There's a lot to digest and unfortunately what happened on Staten Island this evening is not going to taste very good for Princeton fans.
Wagner won a game they never led in regulation. Wagner won a game where they scored 14 points in the first half and Wagner won a game where they committed 21 turnovers.
Leading 38-31 with 5:10 left in a turgid contest, the Tigers were uncharacteristically unsettled against extended Seahawk pressure and when Princeton could get into offensive sets they were unable to work out what were once clean looks versus a dwindling shot clock.
A duo of backcourt turnovers by T.J. Bray resulted in four quick Wagner points and while Mack Darrow responded with two conversions at the line the Tigers would go scoreless until the final horn as Jonathon Williams' extended layup off the glass to his left was the only score on either side during the last two minutes.
Ian Hummer missed a pair of free throws with the game tied and :56.2 remaining.
Hummer admitted he tried to do too much to pull the result out for his team, scoring 11 points on an inefficient 5-20 shooting.
While Bray's scoop shot got Princeton back up early into the extra frame, Wagner scored the final eight points starting with an Orlando Parker layup and the rest coming off the line.
Down one with :49.3 remaining after the Seahawks took their long-delayed first lead of the night, Princeton went two-for-one with the ball and the results were an appropriate conclusion to the undoing.
Hummer traveled on a spin in traffic and following a second Wagner free throw an excellent, strong move by Hummer to separate from the defense concluded with an open, potentially-tying layup being left short at the rim.
The Seahawks closed out their home opener with four consecutive free throws.
“We talk a lot about making winning plays and we just couldn’t do it tonight,” said Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson. “I thought there were several moments where either a free throw or a made three – our defense was good enough – would have put us over the top.”
Princeton shot 7-29 from the field in the second half and OT (24.1%), 0-8 from three point range. A 6-13 performance at the free throw line was exceptionally costly.
Williams' 20 led all scorers.
Postgame audio and a full recap can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson & Ian Hummer:
While the 18 point second half deterioration versus Northeastern was so gradual that it was only late in the proceedings that the realization first set in that Princeton could actually lose, the final 13 minutes of what transpired at the Spiro Sports Center included a gut-turning sensation that a Tiger was required to make an outcome-altering play but one was apparently not going to materialize.
Long prior was Princeton opening on a 9-0 run as the Tigers’ help defense caused a disorganized Wagner side to take poor care of the ball and attempt ill-advised jump shots.
Neither team had much initial success with Princeton missing their first two attempts, committing two turnovers and Will Barrett additionally off on a pair of free throws.
As the Tigers found the scoreboard beginning with Denton Koon posting and going right off the glass, Wager was 0-5 from the field to start the night with a trio of giveaways.
Bray helping on a Williams drive created a steal – one of five Bray would have in the first half – and Koon ran the break with Hummer for a lay-in.
Brendan Connolly got many nice interior looks defended one-on-one by Naofall Folahan and later Mario Moody, his first attempt a soft right-handed hook which made it 6-0.
For the second straight game Princeton’s opponent played them straight up defensively and never fell back into a now-expected zone.
Bray drifted into a three that missed from the wing but freshman Hans Brase battled for an offensive rebound and Bray quickly found Mack Darrow setting up from the top of the arc for Darrow’s first trey of the season – a bucket that seemed to lift Darrow’s season-long malaise.
It will be long-forgotten but one positive to take away was that Darrow scored seven points in 14 minutes spelling Connolly off the bench.
Williams scored over Darrow at the 14:01 mark to finally take the Seahawks off of zero. Williams added a clean-up bucket before Hummer set up Clay Wilson down the lane with a nice bounce pass for Wilson’s first layup as a sophomore.
Wagner kept firing long, contested two point jumpers such as an isolation drive pull-up for Kenneth Ortiz over Koon that did not fall.
Connolly to his left looked to have his interior shot tipped off the rim but no goaltending violation was awarded.
With Princeton leading 11-6 Connolly went to his right and using a hesitation scored above Moody.
Successful possessions were few and far between the back half of the first half. A lob by Will Barrett to a cutting Connolly was a poor decision, snatched out of the air by Moody. Williams got to the tin quickly the other way.
Connolly tried a second hesitation move in the post, picked up his dribble and still attempted to muscle a push over Moody, who had an easy block.
When Bray’s next steal provided an outlet to Hummer his first drive and subsequent follow try were both no good. Hummer looked for a whistle that did not arrive.
Moody got caught in the air and threw the ball to Bray who pushed the tempo but his attempt to whip a pass to Koon in the far corner sailed out of bounds.
A pretty break-up by Bray of a hand-off screen resulted in a coast-to-coast drive with 8:01 showing that pushed Princeton up seven. Bray had steals on four consecutive Wagner possessions.
A transition jumper by Marcus Burton was offset by Hummer hooking a shot in over Williams for a 17-10 count.
Soon thereafter Hummer read a passing lane on the wing, got his hand on the ball and was off the other way for a left-handed breakaway dunk.
Hummer picked up his second personal with 3:19 remaining before the break as Folahan saw a cutting Williams and fed him for a layup that Hummer opted to try and block from behind. Williams made both free throws and Hummer was on the bench until the second half.
Barrett, who had a poor evening with a lone point on 1-4 shooting at the line plus five miscues, gave the ball right back to Wagner via an illegal screen. Williams tried to draw a foul as Brase in the air clipped Williams’ head with his flying body but no whistle equaled a wild jumper.
Darrow ran a hand-off screen to Wilson stepping behind for a pure three and a 10 point Princeton lead.
Their next time down the floor Darrow and Wilson ran the same combination and while the shot sailed long Barrett did battle for a rebound and draw a foul, spliting a pair of chances.
Connolly had a superb block at the rim of Moody trying to dunk with two hands, then traveled in the low post looking to spin baseline versus Moody.
Moody lost the ball going up against Brase but regained possession in close and scored.
The shot clock off and his coach shouting “one shot!” from the bench, Barrett either did not realize or did not hear as he tried a free throw jumper with 11 ticks still to come. The shot was blocked and deflected out off Barrett.
The blunder did not hurt Princeton as Eric Fanning’s far wing three was well off. The Tigers opted to not use a foul they had to give on the final Wagner possession of the half.
The opening stanza was not pretty but it was primarily effective for Princeton. While the Tigers shot 10-28 (35.7%), 2-6 from three (33.3%) and 1-4 at the line (25.0%) they were up 23-14 due to 12 Wagner giveaways and a 21-14 edge on the glass.
Princeton had six offensive boards. The Seahawks by comparison, found no second chances while shooting 6-20 overall (30.0%), 0-5 outside and 2-3 at the line (66.7%). Only three players scored for Wagner – Williams (8), Moody (4) and Burton (2).
As the vesper half opened with the Tigers in possession, Barrett’s feed to a posting Bray set up a bit further from the bucket was a poor one that hit the sideline.
Ortiz went to his right at Koon for his first bucket of the game, deftly offset by Hummer exploding to his left to draw two defenders and swinging a pass back to Connolly chugging down the right side of the paint for a layup. While Connolly was 4-10 from the field I liked all but one of the shots he opted to attempt and he equaled his eight points with eight rebounds meaning Princeton found 15 total tallies from the center spot.
Bray from the wing was long for three yet Koon The Junkman was there for a putback over Folahan’s reach. The lead had returned to 11.
As Wagner found a bit more success offensively – and that wasn’t hard given their opening 20 minutes – Princeton was able to counter each incremental push.
Williams scored and when Barrett telegraphed a pass to Bray in the backcourt, so did Burton.
Hummer went up and under in the paint against Williams and as Folahan slid over to block Hummer’s scoop a whistle sounded. Hummer split his chances.
On four occasions Wagner closed to six. Each time Princeton moved their lead back up to eight. A Hummer jumper went out and back in for a 30-22 score.
Wilson pressured by Fanning lost the ball off his foot. Williams stayed put versus Hummer and eventually went to his left for a bucket.
Brase driving to his left in the lane gave as good as he got, was fouled by Folahan and converted both his looks at the line to make it 32-24.
It was Parker fouled by Brase down the right baseline for two answering free throws.
Because Darrow had a pair of hand-off screens before, he was able to fake a hand-off and spin to the basket from the arc for an uncontested layup as a second line of defense never arrived.
Ortiz missed two at the line and Bray’s drive found Darrow open for a three that could have changed the complexion of the remaining 10:09. The shot did not go down and Williams went to his left at Darrow and controlled nicely for two.
This six-to-eight exchange concluded after Hummer recorded a lefty jump hook that provided a 36-28 discrepancy. From this point forward Princeton looked decidedly un-Princetonian.
Ortiz drove and dished to Moody who was fouled by a stationary Connolly with his hands up to the top of the gym. Moody made one of two.
An easy steal of Bray passing at mid court let Burton go in for two. Those Wagner fans in attendance showed their first signs of life with their team down but five.
Any momentum was momentarily offset by Connolly’s weakside putback of Hummer on the right block.
The ball popped out of Burton’s hands and into those of Chris Clement’s, who only saw two minutes of action, both in the second half. Barrett was able to verbally warn Connolly that a Wagner defender was creeping up from behind him looking for a steal and the possession ended with Hummer strong on the left baseline leaving his try short.
Plus seven at the 5:57 mark, an important play in retrospect was a designed inbounds from Bray on the baseline to Koon popping to the top of the arc for a three point shot that was open, looked good off the hand and did not go down. Again, an opportunity squandered.
Bray was stripped with two men on him and he fouled Fanning on a drive. A second feed by Bray to Koon lacked needed emphasis and Ortiz had a layup for a 38-35 status. An illegal screen by Wilson away from the ball meant three turnovers in three tries against Wagner pressure.
“I thought we handled everything they were doing really well in the first half. We just lost our head,” Henderson said.
Bray atoned by blocking a Fanning pass and controlling.
A running Darrow hook with 4:15 showing saw Folahan push on the try and Darrow converted twice once he got up off the floor. Barrett’s long reach knocked the ball from Williams on a drive and Josh Thompson held Bray on a cut, sending Bray to the line for a one-and-one which the junior guard sent long.
Of course this meant Fanning on the deep left wing over Bray connected on Wagner’s lone three pointer of the game. An awful leaner by Bray with the shot clock very low was wild off the glass, yet Princeton caught a break as first year coach Bashir Mason called a time out with his team holding a numerical advantage and pushing the ball into the lane.
Williams spent a lot of time in the paint with the ball as play resumed but the end result was a move to his left off the glass which evened the numbers for the first time since the scoreboard was turned on.
A posting Hummer got the ball out to Bray who was not set for three, then Thompson stepping on the sideline as he began an attack from the wing returned possession to Princeton.
Hummer spinning to his left on a drive was fouled by Parker but both tries for the senior captain floated long.
It appeared Princeton would at least get the ball back for a final shot of the game however a drive from Williams at Koon was rebounded by Ortiz out of a loose ball scrum and the Seahawks set up for a possible game-winner.
Ortiz ran the clock down, was wild on penetration that eventually came to Parker’s hands and Hummer saved the outcome for the time being with a block just before only zeroes showed.
Ovetime continued the slow, painful quicksand of despair. Princeton won the tip as Connolly tapped forward to Barrett and a good Connolly post try went in and out.
Fanning’s push off guarded by Koon had the Tiger bench irate and thankfully this jumper against increased space was not rewarded.
Hummer tried to get Williams in the air and when he could not tried to get a whistle. There was no call and that was the right call.
Williams to his left with a chance to put Wagner up for the first time somehow spun around the rim and out and Ortiz’s follow had the same impossible result as Barrett rebounded.
Bray to his right into the paint for a scoop eased the knife/gut ratio slightly but it wasn’t long until a nice Fanning pass found Parker reversing baseline around Connolly.
Koon in the lane was blocked by a helping Parker and Princeton had the ball with five seconds to spare. Darrow drove to his right but his banker was short. Koon committed a wild, senseless foul on the rebound and Parker walked to the other end of the gym and put his team up 43-42.
Darrow across the lane found Bray for three, the last of Bray’s five misses without a make outside the arc. Ortiz went at Koon and left a try short, rebounded by Darrow.
Setting up with :49.3 left in OT and :27 on the shot clock, Princeton had an opportunity to go two-for-one and not risk leaving the ball in Wagner’s hands with a second chance to win at the horn.
Darrow handed off inside the arc to a cutting Hummer trailing who traveled as he tried to spin into the paint. Princeton pressed and when Ortiz was doubled in the backcourt, Koon fouled him.
Ortiz made one of his two tries and Williams would have had a backbreaker of an offensive rebound had he not barely touched the baseline.
Everything about Hummer’s possible game-tying layup was positive save for the very final action. He spun away from his man, showed strength in the paint and then at the last instant when all he had to do was place the ball home, left the point blank look short off the glass.
“I’ll make that 10 out of 10 times,” Hummer said afterwards with disbelief.
Williams took Wagner’s lead to two possessions with a pair of free throws at the :16.0 mark and the less said about Hummer’s hurried three pointer as he raced up the court to try and quickly make up the difference the better.
“I kind of forced the issue a little too much,” Hummer acknowledged.
Instead of a hard-fought victory Princeton was returning home with a bitter result that was difficult to swallow.
-Princeton shot 17-57 overall (29.8%), 2-14 from three (14.3%) and a terrible 6-13 on free throws (46.2%). The Tigers had one assist and nine turnovers in the second half and extra frame combined.
-The Seahawks made 16-44 attempts (36.4%), 1-8 outside (12.5%) and were a game-deciding 15-21 at the line (71.4%)
-Wagner had seven offensive rebounds in the second half and overtime, ultimately winning the glass battle 39-38.
-Bray’s six steals equaled a career high.