Welcome back, Will Barrett.
The junior forward's first college basketball game in almost a year was also his finest as a Tiger. Barrett grabbed a career high nine rebounds to go alongside a career high 20 points including the victory-clinching three point shot with eight seconds left.
Holding on by one with 23 ticks to go and 17 on the shot clock, Princeton's Mack Darrow dribbled down the clock under pressure on the perimeter, got into the lane and found Barrett on the right wing for a four point lead, silencing a rabid Buffalo student section that made up the majority of the 4,450 in attendance and sealing the result.
“Mack did a great job coming to get the ball, being strong with it and it just happened that, I don’t know, they left me wide open,” Barrett recounted. “Mack gave me a perfect pass and [I] knocked it down.”
Barrett was an exemplary 9-10 at the free throw line and perhaps most impressively did not commit a turnover.
Support came from suspects both usual and unexpected. Ian Hummer fought his way to 12 points on 5-14 shooting and matched his career high with seven assists while sophomore Clay Wilson hit three times off the bench from long distance - including a possession-saving three launched just inside half court - and added a personal best 11.
Scoreless in the first half, Buffalo's Javon McCrea was unstoppable the final 20 minutes. He had all 22 of his points after intermission and was 10-12 at the line but was unable to tie the game at the stripe with :42.2 showing.
Princeton did not trail in the initial 20 minutes and after regaining the lead with 11:48 left did not relinquish their advantage.
Postgame audio can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson:
Postgame audio - Clay Wilson:
Postgame audio - Will Barrett:
In the season opener for both teams, Princeton and Buffalo had difficulty initially feeling each other out. Starting a lineup of Ian Hummer, Brendan Connolly, Will Barrett, T.J. Bray and Chris Clement (who made his first collegiate start), the Tigers were able to open up a 7-0 lead after almost eight minutes of play despite 0-6 shooting versus the Bulls’ 2-3 zone. Commencing with Connolly’s block of McCrea on the first possession of the year, Buffalo missed their initial six field goal attempts and had six miscues.
There were two significant trends early on: Princeton was doing a good, very disruptive job blowing up Buffalo’s attempts to run hand off screens on the perimeter and the Tigers were unable to convert any of their outside jumpers.
Using either Hummer or Barrett as the overload versus the zone flashing to the free throw line and dishing quickly from there, Princeton was getting the clean outside looks they required. Makes were another issue entirely.
Barrett recorded the first two points of the year on a pair of free throws at the 18:16 mark, Clement finding him on a cut. When Bray caught the Bulls’ defense napping and rifled a pass to Hummer down the left baseline for a reverse the lead was doubled.
Attempting the identical after three consecutive missed threes for the Tigers, a second Bray-to-Hummer on the baseline delivery was ruined by Buffalo’s Will Regan’s deflection as Hummer went up strong.
Hummer stayed with Regan defensively at the other end and caused a three second violation, then an isolated Connolly went to his right off the glass for a 6-0 score.
Seeing his first collegiate action, Hans Brase made a great cut and was rewarded by Darrow off the bench with a perfect feed, but going in for his first Princeton layup Brase shuffled his feet and the basket was rightfully waived off.
Brase didn’t have to wait much longer to enter the scoring ledger as he stole the ball, ran the floor and was fouled by McCrea going up wildly, splitting a pair of free throws.
It was Buffalo’s leading returning scorer’s second foul of the half and he would sit the remaining 12:21.
Tony Watson faked Wilson in the air and stepped in for a long two to finally get Buffalo a basket. Clement’s left wing three was long and point guard Jarod Oldham was able to drive to his left and finish with his right.
Denton Koon’s open right baseline jumper was short and a shuffle pass from Hummer to a cutting Connolly for a possible dunk was blocked impressively at the rim by Oldham.
As Princeton was seeing, defense can only carry you for so long before you need to score. The outside shots still would not drop and Princeton went inside for a nifty bit of triangle passing from Connolly to Barrett to Hummer for a flip and a 11-4 count.
Swarming and switching with each hand-off on defense, Buffalo’s three guard offense was in severe discomfort against the longer Tigers.
“We have a unique skill set that a lot of guys can switch with each other,” Barrett acknowledged. “It makes it a lot easier for everyone to play defense.”
Watson faked a pass which Clement bit on and Watson subsequently squared himself for the open three to draw his team within two with 8:51 left.
The Tigers answered with six straight – A sneaky pass by Bray to Hummer down the right baseline finishing with his left hand, Hummer muscling to control an errant Barrett three and floating a tiny lob to Connolly for two and Bray to Connolly hesitating as Regan flew by for a layin. Buffalo called time.
It was 19-15 Tigers when Wilson drove to his left and stopped to softly toss in a rare midrange jumper – the first two point bucket of the sophomore’s career.
Xavier Ford tried to scoop a shot under Connolly and earned a whistle, splitting his free throws. After going 0-10 from three as a team to start the day, Connolly this time on the overload fed Barrett off the right wing for three, which the Virginia transfer Regan immediately matched from the top of the key.
Regan was also the Bull who took a charge on a Hummer drive to send Princeton’s senior star to the bench for the last 1:56 of the half.
Connolly nudged Oldham on penetration for personal number two and two made free throws to draw Buffalo within one. Wilson’s open three from the left side at the horn was appropriately off the mark given how Princeton had shot the ball from the arc.
So, Princeton was up one at the intermission of a real struggle. The Tigers’ defense had the team in a position where a few more made jumpers could have really put distance between themselves and the Bulls.
Buffalo’s offense had not given Princeton’s bigs fits and McCrea was scoreless. Yet, the scoreboard clearly read just 22-21 in favor of the visitors.
The Tigers were 9-30 from the floor in the opening 20 minutes (30.0%), 1-13 from three (7.7%) and 3-4 on free throws (75.0%). Connolly and Hummer shared 12 points evenly.
Tony Watson’s seven off the bench led all scorers. Buffalo’s field goal percentage wasn’t much better in far fewer chances. The Bulls shot 6-19 (31.6%), were 2-7 outside (28.6%) and 7-8 at the line (87.5%).
Princeton had a 19-17 advantage on the glass but eight of their rebounds were offensive.
Back on the court after just six minutes of first half action, McCrea made up for lost time. A free throw jumper meant Buffalo’s first lead. McCrea battling inside scored on a third try. 25-22 Bulls.
An inbounds play from Bray to Barrett at point blank range drew Princeton back within one.
Corey Raley-Ross’ horrible runner was so off-target it was blocked by the side of the backboard as he came down the right baseline but it was a blessing in disguise for Buffalo as the ball deflected to McCrea for a layup and a foul on Barrett.
Barrett could only shake his head as a beautiful cut to the basket ended with the ball rolling off the rim out of Barrett’s left hand as he tried to finish.
A runner by McCrea was too strong and Barrett was fouled by Raley-Ross on a right elbow overload jumper, converting both attempts.
When McCrea drove at Brase and was able to score while being fouled, the resulting three point play sent Buffalo up 30-26 with 13:57 left and already moved Princeton into the bonus with a lot of basketball yet to unfold.
1-16 team shooting from outside at this point didn’t bother Wilson, who connected on the left wing for Princeton’s second three of the game.
McCrea got Brase to commit his fourth personal and made both free throws. Bray did one better, the recipient of a great pass from Hummer and scoring on the reverse down the left baseline as Cameron Downing fouled him. Bray’s free throw evened the score at 32.
A big shot by Oldham off the right side provided Buffalo a three point edge again.
Barrett was fouled flipping the ball towards the rim after receiving a Hummer feed and made both free throws. McCrea could not score and Hummer in the paint pounded the ball to the floor and instead of going up strong decided Barrett in rhythm outside was the better play. He was correct and Princeton moved up 37-35 as the ball kissed the twine.
Connolly from the center of the lane found Hummer behind him for a lefty reverse and while Barrett couldn’t quite control a near steal as he tiptoed the sideline and tried to simultaneously get around an official, he did end a defensive possession with a strong weakside rebound. Wilson from what seemed like deep behind the arc at the time made it a 42-37 game. Connolly rumbled the lane and rolled down a hook for a seven point lead with 8:44 to go as Buffalo used another time out.
Attempts to increase that advantage went for naught. Hummer’s first free throw try of the season was an off-target front end of a one-and-one. Barrett took a charge on an Auraum Nuiriankh drive but Bray – who was so open outside he had time to re-set his feet – could not connect. Princeton’s leading returning three point shooter was 0-7 from deep for the day.
A nice steal by Bray resulted in Hummer’s left-handed jump hook which did not drop. Regan banked in a loud three pointer that was well off the mark with 7:19 left to draw his team within four.
Regan had nothing on Clay Wilson though. Bray could not get a drive to fall but battled for an offensive board in the paint. With the shot clock dwindling possession came out to Wilson who at first was not cognizant of the three seconds he had to use. Once he became aware he had no choice but to fire a three from a half step inside the half court line.
It went in effortlessly from over 40’ out.
“It was a broken down play and it came out to me and all I could do was have time to shoot it,” Wilson admitted with a smile.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone with no step make a shot from half court,” an impressed Barrett said. “That was really exciting for us.”
It was the same shot Wilson had used to win a game of Around The World versus Ian Hummer at practice earlier in the week.
“It was just a miracle how it happened like that, but it did,” added a still-marveling Wilson.
Setting their forwards outside the paint, Hummer had room to take a pass from Wilson off a curling cut with no defense trailing and keep the lead at seven with 5:37 to go.
Darrow fouled McCrea, leading to two free throws and Hummer was true on a pair of tries at the line to make it 53-46.
Connolly fouled out trying to stop Regan, who split a pair.
The possessions started to go to Hummer down the stretch but Buffalo was ready. Hummer went at McCrea and thought he had gone around McCrea to his left until McCrea swatted a runner to a teammate on the far baseline.
McCrea missed inside but grabbed a second chance from behind Hummer to cut the lead to five. Barrett down the right baseline was blocked hard by McCrea but the block was so hard it also caught most of Barrett’s body in the process. Barrett converted his ninth straight free throw and then much to his visible frustration could not make it ten out of ten.
Buffalo ran a hand off screen from Downing to Watson and Hummer stumbled for just a fraction of a second trying to fight his way around. Watson reacted to this sliver of space and connected from up top. Buffalo was now down 54-52.
Hummer again went to his left and again was blocked by McCrea into Watson’s hands. The Bulls had the ball and a chance to tie or take the lead in the final minute.
Earlier in the game Hummer had committed a flop in the post trying to create a charge call. It is likely that flop influenced a possible charge on McCrea when he bodied Hummer down low. Hummer fell to the ground backwards but the whistle was for a block. McCrea went to the line with :42.2 showing and made his first but a rare miss on the game-tying try was controlled by Barrett.
Calling time out in the front court, Bray inbounded to Darrow who was able to escape the half court line and set up Princeton’s inside-out game-sealing three by Barrett.
“It was a nice kick-out,” head coach Mitch Henderson said following the victory. “[Will] stepped up and made a huge shot for us. They were patient for the shot they wanted to get.”
Barrett also praised Darrow’s poise. Darrow was scoreless in 15 minutes off the bench and did not attempt a shot all day but it was his pass that met Barrett perfectly to set the victory in motion.
All Princeton had to do was not foul and they wisely stayed away from Oldham on a desperation three try and McCrea on an inbounds lob.
Henderson said after the game that he felt the defense carried Princeton to victory and while he was correct, it was the emergence of Will Barrett that put the result away.
“Being calm under pressure and having the guts to take that last shot and knock it down was huge for us,” said Wilson of Barrett’s moment.
It was 49 weeks since Will Barrett last donned a Princeton uniform, playing what many felt was his best game as a Tiger before being lost for the year due to injury. If Princeton fans are glad to see Will Barrett again, just imagine how Will Barrett feels.
A most welcome return.
-Princeton shot 19-55 for the game (34.5%), 6-23 from three (26.1%) and a critical 13-16 at the line (81.3%).
-After a 1-16 start behind the arc the Tigers closed 5-7 from deep.
-Buffalo was 15-43 on the day (34.9%), 5-11 outside (45.5%) and an equally excellent 18-22 on free throws (81.8%).
-While Princeton had a 17:10 assist-to-turnover ratio and just three second half giveaways, the Bulls were 8:18 in the same two categories.
-All three of Hans Brase’s rebounds were second chances and that’s not counting the job he was able to do frequently keeping possessions alive via tips.
-After playing 48 minutes all of last season, Wilson was on the floor for 25 minutes against Buffalo.
-Daniel Edwards traveled with the team but did not dress.