It was time for high fives, fist bumps, back slaps and bench clears. The only thing that stopped Princeton was their coach’s substitutions in the final 3:34. Cornell scored the last six points but the result was well decided.
You can’t change the past, but you can use it to affect the future. Everything on Saturday night was a result of what Princeton had not done five weeks previous. Hummer got more frequent touches in better positions. Saunders and Davis converted outside shots that didn’t fall up north.
“It was probably the one we want most back from the season that we dropped,” Saunders acknowledged after the game about the teams’ first meeting. “Everyone had that in mind coming in and we definitely made a point to remind ourselves of that."
By not forgetting what had happened but not dwelling on the past, Princeton was able to finish off a second consecutive weekend sweep with one of their season’s best showings – partially erasing the memory of one of the lowest.
-Princeton finished the night 29-52 from the field (55.8%), making at least half their shots for the third straight game. The Tigers were 10-21 from three point range (47.6%) and 7-8 at the line (87.5%).
-20 assists mark a season high for Princeton but that number went with 17 giveaways.
-Cornell made 21-47 attempts (44.7%), 8-22 threes (36.4%) and 7-11 free throws (62.6%). The Big Red had 19 turnovers.
-Davis moves eight points behind Pete Campbell ’62 for third on Princeton’s scoring list.
-Hummer vaulted Armond Hill, Jim Brangan and Artie Hyland into 22nd place on the same chart. He’s three tallies behind Chris Mooney and eight in back of Bob Roma.
-Bray finished a game high +25 in 32:14 of action.
-John Comfort was not on the bench for the Tigers, the latest victim of the norovirus spreading around Princeton. Keep washing your hands!
-The Cornell coaching staff wore large pins on the sideline to help bring awareness to the fight against prostate cancer.