Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Mack Darrow, Ian Hummer & Jimmy Sherburne:
The pressure was on.
For the first time since 4-4, Princeton looked up at a tie score with 11:34 left in the second half. Yale had pulled even from down by as many as 15 on a Greg Mangano drive at and over Mack Darrow.
Reeling, it was Darrow who would smash the cover that seemingly was placed over the rim the prior six+ minutes by connecting from the top of the arc and the Tigers converted on four consecutive subsequent possessions to reinstate a 49-40 advantage.
“Our defense was good enough but, man, we were very fortunate to play like that and be in a situation where if you make a few plays you reestablish control of the game, said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson. “We were sweating it. Yale can do that to you.”
The homestanding Tigers fought off every last push from the Bulldogs, including Patrick Saunders somehow blowing up a four-on-one break with Yale down two in the final four minutes.
“Pat does that,” Henderson said with pride of the senior co-captain who is closing his final season with some of his strongest minutes. “He’s got a good sense for things. That was a great play – just a basketball play.”
When Yale narrowed to one on a soft spinning jumper from Reggie Willhite, junior Jimmy Sherburne – whose improvement these last three weeks has been a big key to the Tigers’ success – scored to his right high off the glass over Mangano and Denton Koon softly placed in his second jump shot of the season (and only bucket of the game) above Jesse Pritchard.
Hummer capped an 18 point night with a two-hand slam in the final seconds.
T.J. Bray added 10 in the win.
Mangano went for 20 as well as 14 rebounds but it took him 6-19 shooting to get there as the combination of Darrow and Brendan Connolly frustrated the senior center.
The Tigers opened their final Ivy weekend going right at Yale’s bigs. After Reggie Willhite drove at Hummer and off the glass as Hummer slapped the backboard, Connolly looked to equalize with a righty hook over Mangano that came up short. Jeremiah Kreisberg made it 4-0 in the lane but the Bulldogs’ only lead was short-lived.
Connolly faked into the paint and spun back left off the glass. Connolly also stayed flat on defense when Mangano returned serve with his own hook that was well short of the rim. Hummer evened the score by attacking and bouncing off Kreisberg for a short jumper.
Next Hummer stole the ball from Kreisberg into Saunders’ hands and out of the far corner Bray was fouled by Pritchard attempting a reverse layup. Bray made one of two at the line and Princeton had a lead that they would never give back (and would only temporarily share) the remaining 36:58.
Austin Morgan was open on the right side for three but his jumper was well off. Going the other way Douglas Davis showed great logic and determination on a drive. Mangano, who loves to block shots, came out as Davis approached so Davis went up, clutched in the air and continued his drive as he sailed only after Mangano’s arms had passed. The ball went in for a 7-4 count.
Davis fouled Mangano on his drive which led to two free throws.
Saunders has been unconscious shooting the ball the last week and he connected for his eighth three in nine tries on the left wing over Kreisberg just moments after he blocked Kreisberg inside at the other end.
Mangano, who is a difficult matchup for most teams, has three weaknesses:
-He can be tricked into thinking he’s a 6’10” jump shooter.
-He doesn’t pass the ball often once he has possession of it (13 assists in 27 games)
-He can get frustrated easily and it then shows.
When Mangano tried a deep right baseline jumper over Connolly instead of seeking other options, it looked like all three issues were going to converge nicely for the Tigers.
The just-inserted Darrow was off from deep on the left wing, followed by Mangano looking to somehow connect on a left baseline fadeaway.
When Brandon Sherrod went for a steal inside and missed, all Saunders had to do was take the Darrow feed, turn 180 degrees and lay the ball home.
Sherrod tried to find Michael Grace on a backdoor bounce pass but led him too far over the baseline.
It was Sherrod also missing two free throws, one using all of the rim but the center and the other well short.
Darrow from the top was off target but Hummer ripped the rebound from Mangano’s potential clutches and after posting went right over Willhite for an eight point Tiger lead.
A Sherrod finger roll was blocked by Hummer at the rim and Sherrod missed two more putback chances right by the bucket. Eventually Hummer rebounded and then stepped behind a Darrow screen to size a left wing three as Yale called time down 17-6 with 11:13 left in the half.
Things were coming very easy to Princeton. Their defense was not making some of the same mistakes that allowed Willhite to drive and Mangano to post in New Haven and the offense was continuing to be the best in the conference.
Out of the stoppage the Tigers went into a 1-3-1 on defense which resulted in Mangano catching, hesitating and scoring inside.
Darrow got that basket back, driving from the arc to the hoop without obstruction. Pritchard’s attempt to his left was both awkward and short. Sherburne was neither of those things driving to his left and curling a shot in off the glass.
On their next possession Hummer to his left was hit hard by Kreisberg trying to take a charge and Hummer converted both free throws for a game-high lead of 23-8.
As the offense was clicking, the Tiger defense seemed to take these constant conversions for granted. It didn’t fully reveal itself at first. Willhite had a frustrated drive in traffic and Davis settled for a long spinning deuce.
Saunders fouled Grace on a drive, resulting in two free throws. Yale threw some backcourt pressure at Princeton who had no trouble getting the ball over and Connolly across the lane found Davis in the far corner for a three that was short.
Guarding the post Saunders picked up his second personal with 7:51 left and his usefulness until the second half was concluded.
On an inbounds, Grace was open in fluid motion on the right side, firing home a three from Grace. The Tigers answered with Bray to Connolly on the left block and Sherburne stepping through between two defenders pushing the tempo after a steal. The advantage was a manageable 27-13.
Not for long. Another backdoor look by Grace was blown up but Bray’s diagonal alley oop to Connolly was too ambitious and hit the rim on the way to Connolly’s grasp.
Kriesberg on an inbounds from Morgan connected on a long two. Davis had the ball slapped off his leg by Morgan on a drive for a turnover yet gave the ball back to Princeton when Denton Koon picked off a pass.
Hummer to his left at Willhite off glass made it a 14 point lead again but that wide edge vanished almost instantly. Willhite exploded to his left for two. Darrow with a lefty hook over Mangano just missed, drawing an “oooooh!” from the crowd. Mangano knocked down an impossible-to-defend three, cocking the ball well behind his head and firing.
An open Koon three was a short Koon three and in transition Morgan hit on the right side to draw the Bulldogs within 29-23.
Davis from the arc lipped the iron and saw the ball kick up off the glass, off the rim and in for the 261st three pointer of his career. Those numbers were of no interest to Morgan who for the third time hit a trey as Mangano’s activity without the ball drew the defense.
A long two try from Davis - not the shot Princeton needed - was errant and Morgan drove and was fouled by Sherburne. Two free throws later from the 90%+ converter at the line (remember that number for later) and +15 was 32-28.
A pair of Wisconsinites closed the half out for the Tigers. Bray under control with the ball went around a Connolly screen and into the lane where he scored to his right by Mangano.
Mangano put up an airball doubled in the post and the Tigers had a chance to go two-for-one. Koon at Mangano shot high off the back iron and with a six second difference between the game clock and the shot clock Mangano tried to split another double and could not get the ball to the iron.
As Sherburne has seen more time, he’s also had the ball in his hands with the chance to make the right decision at the end of the first half. This has led to traveling violations and wild penetration. There was none of either tonight. With the ball on the far wing Sherburne instead set up Bray at the top of the key who bobbled and the stepped into a three that found the net as time ran out.
A lead of 37-28 had been reestablished.
Mangano stayed on the floor as his teammates left to plead his case with the officials.
In the first half Princeton shot 15-29 (51.7%), 4-9 from three (44.4%) and 3-4 on free throws (75.0%). Hummer scored 11 for the Tigers and grabbed four rebounds.
Yale came in at 9-25 (36.0%), aided by 4-5 shooting outside the arc (80.0%) and 6-8 from the line (75.0%). Morgan had 11 on 3-4 shooting from three.
With the ball and looking to carry over how they closed the first half when play resumed, Hummer had the ball pulled out of his hands facing Willhite on the left wing for a surprising turnover. Mangano drove at Connolly and was fouled, making one of two free throws.
Hummer atoned with a bounce pass to Davis down the center of the lane for a surprisingly easy layup.
Mangano knocked down a deep two that I’m sure Princeton was delighted to see him attempt. Mangano also blocked Saunders on a drive as Saunders went down hard on the floor. Willhite got cut off on the left side of the floor but had the presence of mind to locate Kreisberg alone under the hoop for a 39-33 total.
With 17:29 left Hummer was fouled going up. That time is significant because after Hummer made one of two free throws for a seven point Tiger advantage they would not score again over the following 6:14.
Connolly blocked as well as controlled a reverse layup from Morgan, but a Connolly feed to Bray was stolen and Willhite went at Bray for a pair.
Bray inbounding from under the Princeton basket stepped into play and received a pass back for three in front of his team’s bench but came up short.
Mangano popped for a three of his own that sailed long.
The misses kept coming, and not great looks for the personnel either. Hummer wild at Kreisberg to his left. Saunders trying to fake a three and step into a right elbow two. Sherburne popping at the free throw line following a Mangano free throw after Hummer fouled him on his third consecutive try at point blank range.
Sherrod over Saunders drew Yale within two.
A posting Bray had the ball stolen and Grace the other way got caught too far under the rim going up as Bray chased to disrupt. When Grace went down something was clearly immediately wrong. Grace held his left leg as the trainer came out to look. Grace was only able to be helped off the baseline with the assistance of two teammates carrying him - his night (and I would expect his season) over.
With the shot clock running low, Sherburne’s jumper over Pritchard did not reach the rim for a violation. Mangano running at Darrow tied the game and it looked like Yale was poised to take the lead when Mangano blocked Davis’ long two try.
The swing back began. Mangano could not finish inside as Saunders deflected. When play resumed following the under-12:00 time out Kreisberg traveled on his first move with the ball. Hummer down low waited for the defense to sag and there was Darrow, as he has been in so many big moments this season, setting up for three at the top of the key.
“That three, it kind of let the air out of the whole tension that we were creating for ourselves,” Henderson recalled.
Willhite’s right baseline layup try was blocked by Hummer but as Davis went up the court his attempted pass to Koon under the rim was saved by Willhite before he stepped out of bounds. However, Morgan missed for three and Hummer worked down Willhite inside off the glass to put his team up 45-40.
A spinning jumper on a dime by Morgan was short and Bray to his left in the lane showed more great body control to square up and finish. Hummer picked off a Sam Martin pass on the wing and was off to scoop the ball home flying left. The Tigers led by nine.
While Kreisberg ended the run with a righty jump hook, Princeton continued to get points out of each offensive set. Connolly spun off Mangano with surprising quickness and was fouled as he reached the rim from behind. At the line he converted both free throws.
Kreisberg got Saunders on his hip and picked up a pair of free throws. Also out of the post Bray was fouled by Pritchard without the ball and Bray converted both sides of his one and one.
Kreisberg’s hook over Hummer’s active, physical bodying missed the rim. After 13 points in seven possessions, Koon ended this streak by charging into Kreisberg attacking to his left.
Now able to keep Princeton off the scoreboard, Yale pushed back with just over six minutes showing. Willhite went at Koon and another Hummer block try arrived a fraction late. Hummer’s free throw line jumper landed long and from the right wing Mangano connected behind the arc, pumping his fist as the scoreboard changed to 53-49.
After a Yale time out, Hummer on the left side posted Willhite but his bank was just off the rim. Morgan’s drive drew Yale within two.
Bray pulled the ball away from Willhite inside and raced the other way. In traffic around center court, Bray had the ball poked from behind and what was once a Princeton advantage was now a four-on-one for Yale in the other direction with only Saunders standing in the lane helplessly.
Years ago at a postseason basketball banquet, then-assistant coach Mike Brennan talked about Kyle Wente’s ability to use some sort of Jedi mind trick to convince an opposing player with the ball to come right at him and practically give the ball away.
The force was certainly strong with young Saunders as the outnumbered senior got his hands on a Willhite layup try and knocked it free, able to snatch the loose ball away before any of eight Yale arms could.
Darrow used a screen from Davis and went to his right by Mangano, fouled by Sherrod. Darrow missed his first but made his second.
Sherburne looked to have taken a charge from Morgan cutting the fellow junior off on the perimeter but when the blocking call came all Sherburne could do lying face up on the Jadwin floor was shake briefly like a fish pulled out of the sea.
“I thought that was a really great defensive play he made and then it seemed like we got the very next call,” Henderson said.
Remember the number I told you to remember? In the bonus, Morgan missed the front end of his one and one, the ball rattling out of the rim. Sherburne benefitted from a slight foul on Morgan but came up short when given his own one and one chance.
Willhite spun and dropped in a soft jumper to make it 54-53 Tigers.
Recall November? Princeton was two players and some serious prayer on offense. Sherburne was the weakest member of an untested point guard committee.
That seemed like ancient history as Sherburne drove to his right and kept the ball away from Mangano so he could curl it off the glass falling away, matching his career high of six.
“It is just mostly I’m starting to feel comfortable with my role and I’m buying in to what the coaches want me to to do,” Sherburne said about his increased confidence and increased time on the floor. “The more I play out there the more I feel comfortable and I feel like I can help out,” he added.
The admittedly stubborn Sherburne looked to his seven minutes of action when Harvard came to Jadwin as a possible turning point. “This is it,” he recalled thinking at the time. “This is how I want to feel.”
“Who wasn’t stubborn that’s a good player?,” Henderson asked, perhaps rhetorically.
Mangano got open for three but his tying try sailed long. As Henderson continued to substitute Darrow, Saunders and Davis in on offense for Connolly, Koon and Sherburne in on defense, Bray drove and saw his shot blocked by Pritchard. When Pritchard came down with the ball he was on the baseline and Princeton retained with :58.4 on the game clock and :10 on the shot clock.
Recall January? Denton Koon hadn’t made a jump shot and looked to be hitting a freshman wall around the exam period.
One week after his first career three pointer against Harvard and with the possession clock running low Koon muscled a shot from the lane up over Pritchard that dropped in nicely.
Mangano was somehow guarded by Davis in the post and when the ball reached him under the rim a reverse followed.
Recall December? Free throw shooting was looking like one of team’s fatal flaws.
With just seven seconds between game clock and shot clock, Yale looked to foul immediately and the first to the line was Darrow. Both attempts were good.
Bray fouled Mangano under the basket on the floor and Mangano knocked down both sides of his one and one for a 60-57 total.
Next to the line? Davis with :28.6. Both attempts were good once more.
Yale brought the ball over half court and Morgan lost control as Hummer slapped the ball free. Several players on both sides tried to pick the pill off the hardwood but could not as it rolled, bounced and deflected into Princeton’s end.
Eventually Koon was able to collect and his next move was a reverse of how the home win over Harvard ended. This time Koon’s pass met Hummer in the lane but the result was the same - a two hand capper of a throw down.
Yale missed two meaningless looks in the paint as time expired.
Only two tilts remain in Princeton’s regular season. Like tonight versus Yale, their best, most consistent showing has come at the end.
“We had a couple key plays this game that put us over the top,” agreed Hummer. “We’re playing really good basketball and if we play as a team we can make those kinds of plays at the end of games.”
Games that the Tigers hope continue somewhere well into March.
-Princeton shot 23-49 as a team (46.9%), 5-12 from three (41.7%) and 13-17 on free throws (76.5%).
-Yale was 20-53 (37.7%), 5-11 from outside the arc (45.5%) overall but 1-6 in the second half (16.5%). The Bulldogs made 12-17 at the line (70.6%). In addition to Mangano’s 20, Morgan had 13, Kreisberg and Willhite each 10.
-18 points puts Hummer at 1,111 for his career and 17th on the Princeton scoring list. Next up is Chris Thomforde at 1,122.
-32 blocks for the season gives Hummer the 10th-most in a year by a Tiger in program history.
-The Tigers did a great job defending two things Yale’s bigs like to do: Screen off for each other down low and then back cut after coming out of the screen faking up to the top of the arc. They never got switched off or lost men in a way that resulted in easy interior looks.
-Princeton was eliminated from contention for the 2011-12 Ivy title during their postgame press conference as Harvard’s overtime win at Columbia went final.
-While no statement is expected from the team, Ben Hazel’s name has been removed from the program this weekend. I fully expect Hazel to return to Princeton next season and beyond.
-Halftime jump rope kids, you totally, thoroughly ruled (and it was wise to likely not let Georgie Buc know you would be using a pogo stick on the court as part of your routine).
-Princeton's JV spoiled the final game coached by Fletcher Arritt of Fork Union Military Academy earlier in the day. The Tigers won 63-54 with Clay Wilson scoring 23, Chris Clement 15 and Bobby Garbade 10.