Christmas came a few days early for Ian Hummer, who got what he wanted since the very start of the season - a full 40 minute performance for his team.
All five Princeton starters scored in double figures as the Tigers knocked off Bucknell at Jadwin Gym.
It took an effort from the top to the bottom of the rotation to best a squad who came in with an 11-1 record and were firmly in the Top 50 of all reputable rankings.
Princeton scored on seven straight second half possessions - including four three pointers - to turn a four point edge into a 62-47 advantage with 5:57 remaining.
To close out the game the Tigers made 13 straight at the line before Brendan Connolly's miss was accidentally tipped in by Hans Brase and a battling Bucknell defender.
Hummer had 17 points, Denton Koon matched him with a career high, Brase followed up a sensational first start with 14 despite serious foul trouble, T.J. Bray added 11 plus eight assists versus zero turnovers and Mack Darrow starting in place of the injured Will Barrett totaled 10.
Mike Muscala's 17 points and 11 rebounds paced the Bison in defeat but his touches were severely limited.
A full recap plus postgame audio from Mitch Henderson, Denton Koon & Ian Hummer can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Denton Koon & Ian Hummer:
Bucknell was sensational at the start of a ludicrously entertaining and well-played first half. Cameron Ayers got the Bison off on the right hoof with a three from the left side and Brase’s attempt to answer – his first three point shot as a collegian – was no good.
Muscala in the post went up for a turnaround jumper as Brase reached in and the 81.3% free throw shooter split a pair at the line.
Bray to Darrow on the right wing resulted in a three that sailed too far. With Barrett’s thigh bruise unable to heal in the 46 hours since Princeton’s win over Rider it was Darrow who got the call to replace him.
Bryson Johnson hit quickly on the right side and less than two minutes in Bucknell held a 7-0 advantage.
Princeton answered with 10 straight, or as Henderson said, “I thought we withstood a pretty good punch by them and then delivered some of our own too.”
It was Henderson who also said that Brase could “shoot a little bit” following the victory over the Broncs two nights ago and Brase showed that range with his first college three at the top of the arc – a shot Muscala was not expecting him to either take or make.
Johnson could not strike a second time outside and Bray’s wing-to-wing pass set up Darrow for a three on the right side that rattled in.
What started onside now went inside. Darrow rebounded an Ayers miss from deep and Koon posted on the block, going up quickly to his right off the glass. Johnson missed a long two point jumper before Koon went back at it, scoring off the glass over Johnson as the shot clock dwindled.
“It is tough to fall down like that but we did a great job of recovering,” said Koon of his team’s 10-0 counter.
Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen was mystified. “Their centers were hitting threes and their guards were posting up,” he remarked.
These two blows exchanged, the game settled into a taught affair. Ayers popped a long two from the far side to make it 10-9 Tigers.
Now that Brase had hit from behind the arc, Muscala had to honor that. A pump fake got Muscala in the air and Brase drove, passing to Bray in the left corner for three. The shot was no good but Brase jumped high in the air to tip a loose ball that eventually came to Darrow next to the basket for an unexpected layup. It was an “effort assist.”
Johnson stepped on the sideline for a rare turnover by either side and Hummer entered the scoring column, calling for the ball in the post and using a right hook to score.
Bucknell answered with a Joe Willman shot in the lane over Darrow and after Brase was goaded by Muscala into trying his fourth three of the half, Willman softly tossed in a jumper on the right baseline.
Muscala’s two hand pass off the left elbow found Johnson spotting up outside to make it 16-14 Bucknell.
Bray got caught in the air on a drive but was able to pass down to Brase reversing before landing.
Inside/out action from Muscala to Willman for a jumper pushed the Bison back up two, then Hummer drifting to his left knocked down a left elbow jumper.
It was seriously fun to watch regardless of rooting interest.
Nearly a quarter of the way in to the game, Muscala got deep position and just as someone sitting to my right (who may reveal himself in the comments) yelled “DON’T FOUL, HANS!,” Brase did just that as Muscala scored.
Brase was headed to the bench and Muscala unexpectedly did not convert his three point play.
The agreeable action continued. Hummer at an impossible angle falling to his left scored off the glass. Willman posting Koon was good for another turning jumper.
Princeton’s first miscue of the contest came at the 8:13 mark when Koon was whistled for pushing off with the ball.
Steven Kaspar’s falling layup was off the glass and good for a 24-20 score. Henderson risked a good deal by bringing the foul-prone Brase back in.
Bray set up Clay Wilson with some penetration and Wilson stepped into his first three of the night.
Willman was surprised that a slight movement triggered an itchy Hummer into the air, so he stepped past him for a midrange jumper.
In a half that would feature just four combined turnovers, Brase’s poor entry pass stood out as a bad decision. It paled in comparison to the choice he made to reach in on Ayers’ layup try in transition. The foul was Brase’s third and back to the bench he walked with 6:11 showing.
Down five, Hummer converted a longer jumper than he usually tries, then got an offensive foul call go his way guarding Willman.
Koon faked a jump shot and slid into the block where Johnson fouled him. Koon converted both chances.
A scoop by Ryan Hill hung in the air, where Hummer slapped it over the sideline before it could touch the ground. With a buzz in the air and four on the shot clock, Ayers was able to drive past Hummer from well beyond the arc and score as the horn sounded – a terrible finish to a seemingly nice defensive possession.
Koon hit for the third time this season from behind the arc to even the score at 30. Bray did a solid job fighting his way across the floor to contest an Ayers jumper that was short and Muscala fouled on the rebound. Bray continued his quality play at the other side of Jadwin, using a Brendan Connolly screen and launching a tie-breaking three.
The shot went in with 3:34 left in the half and would be the final points for either side before intermission. Koon and Darrow missed shots inside (the latter an extremely ugly hook shot) which bookended errant three tries by Bray and Darrow.
Connolly’s footwork and post defense checking Muscala deserves a mention. He forced one wild hook shot and slid over nicely for a rebound on a separate possession.
Come the half Princeton was shooting 13-25 (52.0%), 5-14 from three (35.7%) and 2-2 on free throws (100.0%). The Tigers had seven assists and just two turnovers. Koon’s nine led the scoring.
Bucknell was a similar 12-25 (48.0%), 3-8 from three (37.5) after making their first two chances and 3-5 at the line (60.0%) with Muscala an uncharacteristic 1-3. They had six assists beside two turnovers. Willman scored 10 on 5-7 shooting.
Hummer tried to spin the lane and passed out to Bray sizing from the left side who could not convert. Muscala was able to seal off Brase and score before Koon could desperately close.
Hummer tried again, this time a fading jumper after stopping in the lane that was short over Ayers.
Muscala looked for three from the top but his attempt sailed long.
Koon bumped off of Johnson and scored with a lefty hook for a 35-32 count.
Darrow fouled Johnson blowing by into the post but Johnson – a 78.8% free throw shooter - missed both his tries.
You’re unlikely to see a more beautiful three man combination than what Princeton put together with a one point lead. Hummer fed a cutting Bray who instead of going up with a contested shot wrapped a pass around his man to Brase closing for a two hand slam.
“[Hans’] ability to open up the floor and his ability to cut to the rim make him a pretty dynamic player,” assessed Hummer when asked about the freshman forward. “Having Denton and Hans run around and having me be able to pass them the ball opens up a lot.”
The excitement was short-lived as Ayers drove the right baseline at Brase who tried to take a charge but was instead flagged for a block, his fourth personal. Back to the bench Brase headed with 17:08 still remaining.
In another memorable segment Koon scored on a scoop, Hummer blocked a Ayers layup try and then with Princeton inbounding under the Bucknell basket Bray got a pass to meet Darrow sliding backwards behind the arc where he hoisted in a three for Princeton’s game-best lead of six.
With Brase out Connolly tried to stop Muscala but even good defense could not halt the senior center’s running attack.
Henderson moved Hummer over to guard Muscala and that tactical decision was a success. Muscala wasn’t able to get the ball cleanly without disruption by Hummer’s activity.
Hummer also kept the offense, uh, humming with a right block pass to a cutting Koon down the lane for a two hand dunk.
“We made a ton of interior passes that were just great,” Koon said of his team’s passing in close.
Frazier was able to go right all the way to the rim for Bucknell, making it 44-40.
Darrow has had a r.o.u.g.h. senior season to date but tonight he showed some of the things he can do to make his team better in 26 minutes versus the Bison. For example, running some two man action with Wilson – dribbling to his right as Wilson came around to his left to fire in a three that extended the advantage to seven.
The score 47-43 after what I’d best describe as a missed “tomahawk layup” by Johnson, a long possession with great ball movement concluded with Bray taking a Koon pass and hitting for three. This was the start of seven straight scoring possessions for the Tigers.
A very rare loose ball came to Koon after Darrow knocked it loose and in transition Wilson was rewarded by a Bray feed in front of the Princeton bench for three. Bucknell called time down 10.
Bray ran to the Princeton bench pointing at senior Ameer Elbuluk who raced to meet him and they leapt in unison bumping hips in mid-air.
Muscala thought about a long jumper, then connected once he made up his mind on the right side.
Connolly posting found Bray spotting up for a three from the right wing for a 56-45 score. While Bucknell answered with Hill down the left baseline leaving the ball for Willman in the lane, the Bison were reeling.
Hummer hit from the far baseline with the shot clock running down and Princeton got the ball back as Muscala was whistled battling Connolly inside.
Henderson was able to get Brase back on the floor and wouldn’t you know it, Brase faked Muscala once and then hit a second time from three point range.
Hummer tried to use the crafty “step away” post defense that created a travel against Drexel but was whistled for a foul as he removed himself from Muscala’s space. Muscala’s free throw struggles continued as he missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Hummer went at Muscala to his left off the glass and was fouled, converting one of two attempts.
If you paid attention to our four point preview of Bucknell that was posted prior to the game, you know the Bison are the worst team in the nation in forcing turnovers and second-worst in creating steals. The only way the could try and dig out of a 15 point hole with 5:57 to go was by getting Princeton to miss. The best solution the Bison could muster was “Hack-a-Hummer.”
The first time worked. Hummer missed the front end of a one-and-one and Muscala answered with a free throw after an offensive board.
The second foul was less successful, though Hummer’s first attempt was long yet caught the rim thrice and then dropped home prior to a pure second attempt.
The third time fouling Hummer with Bucknell still outside the double bonus again saw a long first attempt catch the front end of the rim and go down before a second try was good.
The Bison were in fact scoring too but they weren’t causing any mistakes to generate rapid baskets in succession. So they kept fouling. Brase hit twice. So did Bray. Likewise Darrow and Koon. When Connolly finally ended a run of 13 straight at the line with :33.1 to go, this rare miss was deflected up to the rim where it sat a while and curled into the netting.
Nearly three minutes of fouls saw Princeton actually increase their lead by one and a large, festive bow could go on top of a wonderful surprise package.
No one was happier with this holiday treat than Hummer. Not only did he get the complete 40 minutes he had been so desperately seeking, but Princeton also finally put quality performances together in back-to-back games.
Worth watching going forward is if Brase’s rise will continue to take some of the weighty burden off of Hummer. The All-Ivy senior’s usage numbers are down the past two games but his efficiency is actually higher. He’s still having Ian Hummer games while making the most of fewer opportunities.
-Princeton finished the game 26-51 from the field (51.0%), 11-25 from three (44.0%) including 6-11 in the second half (54.5%) and 16-19 on free throws (84.2%). The Tigers had 17 assists and just four turnovers.
-Bucknell shot 23-49 (46.9%), 5-13 from three after making their first two tries (38.5%) and 16-23 at the line (69.6%). In addition to Muscala’s 17, Willman had 15 and Ayers 14.
-Both Koon and Bray played all 40 minutes.
-The last time Princeton had but four turnovers, they lost 74-67 to Penn in 2003.
-Barrett’s thigh bruise was designated a “short term” injury by Henderson.