Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson:
Postgame audio - Patrick Saunders & Ian Hummer:
The nation’s second-longest home winning streak lives on, but barely.
After desperately chasing Princeton since nearly the midway point of the first half, Harvard turned up the pressure and finally passed the Tigers for good during a 6:15 stretch well into the back stanza wherein the orange and black went scoreless.
The Crimson were only able to extend their slim lead to 59-55 on a Brandyn Curry shot that lipped in and were able to hold off every last Princeton push for their 28th consecutive victory in Lavietes Pavilion.
“I was really proud of our guys,” said head coach Mitch Henderson after a defeat that all-but-officially snuffs the Tigers’ hope for a portion of the Ivy title. “I thought the game could have gone a number of different ways.”
A pair of Kyle Casey free throws provided his team with a three point advantage as :34 remained. Princeton went for a quick two but Ian Hummer could not convert over Casey inside and Oliver McNally’s four free throws were enough to offset a T.J. Bray three pointer.
Hummer and Douglas Davis led the way for Princeton with 14 apiece but three of Davis’ total came on a harmless 35′ jumper to halve the Tigers’ deficit at the buzzer. Patrick Saunders scored all 12 of his tallies in the first half on three straight three point shots and a three point play as Princeton turned a 9-1 hole into as wide as a 10 point lead before Harvard closed the half on a 9-0 run.
Casey’s 20 championed Harvard, one of three Crimson starters in double digits.
In front of a sell out crowd that was split 75%-25% in favor of the home team, Princeton fell behind by eight early. Taking a pass from Bray out of the post, Hummer was long on a right elbow jumper. Casey went right at Saunders and his shot bounced thrice on the rim and dropped.
Hummer used the second Tiger possession as well, his attempt rolling off as he drove to his left. When Casey sized up a three over Saunders’ reach it was 5-0 and following a hesitant hook by Brendan Connolly, Curry completed a drive at Davis.
Connolly had a flat-footed block of Keith Wright inside and Bray attacked the basket, fouled by Laurent Rivard. Bray split a pair at the line to get Princeton on the scoreboard 3:21 in but Wright extended the Harvard lead with a spin to his left over the just-inserted Mack Darrow.
With Darrow and Denton Koon in the game for the first time Princeton’s offense began to execute. A hard bounce pass by Hummer to a cutting Koon resulted in the team’s first field goal. Wright knocked down Hummer in the post, giving the ball back to the Tigers.
In a reversal of a play Princeton has run successfully many times this season, it was Koon from the center of the lane waiting for Hummer to slip behind the last line of the defense for a layup.
Curry beautifully crossed over both Davis and Darrow on the way to the rim for an 11-5 count.
Darrow drove and Hummer followed that drive with one of his own for his second field goal. A Jonah Travis pass went off Curry’s foot for a turnover and Davis launched a three on the right side to draw his team within one.
Wright missed a bunny and Bray found Darrow for an open three that ticked off the front rim before Wright scored inside.
Koon going to his left drove directly into a soft charge call and Casey pulling up at the free throw line made it 15-10 Crimson. A bad entry angle by Saunders to a posting Connolly was stolen and Casey glided to his left and drew a whistle, adding one of a possible two free throws.
Saunders dominated the game’s next four minutes. I don’t know how he was able to even see the rim over Casey but Saunders launched on the left wing to divide the Tiger deficit. When Princeton got the ball back Davis stepped to his left and was fouled by Curry shooting a three. Davis made two of his opportunities for a one point game.
A diagonal pass from Curry to Wright was offset by a second Saunders three. The defense went with Davis on a curl and Saunders got free on the left wing for the game’s first tie.
Casey went to his left once more to break the deadlock. Bray drove to his right and with Connolly setting a thick screen from the left block there was Saunders a third time alone out of the left corner and Princeton was up one. Harvard called time as Saunders came to the bench yelling “Let’s go!”
“That increased the driving lanes for other players,” Hummer said of Saunders’ shooting. “It allows the post guys to do more stuff without the digging off the perimeter. If one guy is making shots it benefits the whole team in many different ways.”
Curry used a screen to attempt a three which bounded off the rim and over the backboard. Connolly showed right inside and spun left for a pair.
When a posting Connolly found Hummer on the left side for three Princeton’s lead extended to 26-20.
Casey on the low block located Oliver McNally outside for a three of his own. Bray fed Saunders inside who bobbled for a second then used a pump fake to launch Casey in the air and scored as Casey came down to foul him. Saunders completed the three point play.
Up six with the ball after McNally missed a second outside attempt, Hummer took an extra step on his drive to the left and knocked over Steve Moundou-Missi for an offensive foul.
A posting Bray went by Corbin Miller to his right and after Moundou-Missi missed a jumper long both Bray and Darrow went to the floor to limit Harvard to one possession.
Hummer attacked to his right and learned from his recent mistake, stopping the drive and pulling up off the glass in front of his defender. Princeton had a 33-23 edge with 3:59 before the break.
Missing some shots they had converted during their run, the Tigers allowed the half’s final nine points. A spinning shot by Moundou-Missi caught the lip and dropped. Darrow and Connolly both missed hook shots, then Bray fouled Casey on an inbounds dunk try and Casey made both at the line.
Davis was short outside and Curry wasn’t, using a wide Casey screen to fire over from the far corner.
Connolly looked to have a simple basket inside but Casey rejected it at the last moment. At the other end Connolly returned serve when he swatted a Wright attempt.
Clinging to a three point lead, Connolly in the lane saw Hummer charging down the left baseline but the pass was a touch low and as Hummer sped to the rim he could not control.
McNally’s reverse layup made it 33-32 and Bray to Connolly ended with another miss in close.
Princeton had the lead at the break but it was an exceptionally tenuous one.
The stats were nearly identical come intermission. Shooting 12-25 overall (48.0%), the Tigers made 5-8 three pointers (62.5%) and 4-6 free throws (66.7%). Saunders led the way with 12.
Harvard was 13-25 overall (52.0%), 3-9 outside (33.3%) and 3-4 at the line (75.0%). Casey had 12 of his team’s points.
While their first possession of the back frame was terrible – a telegraphed Saunders pass right to Casey who missed a drive – Princeton was able to restablish their control of the game as play resumed.
Davis’ leaner as the shot clock expired somehow made it all the way to the front rim and rolled forward into the netting.
Webster first missed long on a three then saw his clever attempt to poke the ball away from Hummer from behind deflect right to Connolly for a layin and a foul on Wright. Connolly missed his free throw but the lead was back at two possessions.
Connolly fouled Wright with his body and Wright surprised by missing both attempts at the line. A spinning Bray in the lane found Hummer for a right baseline jumper and a 39-32 score.
Casey shuffled his feet but still scored going to his left. An entry pass to Saunders sailed high and Curry picked up in stride setting up Rivard for a layup, his only basket of the game.
Bray was long for three and on the rebound Hummer and Casey were tied up with Hummer taking an accidental shot to the face. Hummer would leave the game to have preexisting stitches in his mouth looked at by the trainer.
It was a “hurtful night,” Hummer remarked.
Casey faced up Saunders for a long deuce and Harvard trailed by one once more.
A snaking Davis set up Connolly in close and Casey lobbed the ball in failing to his left.
Princeton answered this charge, refusing to give up their lead. Denton Koon, who had made a combination of 54 layups and dunks for all of his freshman year baskets, found himself in the far corner open with the shot clock running down. It was a heck of a time for Koon’s first college jumper, for three no less.
Mondou-Missi’s left side jumper popped out and Bray spun into the lane for two.
A Curry drive was too strong and equally wild as Hummer returned to the floor.
Bray drew the defense and freed Darrow for three, the shot hanging in the air for an eternity and rattling out to a collective groan.
The Tigers reached their biggest edge of the half at the 11:05 mark when Jimmy Sherburne drove left and scooped the ball in off the glass.
That 50-43 lead didn’t last long. Moundou-Missi went quickly to his left over Hummer. Getting free on a reverse Hummer left the ball short and Koon was fouled on an offensive rebound. As play resumed Bray off the left wing was possibly blocked or altered on a three point try. Either way the ball came up clear of the rim. Curry exploded down the left baseline and was fouled by Davis as he scored to draw Harvard within two.
“I thought a really key play was the sequence of events when it was 50-45,” assessed Henderson. “That just seemed to turn the tide their way.”
As Curry pressured the inbounds in the backcourt Bray’s pass came off Davis and over the baseline with possession returning to Harvard. The crowd was eager and amped, rewarded with Bray getting Wright on the body as a disbelieving Hummer felt he had a clean block of a dunk attempt. Wright made both free throws and we were even a second time.
Hummer to his right could not convert and neither could Wesley Saunders with a layup try but the ball hung on the rim long enough for Wright to tip it home as the Princeton coaching staff pleaded for offensive goaltending.
Darrow stuck with the hook and found success swooping to his left. Wright looked like he might have traveled deep inside but was able to score for a 54-52 count.
The bad calls worked at both ends. Hummer to his right off the glass with minimal contact got a whistle on Wright for a three point play. The Tigers inched up one with 8:17 to go.
Missed chances abounded. McNally was open on the left wing but came up long. Bray fouled Moundou-Missi on a rebound that deflected out to the free throw line but the freshman missed the front end of his one and one.
Saunders’ perfect night from the floor ended with a missed three from the far corner that caught the rim twice. The ball came out of bounds to Princeton but Hummer was whistled for a hop with Casey over him down low.
Saunders’ (Harvard, no relation) slight slip on the right baseline drew the defense in and Curry open outside put his team up for good with a three. Davis got a nice, clean look on the right wing but could not answer, his shot off slightly to the left.
The misses continued on both ends of this hard-played affair. Wright inside over Hummer could not finish. A posting Connolly was led too far by Koon for a turnover. Curry was too quick and too strong and Hummer settled for a needless pull up jumper on Casey from inside the arc.
The magnitude of the game seemed to be effecting both sides, especially Harvard at the line where they were 4-10 in the second half.
“I thought we had a lot of opportunities to pull away,” stated Henderson.
Curry’s runner over Connolly looked long but it caught enough of the far side of the rim to stay in the cylinder.
“When they needed really big baskets they got them from Curry. His ability to get in there hurt us,” Henderson said.
Davis deep on the left wing was off and Hummer skied for an offensive rebound, fouled on the floor as Hummer still tried to throw the ball at the rim falling backwards in the hope he could make it a shooting opportunity.
The tone of the game was changing. Harvard was one basket away from a kill shot and Princeton was one hoop away from handing the pressure back to the Crimson’s shoulders.
Davis right down the lane was blocked out of bounds by Casey helping at the rim. Perhaps that was on Davis’ mind when he drove a second time and whipped a pass out to the left wing…where nobody was standing. The ball met the crowd for a turnover.
Miller, scoreless to this point, tried to fire a jumper but lost possession straight up in the air attempting to square and Bray beat him to the loose ball in the sky. Calling time out, Princeton ran a play for Davis who had a left baseline shot blocked by the lockdown Curry.
Casey open for three was off target. Hummer doubled in the lane tried to wrap a pass to Connolly under the rim but the pass went behind Connolly’s back.
Traveling before his shot inside, Casey gave the ball to Princeton once more and with 2:02 to go Bray was fouled on his way to the glass but made only one of his two chances. It was 59-56 Crimson.
Running the shot clock down, Casey settled for a long two which was errant. Davis tried to answer from the top with a jumper inside the circle but could not. Saunders ran the ball down on the baseline and Davis into the lane banked a runner home.
If Princeton could get a stop, the shot clock would likely be off and regulation’s final possession would be in their hands down one, setting the stage for another incredible Lavietes Pavilion conclusion. However Casey got fouled by Bray inside with :34.1 showing and with no teammates joining him at the line, made both of his attempts.
The Tigers used their final time out with :27.3 showing and went inside to Hummer who missed from the lane over Casey. The ball came out to McNally who was fouled.
“I thought he got bumped a little bit. He makes those,” Henderson said of Hummer’s shot.
McNally nailed both sides of his one and one before Bray squared up from deep on the right side for a 63-61 ballgame.
Harvard could not get the ball in and used a time out with exactly :10.0 showing. After running the baseline to get the ball in play, Bray fouled out grabbing McNally in the back court who did his job once more.
Now down four, Davis up the floor lost the ball off his foot and over the sideline outside the arc. McNally was fouled by Bray and fully put the game away at the line.
The Crimson went 8-8 at the stripe in the game’s final 34 ticks.
Despite the defeat, Henderson was pleased with how hard his team had played and the effort they put forth that would have been good enough to beat most schools.
“You want to give yourself a chance to win on the road and I thought we did that tonight,” he remarked.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, this season most teams aren’t Harvard.
Especially in their own overstuffed gym, home to a winning streak that's at 28 and counting.
-Princeton shot 13-29 in the second half (44.8%) and 25-54 for the night (46.3%). The Tigers were 8-17 from three (47.1%) and 6-10 at the line (60.0%).
-Hummer had five of his team’s 14 turnovers. The junior passed Chris Mooney, Bob Roma and Barnes Hauptfuhrer into 19th on the Princeton scoring list, six points behind Carl Belz.
-A second half jumper for Davis moved him past Pete Campbell into third on the same table. Davis needs 43 more points to become just the third Tiger with 1,500 for his career. He’s 89 in back of Kit Mueller for runner up to Bill Bradley.
-Harvard made 24-49 attempts (49.0%), 4-16 threes (25.0%) and were 15-22 on free throws (68.2%).
-It was partially due to late offense/defense substituting but Princeton was +11 with Darrow on the floor and -14 when Connolly was in the game.
-Needing a three point shot, freshman Clay Wilson came off the bench for the game's final :08.8 of the second half.
-Ben Hazel did not travel with the team this weekend. Henderson said this was because of “a personal matter” and would not elaborate.
-Thanks again to Bob Ruxin for all of his work packing Harvard's stands with a remarkable number of Princeton fans.
-If your child/relative left a #42 Princeton jersey at Lavietes Pavilion after the game, I have it in my bag and would love to return it to you.