It is a football cliché, but it is still applicable in Princeton’s 64-57 loss to Drexel on Saturday afternoon at Jadwin Gym.
When Drexel was on offense during the second half, the Tigers’ defense could not get off the field.
A paucity of stops, a lack of defensive rebounding, a series of turnovers before moving the ball over half court and some possession-continuing fouls all led to Princeton’s fifth defeat in eight games.
It was a contest that the Tigers held the lead for the center 32 minutes of, but Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint implemented what he admitted was a rarely-used pressing, trapping defense to turn a 13 point first half deficit into his squad's third victory of the season.
Drexel scored the day’s final seven points, which broke the game’s second tie.
After pulling even on a pair of Will Barrett free throws with 2:32 to go, the Tigers would not score again.
Damion Lee - who paced the Dragons with a game-high 21 points - took advantage of a defensive lapse to convert a three point shot from the top of the arc and send his team in front on the visitors' next possession.
“We lost our way once again at the end of the game,” head coach Mitch Henderson said.
Ian Hummer had 14 of his 19 in the first 20 minutes. Clay Wilson added 12 off the bench and Will Barrett totaled 10.
The Dragons shot 12-19 after intermission (63.2%) and grabbed offensive rebounds on five of their seven misses. This led to a remarkable 19-4 differential on the glass.
A full recap and postgame audio from Henderson and Hummer can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson & Ian Hummer:
As has been the story repeatedly in 2012-13, Princeton got off to a very nice start once again, building an early 15-8 advantage. Entering the game Drexel was weaker defensively than they had been in recent campaigns as the Tigers were able to exploit their interior, especially Hummer in often sensational fashion.
Daryl McCoy scored on a second chance, which Princeton answered when Brendan Connolly from the left block found a slashing Hummer.
Dartaye Ruffin made it two baskets in as many possessions for the Dragons when he took a post entry and decisively went off the glass against Hummer.
T.J. Bray – who struggled in 34 minutes, going scoreless on four attempts – missed the iron on the right wing for three, but Denton Koon saved the ball from going out and his pass back into play came right to Barrett for a three in rhythm. Princeton had a lead they would hold for 75% of the game.
An incredible Hummer spinning drive made it 7-4 Tigers. Ruffin was the recipient of a high/low lob from fellow big McCoy over Hummer to earn two back but the Tigers quickly created some distance.
Barrett’s low bounce backdoor was picked up by Hummer down the lane and dunked with two hands. Connolly aggressive to his right off the glass increased the lead to five.
A shot by Ruffin inside rolled in and bringing the ball up the floor Koon was stripped one-on-one by Derrick Thomas but no damage followed as Thomas missed his immediate layup attempt. Princeton had just two turnovers in the opening 16 minutes and they both belonged to Koon.
With Clay Wilson in, the Tigers repeatedly tried to run him from baseline to baseline Reggie Miller style around a minimum of two screens.
As the defense chased, Hans Brase inside hesitating and then scoring made it 13-8. When Mack Darrow escaped from McCoy’s defense and went into the lane for an unorthodox running push shot, the lead moved up to seven.
An offensive rebound came to McCoy in close, then Darrow and Wilson repeatedly tried to set up a hand-off screen from the former to the latter with clearance. Room eventually developed on the third repetition late in the possession and Wilson rained in a triple.
Lee was held in check for the almost the entire first half of the first half, but the smooth sophomore drove left with his right hand and finished with far too much ease by Darrow.
Ruffin went left to the glass at Connolly and Princeton came back with Hummer finding Wilson cutting down the lane, receiving a great bounce feed and switching hands in the air to score.
Silent from outside the arc to this point, getting almost all of their successful attempts in the lane, Lee connected on the right wing for a pure three.
Connolly may only have been credited with two official rebounds, but on three separate occasions in the first half he slapped a loose ball or a Princeton miss upcourt to keep the rock with the Tigers. Hummer missed inside, Connolly reserved the ball with Princeton and Hummer diagonally found Wilson for his second straight layup.
Connolly surprised Ruffin with a quick move in the post and spun into a reverse layup which made it 24-17 at the 8:26 mark. A 10-0 Princeton run still had three more baskets to come.
Lee traveled going at Hummer on a drive, Hummer did not travel with the shot clock running low – instead controlling as he bounced off of McCoy and scored.
Next time down Hummer deep inside on Ruffin called for the ball and went to a right hook.
McCoy pushed Hummer on a rebound try and Hummer made it three straight baskets by blowing past Ruffin down the right baseline and scoring.
Ruffin missed a pair of free throws – part of an 0-4 start at the line from the Dragons – but Koon could not extend the lead as his lovely right hand jump hook bounded in and out. Like Bray, Koon was also a scoreless starter versus Drexel. This was actually his only field goal attempt in 18 minutes of action.
As Drexel extended their defense and trapped on every possible occasion to do so, the once poised Tigers wilted. After McCoy got Darrow in the air and stepped into a free throw jumper, Bray in the backcourt was doubled on the far sideline and stepped out.
While Ruffin’s illegal screen gave the ball back to Princeton, Bruiser Flint’s plan was in motion.
Next time up Darrow got cut off by Lee and McCoy, falling down for a travel. Henderson did not like the call, feeling Darrow had been pushed and was awarded his first technical of the season. Freshman Tavon Allen ended the Dragons’ consecutive missed free throws at four, making a pair.
Bray deftly stayed with Drexel’s attempts to run Lee curling behind the defense on multiple set attempts and as the ball came loose Wilson slapped possession off of McCoy for a turnover.
Barrett carried the ball lowering his shoulder going right across the lane and after Wilson curled into an open three that popped out Hummer had the same result heading the opposite direction on a feed from Connolly.
Frantz Massenat had been absent from the recap for the entire first half, but did split Hummer and Wilson to draw a foul and summarily split a pair at the line.
Hummer got trapped by Kazembe Abif and Lee in the backcourt and Henderson this time called time before possession could be given away. Going faster right at the press when play resumed, a momentarily cut off Connolly passed with two hands to Barrett at half court who zipped a look to Hummer for a two hand slam of a press break.
A soft left wing three by Lee turned this restored double digit advantage to a 32-25 count.
Hummer was fouled in the backcourt, which sent Drexel over the limit. Hummer – who has now seen his free throw percentage drop to 55.9% on the season – missed the front end.
The Dragons set up for a final shot of the half but the best they could muster was Lee’s airballed three over Barrett’s reach.
16 minutes of very good basketball followed by four turnovers and a technical to close the stanza left Princeton up seven at intermission.
The Tigers shot a quite fine 15-26 (57.7%) from the floor, were 2-6 from three (33.3%) and Hummer missed the team’s only free throw. It was a rare blemish on a 14 point, six rebound stat line – those points coming on 7-10 attempts.
Princeton was doubling up Drexel in the paint 24-12.
The Dragons made 10-25 attempts (40.0%), hit 2-7 from behind the arc (28.6%) and made 3-8 at the line (37.5%). Ruffin and Lee had eight respectively.
Perhaps when Barrett got beat backdoor by Lee on the second half’s first possession I too should have been more cognizant of what was starting to happen. Yet Hummer entering the top of the lane with a spin and getting fouled dulled my awareness. Hummer split a pair at the line.
Ruffin went inside on Koon for a 33-29 score. Pressure mounting, Hummer stepped in front of a post feed at one end and at the other end drove like a flash and left the ball for Connolly who went up and scored as he was fouled by your choice of three different Drexel defenders. Connolly converted the three point play.
The lead was seven. Remember that number as it was that Princeton could never increase their lead beyond.
Lee went at Connolly and was fouled, hitting twice off the line. Hummer in the paint dished to Connolly behind him. Lee’s attempt to block sounded like it caught all ball but a whistle sounded and Connolly made one of his two chances.
Tayvon Allen, who was 0-4 in the first half, slashed and scooped for a 37-33 score behind some Princeton pressure.
Koon and Connolly tried to go over and beyond the Drexel defense but Connolly fell on the baseline as Koon’s pass met him.
Hummer broke up a pass on the perimeter and stepped between two additional Dragons to record a steal and start a coast to coast layup.
Massenat went to his left for his first field goal.
It seemed like any difficulty was righted when Barrett missed a three on the left wing, but Connolly slapped the rebound to Hummer who set up Barrett in the exact same spot for a true jumper. Princeton by seven a second time.
Allen answered off the left wing, then Bray spotted Wilson rifling a three in from the far corner for a 45-38 score as Henderson called a time out. Princeton by seven a third time.
Up five after Ruffin sealed Darrow and scored down low, Wilson could not connect from the left side, yet he hustled to record a steal from his keister. Hummer was alone inside as his man fell but could not turn 180 degrees to step around him and score. By the time he went up the ball was slapped away on the ascent. It was not a turnover but Chris Clement’s open three on the left side failed to finish the possession off.
Clement and Wilson occupied the backcourt with Bray and Koon on the pine. A good defensive possession for Princeton concluded with McCoy’s left elbow jumper coming up short of the rim.
Clement was open again, this time from the right side, but his shot sailed off to the left. It was an attempt he had to take.
Aquil Younger struck on the left side for three, making it 45-42.
Under pressure, a bad Brase pass backwards to Wilson as picked easily by Allen. However Allen could not score inside and the ball went out of bounds to Drexel.
With the whistle Bray, Hummer and Connolly immediately returned to the floor, instantly providing a more experienced lineup.
Barrett hounded Lee and slapped the ball off Lee’s body for a turnover. It was surprising to see Hummer under the hoop not try and explode up to the rim but this decision was rewarded when his pass out to Darrow spotting up went in for three.
Princeton got the ball back and again Hummer deferred with the shot clock running low. An awkward drive by Darrow with one tick remaining turned into a travel.
Still up six, Hummer made a brilliant defensive move. So often Hummer will absorb contact in the post. Ruffin got the ball with his back to Hummer’s chest. As Ruffin started to move backwards, Hummer took a baby step behind him. Ruffin expected to collide with Hummer but met only air and with nothing to brace himself against, traveled.
It would have been a beautiful thing to reward such a sly play, but Barrett from three could not provide.
Lee drove left at Barrett and finished strong while drawing contact. The free throw did not fall but Ruffin in the center of the lane got both hands on the ball. Massenat curled into a three which effectively created both a four point possession and a one point game.
Barrett with confidence drove left from the left arc and scored. Massenat was off with a jumper but Wilson boxing out in front of a larger Drexel player was called for a hold behind his back despite the fact that Wilson was purposefully keeping his hands away from the ball and his man to create his space.
It looked like Lee had a dunk to move his team within one but as Ruffin kept Hummer from closing to block he was called for an offensive foul.
A trapped Koon threw a pass beyond Darrow’s reach and into the radio broadcast location at midcourt. In trying to save Darrow jumped between Noah Savage and Derek Jones, landing on the other side of press row and walking around to return to the court at the far corner.
Wilson appeared to have one hand on a loose ball but Drexel was still able to call a time out with 7:27 to go. Wilson played by far his best defensive game of the season against Drexel, active and involved.
As Lee drove to his left with the shot clock at three, Hummer didn’t need to come over and contest Lee’s wild jumper that was already in the process of being guarded. By making this decision Hummer put Lee at the line with a foul in the act of shooting and both attempts dropped.
Darrow had a clean look to make it Princeton by four but the three he cocked on the right side came up well short of its target. Abif inside gave Drexel their first lead since the 18:22 mark of the first half.
Princeton was clearly looking for answers. One did not come via Bray who sized a three off the front rim. A late whistle rewarded Massenat on a drive, who made both free throws.
The Tigers isolated Hummer in deep and he was fouled by Thomas but left the front end of his one-and-one well short. As Bray tried to create a charge inside he fell to the deck which made it easy for Abif to score again and put his team up 55-50 with 5:00 showing as Princeton called time.
To their credit, the Tigers responded well at this juncture. A pass from Barrett met Hummer under the basket. Massenat could not finish a drive but Wilson was called for undercutting on a rebound with a Drexel man on top of him over the baseline. Abif went to the line for two chances, both of which were good.
Darrow across the lane was bodied by McCoy and Bruiser Flint picked an inopportune juncture to pick up a technical protesting out of the coach’s box. This meant Princeton would get two free throws plus Darrow’s one-and-one.
Of a possible four points with the clock stopped, the Tigers picked up three. Wilson made his first collegiate free throw and then another one. Darrow converted his first but the second did not go. Princeton trailed 57-55.
Thomas was unable to score but Massenat had the offensive rebound. Barrett got his hands in and created a turnover. Abif fouled Barrett on a cut and Barrett evened the ledger.
On Drexel’s next possession Bray was drawn a step too close to Massenat on the left side of the floor, who was also guarded by Koon. Reacting to the situation, Massenat fed Lee at the top of the arc for an uncontested three that broke the tie.
Hummer going left could not finish and Ruffin rebounded but Ruffin gave the ball back.
The Dragons presented Princeton with a few more chances beyond this one to pull equal.
Bray inbounding set up Wilson drifting to the right corner for a good look at a three that hit high off the rim.
McCoy was called for pushing off Wilson with :36.4 to go and after Darrow passed on a three, Bray from the right wing was off to the left – slapping his hands together as he realized the opportunity he had missed.
At the line with a one-and-one, McCoy made both chances and the Tigers were down 62-57. Koon used up too much time dribbling and the possession came to an anticlimactic close after a time out with two seconds left as Barrett’s drive to the rim was too strong.
Lee added a pair of free throws in the final second that did not alter the inevitable, just the margin.
“You just put so much pressure on your defense,” Henderson said of his team’s inability to close out possessions.
To use another football cliché, Princeton played in the shadow of their own goalposts for nearly the entire second half.
Because the Tigers could not close out these possessions, they also could not close out a game they led throughout and had every opportunity to secure.
-Princeton ended the contest 22-46 from the field (47.8%), 5-19 from three (26.3%) and 8-13 at the line (61.5%).
-Drexel was 12-19 in the second half (63.2%) and 22-44 for the game (50.0%). They made 5-10 shots from deep (50.0%) including all three second half attempts. The Dragons improved to 15-21 on free throws (71.4%) by making 12-13 tries (92.3%) after intermission.
-Overall rebounds went to Drexel, 32-20.
-Princeton was outscored 16-8 in the paint in the final 20 minutes.
-Hummer led his team with five assists against one turnover.
-The only rebounds of the second half for the Tigers in order of appearance: Hummer (offensive), Wilson (defensive), Bray (defensive), Team (defensive).
-Hummer passed Gabe Lewullis into 10th place on Princeton’s all-time scoring list and is two points behid Bud Haabestad for ninth overall. The senior has 1,290 career points.
-Princeton honored their 2012 NCAA champion field hockey team at halftime.