Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Denton Koon, John Comfort & Ian Hummer:
One night after a tough loss at Harvard, there were no slumped shoulders. There was no letdown.
Instead there was no letting up.
Princeton made 12 of 17 three point shots, converted 65.4% of their chances and got a complete team effort in a dominant tip-to-buzzer 24 point victory over Dartmouth in Hanover.
Leading by one 10:30 into the game, the Tigers scored 19 of the next 21 to take control going up 19 on a feed from Ian Hummer to senior John Comfort.
“It was import for us to come out with a lot of energy and stay focused on today’s game, Comfort said. “I think we did that well.”
Their advantage never dipped lower than 14 and three consecutive second half three point shots, the first by Patrick Saunders and the last two from Mack Darrow extended the already sizable margin to 60-31.
Saunders, likely playing in his home state for the final time, was a perfect 4-4 from three point range and had a team best 14. Support came inside from Hummer (11 points, four assists), Brendan Connolly (11 points, five assists) and Denton Koon with 10 off the bench.
Princeton unselfishly dished out 25 assists via 11 different sets of hands.
“We were really trying to emphasize that. I thought across the board everybody shared the ball nicely,” said Tiger head man Mitch Henderson.
All 14 players in uniform saw the court as Clay Wilson and Brian Fabrizius both recorded their first collegiate baskets.
Freshman John Golden has 21 for the Big Green including a series of impressive throw downs.
It is a good night when one of the worst things you can say about it is “Princeton didn’t win the opening tip.”
A hand off screen from Connolly to Saunders standing behind on the right wing made it 3-0 Tigers and a spinning Hummer was followed on a tip by Connolly inside to increase this early lead to five.
Freshman Gabas Maldunas, one of three nice-looking first year players on the Dartmouth roster, popped for a jumper at the free throw line.
T.J. Bray to a curling Hummer made it 7-2 and got Hummer his first basket of the season against the Big Green after a 0-11 night at Jadwin Gym.
Up three following a pair of free throws from senior Kirk Crecco in his final home game, the just-inserted Koon scored with long arms to his left on the drive.
Fellow freshman Jvonte Brooks answered with his only basket of the game, a left elbow jumper. Darrow was blocked by Maldunas and Maldunas’ lefty sweep made it 9-8.
Fresh off the bench, Jimmy Sherburne continued to add quality minutes. Sherburne’s backdoor bounce pass to Koon resulted in a two hand baseline slam.
Maldunas responded with a lefty push in the lane.
A posting Bray got Brooks to pick up his second personal foul and Brooks walked a straight line to the bench before he was cut off by head coach Paul Cormier who pushed him back on the floor before sending David Rufful in as a replacement.
Sherburne drove for a second straight assist, lobbing a pass to Connolly in the air on the left block.
Golden stepped to his right for a jumper and a 13-12 score. Their next time down the floor, Sherburne was no longer the distributor. A cut by Saunders freed Sherburne on the far wing and Connolly met him with a pass. Sherburne’s third career three pointer was his first to not connect with the iron first and Princeton led 16-12.
“I really like when a second team and even a third group can come in to a game and still execute,” Henderson said of the contributions from Sherburne and Koon on down the line.
“It helps the team flow when you know guys can come off the bench and play with you,” Hummer added.
Golden was fouled on a drive by Sherburne and made one of two free throws. Sherburne earned that point back plus one more as he spotted Koon on a secondary cut.
“The ball just finds him in open places,” Mitch Henderson said of his freshman.
Matt LaBove did tip a Tyler Melville layup home over Sherburne and Golden drove following a Koon miss from the lane and dunked with his left hand in traffic. Dartmouth was back within one.
Lacking a player averaging double figures and only putting up 57.6 points per game, this year’s model of the Big Green is not capable of consistent offensive output for an entire 40 minutes. While they were matching the Tigers in the first quarter, it was not sustainable.
Koon facing up his man skipped a pass to Saunders on the right arc for a rainbow three. Melville could not respond and Connolly went to the glass with his right hand from far out over LaBove.
Davis stole the ball from Melville and was gone the other way for a 25-18 advantage.
R.J. Griffin sliced two points off from the line after being fouled by Sherburne, his second personal.
Bray driving to his right saw the ball deflect off of Dartmouth and on the inbounds Bray found Mack Darrow sliding into the far corner in a designed play for three. It was Bray’s 100th assist of the season.
Bray on the floor picked up a loose ball that Maldunas misplaced and in transition Saunders skipped a pass to Davis for three and the lead was double digits from here on out.
Crecco rebounded a Golden miss from outside surrounded by four Tigers. After he landed on the floor Davis turned to face him and slapped the ball clean out of his hands. Hummer with a head of steam to his right was fouled going up and added two free throws.
Maldunas came up short on the left elbow and Hummer established a wide target from the center of the lane, took a Darrow pass and exploded to his left by Rufful. Dartmouth called time.
Things didn’t get much better when play resumed. Crecco was off the mark from three as the Tigers went into a 1-3-1 on defense. In a three man combo Darrow fed a posting Hummer who found senior John Comfort for a layup on the first possession after Henderson called Comfort’s name on the bench.
Melville caught the front rim on a jumper that dropped with 2:32 to go, ending a 6:58 passage without a field goal for Dartmouth.
With less than a minute remaining Princeton attempted to run a similar inbounds for Darrow who was guarded so he drove left and located Saunders on the right wing for his third three of the half in as many chances.
“When Pat makes shot we can be terrific,” Henderson confirmed.
Crecco in the lane made it 40-24 and that was the halftime score as the Tigers could not get a shot off on their final possession.
Princeton hit 16-25 in the first frame (64.0%), 6-9 from three (66.7%) and 2-2 from the line. Five different Tigers each had a pair of assists as the orange and black shared the ball marvelously.
Dartmouth went 9-24 (37.5%) during the same time period, 0-3 outside the arc and 6-8 on free throws (75.0%). Maldunas was high man for the Big Green with six.
Trading misses when play resumed, Saunders fouled Golden inside and Golden made both his chances. That was as close to a rally as Dartmouth would present. Connolly looked at a right elbow jumper, lost the ball in the air on his first dribble and regained control underneath in time to put it home as Maldunas fouled him for a three point play.
Maldunas’ shot across the lane was tipped by Connolly and Hummer strong to his left took Princeton’s edge up to 19 for the first time.
Golden, who showed off both his explosiveness and his range on Saturday, connected square on the left wing for Dartmouth’s first three and a 45-29 count.
Hummer bounced a pass to Davis in what looked like traffic but the lane opened up perfectly and a layup was the result.
Hummer to Saunders should have been a layup too but the ball somehow spun out. Melville scored and given a second chance Saunders converted as Connolly found him from the left block on a cut. It was the start of a 13-0 run.
Saunders recorded a steal and as Princeton pushed Hummer found Davis who waited until the last second to safely lay the ball in between the rim and the glass.
Connolly set up Saunders for his fourth three and a 54-31 score. Another designed drift to Darrow on an inbounds was wide open as Bray’s pass met him in stride out of the far corner. LaBove missed a layup and Bray into the lane once more gave Darrow a clean look in front of his team’s bench. It was Princeton by 29 with 13:25 remaining.
This wide margin allowed Henderson to provide extended minutes to players and combinations that hadn’t seen much court time together. Darrow in the lane to Comfort cutting for a 62-33 score and a bounce pass by Comfort to Sherburne were among the highlights.
Freshman guard Clay Wilson, who the staff would like to utilize more before this season concludes, got a chance to run the offense starting with 9:46 left. Wilson very purposefully looked for everything but his own shot.
“I was happy with the way Clay passes the ball,” Henderson said afterwards. “He’s been really buying in to some of the things we’ve been talking about. Clay is going to do alright here because he wants to get better.”
A more familiar pairing of Connolly to Hummer and harm by Brooks made it +25 Tigers and Hummer’s evening was over, replaced by Comfort. It was great to see Comfort rise and fire a three deep on the left wing.
Koon and Connolly were the most experienced Princeton players on the floor down the stretch. A no look Comfort pass came to Connolly inside for two. After Comfort stole the ball Koon hesitated after receiving a Wilson pass and scored.
Up 24 with 3:31 showing Comfort and Connolly checked out in exchange for bigs Bobby Garbade and Daniel Edwards.
Wilson was rewarded with his first basket as a Tiger, a jumper from the free throw line that caught the rim thrice and dropped.
Garbade in the low block went out to Edwards up top for the first three pointer of his collegiate career and Wilson capped off the game with a drive and dish to Fabrizius on the left side as the 6’11” small forward stepped into his first Princeton bucket – the team’s 25th assist and 12th three pointer.
The bench hooted and applauded their teammate with big smiles, indicative of the positivity that had been apparent watching Princeton chatter and communicate during their warmups an hour prior to tipoff.
What could have been a hangdog affair coated in regret ended up being one of the best-played games of the season for the Tigers who have had their longest, most successful stretch of execution over these past three weeks.
-Princeton shot 34-52 for the game (65.4%), their highest percentage since making 65% of their attempts in a February 2005 win at Brown. The Tigers were 12-17 from three point range (70.6%) and 5-8 on free throws (62.5%).
-Dartmouth was 19-51 overall (37.3%), 5-16 outside (31.3%) and 18-21 at the line (85.7%).
-40 of Princeton’s 85 points came in the paint. The orange and black made 20 of their attempted 27 dunks, layups and tips.
-73.5% of the victors’ baskets came via an assist.
-The Tigers scored 1.32 points per possession with an effective FG% of 76.9%.
-Saunders, who shot 6-7 from three point range on the weekend, was +26 for his team in 19:07 of action. Hummer was the same in 5:18 of extra floor time.
-Hummer passed Judson Wallace for 17th on the Tigers’ all-time scoring list. He’s six points off from Ted Manakas’ 1,099 career total.
-Bray's 102 assists are the 13th-most in a season by a Princeton player. This is just the 15th time a Tiger has had 100 assists or more in a campaign.
-Davis set a new Princeton mark for most games played with 117. He’s scored in 116 of those contests.