Postgame audio - Ian Hummer, Patrick Saunders & Douglas Davis:
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson:
Douglas Davis has played in 121 games, more than any other Princeton Tiger in program history.
He’s had a lot of stellar stat lines over his four years, but in what could have been his concluding collegiate outing, Davis saved his best for what ended up not being his last.
Davis poured in a career high 31 on 9-11 shooting, including Princeton’s final 10 as the Tigers closed out a ludicrous, fast-paced, defense-optional sprint versus Evansville in the first round of the CBI with a 10-1 run after the scoreboard was even for a 15th and final time.
“I’ve never been a part of a game like that,” said a bemused and relieved head coach Mitch Henderson afterwards.
A spinning Davis jumper with the shot clock expiring gave Princeton the lead to stay with 2:47 remaining and after Kenny Harris split a pair at the line Davis connected once more from just behind the free throw stripe for a three point lead.
“We never looked back after that,” said Ian Hummer, who added 18 and a game high eight rebounds. “It was one of those shots where it was like ‘Alright, now we’re not losing [tonight].’ Doug led our team today and hopefully we can keep that going.”
Ned Cox’s left wing three was short and Davis capped a superb performance with six consecutive free throws, a trio of one-and-ones.
Evansville’s Colt Ryan was a superb 11-12 from the floor and scored 21 of his 29 in the first half. Henderson was forced to shape the Tigers into a 2-3 zone for one of the first times this season in order to try and cool off Ryan.
“We had to do something,” Henderson admitted. “We changed defenses about 30 times in the first half. None of it worked.”
Both teams shot over 60% on the evening.
The game began with what would prove to be a rare missed jumper. After Brendan Connolly won the opening tip, Hummer fading to the baseline on a righty drive came up short.
Ryan Sawvell scored with a right hook inside over Connolly and we were off to the races. Back came Hummer with ease to his right off the glass.
With Davis initially guarding Ryan, Troy Taylor’s catch and shoot jumper made it 4-2 Purple Aces. And so it went, both teams dissecting the other’s defense as Princeton got all the layups and three point looks they could hope for while Evansville slashed and curled using crisp motion.
Connolly sealed off Sawvell and scored inside. Sawvell answered with a free throw to put his team up one.
A posting T.J. Bray, as Princeton looked to establish itself inside, found Davis at the top of the arc for career points 1,500 through 1,502.
Lewis Jones spun out a jumper on the left side and Connolly was able to reverse to his right for a layup.
Jones had nice touch going at Davis for two and while Bray was off on a three out of the post Connolly pushed himself to grab the offensive board and Patrick Saunders, who also did not want to make this game his last, was pure on the opposite side from three.
Jaylon Moore missed a one-handed dunk try as he went around Davis and looked to leap on Hummer. In transition the other way the just-inserted Mack Darrow took a Bray pass and glided left to the rim as he was fouled by the embarrassed Moore.
While Darrow missed the free throw his team had a 14-7 lead with 15:56 to go.
Enter Colt Ryan, who nearly five minutes in had not attempted a field goal. So much for averaging 20.2 points per game, right? Uh, no.
Ryan went past Saunders off the glass for two. Hummer to his right was too strong on his response and a cutting Ryan took a Cox pass and scored smoothly.
Darrow to Saunders on a classic backdoor bounce cut made it 16-11 but Ryan exploded to his right off the glass to bring UE within three.
Davis ducked under two defenders, split through and popped at the free throw line. Ryan now stepped outside, hitting on the left wing.
With the Tigers bringing a depleted backcourt to southwestern Indiana, senior John Comfort got in off the bench in the first half and while Davis spotted him open on the left side his only try of the game was off target.
Kenny Harris with the ball well under the Purple Aces’ basket found Cox up high and the three pointer that followed put Evansville up for the first time, 19-18. Princeton burned a time out.
While Hummer off an inbounds was blocked from behind by Harris, Bray stole the ball from Ryan and on a two-on-one with Hummer was the recipient of the right pass at the right time giving the lead back to the Tigers.
What sort of night was it? This was the first of four straight baskets for the two teams combined. Ryan picked up his dribble far from the basket so Cox came up to catch and fire a long deuce.
Hummer in the post hesitated under Harris and instead set up Saunders on the right wing for his second three.
Connolly tried to stay straight up in front of Harris inside but a foul came and the ball rolled in for good measure. It was Connolly’s second personal and Harris added a free throw. Evansville led 24-23 and the game was not yet one quarter in.
Darrow snatched a Saunders miss coming off the rim and was fouled going back up, missing his first and making his second for the game’s fourth tie.
Jones fought off Davis reaching in for a tie up and scored off the glass. Darrow beautifully to Bray cutting without the ball evened the score once more.
Davis would pick up his second personal with 8:46 left on an offensive foul, but Henderson kept him on the floor.
On and on it went with no sign of either side blinking. Hummer curling to the rim. Ryan snapping a three over Darrow.
Davis’ long line drive jumper inside the arc was short and Ryan’s left corner heat check three was off. Right there are TWO OF THE THREE MISSES FOR THE ENTIRE GAME by these competitors.
A posting Bray found Darrow up top who passed on a jumper and bisected the lane evenly for two. Ryan hesitated off the glass. Darrow in the post looked like he might have pushed off but it was called a hold on Sawvell, earning tonight’s officiating crew some booooooooooooooooooos. Darrow got back on track at the line, converting a pair.
Ryan swung the ball to Cox on the left side for three and a 34-32 Evansville lead.
Hummer from the right wing behind the arc missed the rim before Saunders guarding Ryan lost the gunner on a fake and caught wrist trying to come back and cover. Ryan made both his free throws.
Saunders responded with a rainbow three on the left side to draw Princeton within 36-35 but as he came up the court Saunders was called for a technical foul. Apparently he yelled at the crowd while heading the other way? Dubious. Ryan got to shoot two free throws and made one of them.
Keeping the ball, Cox evaded Davis for a jumper on the left side. Darrow for three was open but off to the left and Taylor’s scoop curling off the glass gave Evansville a game-best six point lead.
It was a night where every lead evaporated instantaneously with the exception of the final one. Darrow and Davis played a two man game leading to Davis hitting on the right arc. Hummer incredibly blocked Harris’ seemingly unobstructed dunk try from behind and while Davis in transition could not connect up top, Hummer was there for a follow.
If Saunders’ technical was curious, Harris being issued the same for yelling at his own teammates to play better on defense was even weirder. Davis didn’t object, going the other way and converting two free throws to make it 41-40 Tigers as Princeton scored seven straight over 40 seconds.
The half’s last two minutes didn’t see one team stop the other. Denton Koon was a big part of that for Princeton. A posting Darrow fed the approaching Koon for his first layup. A difficult leaner by Ryan under Davis went and Koon cut and laid in the Bray pass that met him at the basket.
Moore was off but the combination of Bray and Darrow accidentally tipped the ball into their own basket vying for a rebound, the bucket being credited to Ryan.
Koon off a Hummer feed reversed inside in the final seconds as Evansville looked to push for one last attempt. While Taylor could not get a look off as he passed the arc with time almost expired, Hummer bulled him over as the horn sounded.
The officials needed a long time to review and confirm that Hummer’s foul came before the half’s conclusion. The discussion put :00.8 back on the clock and Taylor made both sides of his one and one.
A disappointed Hummer just handed the ball to Darrow on the inbounds and left the floor as the last fraction of a second rolled off. Princeton was up one at intermission, 48-47.
The first half statistics were gaudy to the precipice of laughable. Princeton shot 19-31 (61.3%) overall, 5-11 from behind the arc (45.5%) and 5-7 on free throws after Darrow missed his first two (71.4%). The Tigers had 14 assists on their 19 buckets with just three turnovers.
Davis, Saunders and Connolly each had two first half personals.
Evansville was 18-30 as a team (60.0%), 4-6 from three point range (66.7%) and 7-9 at the line. The Purple Aces dished 10 dimes against three turnovers. Ryan had 21 points at the break.
While the pace and the style of the game seemed to favor the team getting frequent layups compared to leaners and jumpers, UE went and scored on their first five attempts of the second half to boost their overall percentage to 65.7%.
Denver Holmes got Hummer in the air and pushed the ball home with his left hand. A Davis pass to Connolly was knocked loose and stolen by Sawvell who had a clear path to a two hand slam.
While Davis was able to create tie number eight with a three that he sized and rattled in on the right side, Evansville continued to convert.
Holmes from the free throw line over a Hummer block try made it 53-51 Aces.
It was the sort of everything goes evening where Connolly with the defense sagging had little obstruction when he squared and fired in a flat foot 15’ jumper.
Taylor to his left at Connolly resulted in Connolly’s third personal and a pair of made free throws.
Hummer to Bray was the rare bad pass but Hummer stole the ball back from Harris on the wing and raced the other way. As Hummer went up with his left hand at the rim Holmes was whistled for a foul even though those wearing purple and orange watching the replay thought the Tiger junior lost control on his own accord. More boos rained down.
After collecting himself under the basket, Hummer made both his tries for a 55-55 count.
Cox on the left wing decided against going inside to Ryan posting Davis and connected from three. Hummer across the lane traveled and Jones’ drive at Saunders quick gave Evansville a five point edge.
For the first time all season, Princeton went into a matchup 2-3 zone that limited Ryan’s touches at the top of the arc. It was a last ditch try after everything else had failed but it was the Tigers’ best chance at not letting the result slip away.
As quickly as this lead appeared, it vanished. Princeton responded with nine in a row. First Hummer made it 60-57 with a jump hook, then plucked an alley oop feed from Taylor out of the air with both hands and in transition Davis canned another triple up top.
It took 3:43, but Evansville finally missed a second half attempt, an overload jumper by Jones sailing long.
Hummer had another steal on the perimeter and Davis set him up with an outlet. There was no one between Hummer and a breakaway dunk. Hummer slowed his approach to increase his style points and Taylor never gave up on the play, blocking Hummer clean as he went up out of bounds. Only Hummer’s hands made it to the rim due to Taylor’s hustle, delighting all but 19 people in the Ford Center.
Off the inbounds, Darrow on the left baseline fed Hummer in the lane for a catch and shoot basket. A posting Sawvell threw his pass from the paint out past Ryan and into the stands for a turnover. Saunders lost the ball going up inside but a series of deflections came right back to Saunders who missed a second try before Hummer followed up. Nine straight for Princeton so back stormed Evansville.
High low versus the zone from Jones to Sawvell was dunked home. Bray on the right side went in and out from three and Taylor countered with a push in the lane.
Evansville looked to be going back in front when Cox drove left off the glass with a whistle but prior to his score it was ruled Bray got his hand on the ball and created a tie up with the arrow favoring Princeton. This only angered the Evansville faithful more.
Bray and Darrow began to find each other on offense. Darrow from the top for three was short and Saunders’ block of Moore drew a whistle and the following two free throws pushed Evansville up 66-64.
Bray going to his right curled a pass over to Darrow standing on the right arc for three. Cox was long outside and Darrow from the exact same spot came up short. Saunders grabbed an offensive rebound but the possession ended when Saunders’ three try caught the front rim.
Taylor caught a skip by Harris and converted a jumper on the left side which made it 68-67 Purple Aces.
Davis took care of the latest lead change by firing quickly and accurately in front of his team’s bench.
Even at 70 after two Moore free throws, Connolly spun into the lane and pushed a shot home with his right hand.
Where’s Ryan you ask? Well he hadn’t attempted a shot all half as Evansville tried to suss out the Tiger zone but after 11 minutes Ryan fired from deep up top to make it 73-72 Evansville.
An active Hummer moving with the ball passed to Bray on the right wing and some acting by Bray drew a foul on Ryan as the three went in the basket. Leading by two, Bray could not finish the rare four point play but Connolly cut between two Evansville players and went back up. The shot didn’t go, Connolly slapped his hands together and went to the line as Holmes was flagged for his fourth personal.
Connolly was well short his first time from the line, long the second and the score remained 75-73.
Davis fouled Taylor on a drive to the left and Taylor split a pair at the line as the second try rattled out.
In a clean, perhaps too clean, game – a Davis pass to an open Saunders that the Granite State native juggled and then stepped out of bounds trying to regain control of stood out. Ryan with a long two and it was 76-75 Evansville.
Hummer driving to his left threw the ball over the rim, but fortunately Cox for three on the wing sailed in and out. Unfortunately, Harris was positioned to put the ball home. Saunders was also open from three but could not connect and Hummer grabbed the key offensive board. Davis finished the possession by driving all the way to the rim right with a slight scoop.
Saunders found himself battling at both ends, blocking a dunk try by Sawvell, then needing three chances to place the ball home between a pair of Evansville defenders to give Princeton a one point lead again.
A left side jumper for Cox set the score at 80-79 Aces with 5:40 left. Saunders for three was short but Darrow snagged the offensive rebound and went back up in traffic.
Ryan was open enough on the left side that there was time to audibly say “oh no!” as Cox’s pass arrived but before he shot the ball, and when it sailed through the netting Evansville led 83-81.
Hummer sealed off his man and laid home a feed from Saunders. While Harris was fouled hard after receiving a dish on a drive, making both free throws, Hummer was again able to seal off in isolation down low and have no help defense in his way as he dunked with two hands.
After 37:13 of action, the 27th and final lead change arrived. Cox caught the front rim with a three over Bray and with the shot clock winding down Davis went to his right, reversed his field entirely and pivoted into a difficult jumper as the shot clock ran out.
Harris lost the ball and Hummer pushed ahead before recognizing the situation and starting to pull back out. While he was slowing the pace Saunders continued into the lane and knocked down Cox for an offensive foul.
It was one of three teases that kept the game in the balance. Harris was short in the lane but Darrow’s tie up gave the ball back to Evansville. A slap off of Harris could not be controlled before possession rolled out to the Purple Aces. Finally Harris at point blank range was blocked by Darrow.
Princeton had the ball up two. Saunders’ post entry to Hummer was not a good one and Harris ran the ball down, fouled by Hummer next to his team’s bench. Harris went the other way and converted one of his two free throws to make it 87-86.
It was nearing the close of what could have been the final time out for both Saunders and Davis, something both thought about down the stretch.
“It is always there. This could be the last minute of my college career,” Davis acknowledged. “I didn’t want it to end just yet.”
He made sure it didn't personally. As Davis called for a “chin” screen by stroking his goatee but could not get the right set going, he took matters into his own hands and jumped backwards from the free throw line for a basket with a minute to go.
While the circumstances were different, the shot was reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s crossover pull up over Bryon Russell in game six of the 1998 NBA Finals. That shot put the Bulls up 87-86. Davis’ basket made it 89-86 Tigers.
Out of a time out, Cox’s tying try on the left wing came up short and Bray rebounded. With the shot clock off, Davis was nearly stripped and then fouled by Harris.
It was a one-and-one and Davis never touched iron on either try.
Holmes’ three sailed long and Davis was fouled a second time. The circumstances were the same. One-and-one. Late in his senior year. Same result, but now a three possession game at 93-86.
Ryan lost the ball and Davis recovered, fouled and converting to send Princeton to the next round of the CBI.
Harris lost the ball to Bray as Evansville inbounded and Darrow was able to dribble out the final seconds.
The Purple Aces missed their final five attempts and had three turnovers in the last four minutes. Princeton by comparison converted each of their final five shots.
Behind Davis’ career night, neither he nor Saunders’ career would conclude this particular evening.
“I’ll be back home in New Hampshire for spring break,” Saunders said. “There’s not much to do up there so I want to keep playing with my guys.”
At least one more matchup for the pair will come Monday against either Pittsburgh or Wofford, game number 122 in the career of the unrivaled Douglas Davis.
-Princeton shot 36-60 for the game (60.0%), 10-22 from three (45.5%) and 13-18 at the line (72.2%). 22 assists came against 10 turnovers. With UE forcing turnovers on 24.6% of defensive possessions in 2011-12, only 10 Tiger miscues was huge.
-Evansville was 31-52 from the field (59.6%), and that includes their final five misses. The home team hit 7-14 behind the arc (50.0%) and 17-21 from the stripe (81.0%). While the Purple Aces were fourth in the nation in turnover margin (+4.7) coming in to Tuesday’s game, they had 12 miscues.
-The team with 1.42 points/possession and 68.3% EFG beat the team with 1.27 points/possession and 66.3% EFG.
-18 points gave Hummer 501 for his junior season, the first Princeton player to score 500 or more in a year since Brian Taylor in 1972.
-Davis is 16 points behind Kit Mueller for second all-time in scoring at Princeton.
-With his first basket Davis became the third Tiger to score 1,500+ for a career. “It is definitely elite company,” Davis said of forming a trio that includes himself, Kit Mueller and Bill Bradley. “I’m just glad I can share this with my teammates because they did a great job getting me the ball all four years.”
-Davis’ 31 puts him alongside Kareem Maddox (twice), Kit Mueller, Noah Savage, Steve Goodrich, Gabe Lewullis, Spencer Gloger, Judson Wallace, Chris Young, and Rick Hielscher as Princeton players since the advent of the three point line to score 30 or more. Davis is one of six on this list to his the mark in a regulation game.
-115 assists tie Bray with Nate Walton in 2000-01 for fifth-most helpers in a season by a Tiger.
-Princeton has won 20 or more games for the third straight season.
-Jimmy Sherburne did not travel with the team, still hampered by a right shoulder injury suffered in the regular season finale versus Penn. With Ben Hazel away from school and Daniel Edwards not in uniform the Tigers suited up just 12 for their visit to Evansville.