7'0" center Zeke Marshall was a perfect seven-for-seven from the floor including a 16' jump hook from outside his comfort zone to beat the shot clock buzzer with 1:35 left in regulation that inched his team up three as Akron closed on a 7-2 run to trip Princeton and stay unblemished at the James A. Rhodes Arena.
In a second half that saw the Zips lead by as many as six and Princeton fight back to take a 56-55 edge on a Hans Brase step-in jumper with 3:33 showing, the Tigers could not get the singular play that might have altered the result.
“The story of the night really was we could not stop them inside, which was disappointing because I think that’s going to be a strength of ours,” said head coach Mitch Henderson about a game where Akron got 48 of their points in the lane. “With a minute left we can’t do what we did tonight putting them on the line without giving ourselves an opportunity to win the game.”
An off-balance tying try from Clay Wilson behind an Ian Hummer screen caught part of the rim but did not come particularly close with three seconds remaining and a Marshall free throw provided the final margin.
Denton Koon was the recipient of myriad Hummer feeds on his way to 16 points. Hummer had 13 on 5-13 shooting, nine rebounds, seven dimes and six turnovers.
Hans Brase reached double digits in his third consecutive start, adding 10.
Marshall's 17 were complimented by 16 for the Zips' Nick Harney.
Postgame audio from Mitch Henderson and the rest of this recap can be found after the jump.
Coach Mitch Henderson:
It was a stubborn but exciting game. Princeton could not stop Marshall on the block but Marshall took himself out of the contest with a pair of first half personals. On their opening possession Akron posted Marshall who used a dropstep to discard Brase and dunk easily with two giant hands.
The Tigers answered with a T.J. Bray three from the right side, set up by Hummer spinning at the free throw line, but this bucket was the exception to a contest played almost entirely – with a few key exceptions – inside the arc.
Marshall’s offensive rebound of a well wild jumper got Harney free for a bucket yet the Zips’ advantage on the glass never materialized. It was one of just six offensive boards for a team averaging 12.8 second chances.
One thing Akron’s coaching staff refused to change until late in the second half was their defense that allowed Hummer to isolate inside and set up Koon sneaking behind/in front of the defense for layups. A “chin” set from Hummer to Koon curling bounced in for a 5-4 Tiger edge.
Both teams excelled defensively, throwing their bodies around. Brase drew an offensive foul on Marshall with a push off, then Hummer inside was blocked by Demetrius “Tree” Treadwell.
Alex Abreu hit from over Koon’s reach on the perimeter – Akron’s only three of the half - and Hummer curling to his right charged into Nick Harney. Not to be outdone, Brase absorbed a second charge, this on a Treadwell attack.
It was 11-7 Akron as a lob over Brase rewarded Marshall with a slam. On the prior possession Brase looked like a vintage Princeton center as he rumbled to his left off the glass in classic fashion.
Hummer blew by his man down the right side isolated for a tremendous one hand flush (I’d put it comfortably in his Top 10 career collegiate dunks), drawing the Tigers within two with 13:22 showing.
Princeton would not score for the next four minutes but Akron could only string together seven straight points.
Brase headed to the bench with his second personal due to fouling Marshall scoring inside after Brase had slapped a loose ball away. Following the whistle Brase and Chauncey Gilliam were awarded offsetting technical fouls.
Hummer’s jumper from inside the circle ended this drought and was immediately offset by Marshall getting a surprising continuation call on a drive and flip. The free throw was no good but Akron led 22-13.
Koon and Hummer combined for all of their team’s points until the half’s final possession - a 19:00+ stanza! Hummer with his right hand found Koon cutting to his left for a drive that dropped.
A wild runner for Harney sailed over the rim to Bray and Hummer’s second chance inside put him back at the line where he converted twice. The foul was charged to Marshall and he was done for the frame’s remaining 5:49. Without that size Princeton was able to operate their offense crisply.
Harney went left, spun off Bray and scored to his right off the glass.
Back came Koon past Harney for another banker.
Three tries by Harney (flatfooted, ugly) and Abreu (left corner, long) were sandwiched between Hummer isolated going left off the glass to bring his team within three.
Mack Darrow gave the ball back to Akron playing a two man game with Bray when he set an illegal screen.
Treadwell went at Hummer, who stood his ground. Treadwell was still able to face up Hummer, go into his spin move and score over the senior forward – a very nice play.
Hummer could not connect on a bounce pass to Koon for a turnover. The other way a likely two hand dunk from Treadwell was blocked remarkably by Koon coming over to help at the rim. Darrow rebounded, but Koon from Hummer once more was obstructed.
Koon slipped behind the defense on his third try and laid in a feed from Hummer.
Pat Forsythe was able to get up and under Darrow as Bray reached for a foul, splitting a pair at the line.
Henderson worked the final minute superbly. Hummer isolated once more and exploded to his left off the glass. Reggie McAdams’ far corner three with Bray charging out at him sailed to Connolly and to close the half Connolly rumbled to his right and banked home a unorthodox hook shot that pulled Princeton even.
20 minutes in and the Tigers were in a nice position, one I did not feel they would occupy at this juncture. Princeton shot 12-26 from the field (46.2%), 1-3 from three (33.3%) and a perfect 2-2 at the line (100.0%), both shots by Hummer who had 10 at the break. Koon added eight.
Akron shot 12-25 (48.0%), 1-8 from three (12.5%) and 2-4 on free throws (50.0%) as Marshall went for nine on 4-4 attempts.
A golden opportunity got away from Princeton as they inbounded to start the back frame. Hummer was isolated once more in the center of the lane and Treadwell fouled him going left but Hummer missed both his chances to move the Tigers in front.
Things went worse as Treadwell scored and was fouled by Brase, completing a three point play on Brase’s third personal.
Koon reversed a diagonal pass from Hummer for two and a 30-29 score. Marshall was able to score to his right as Brase saw no choice but to pull off.
It was Akron by three following a Harney hesitation move in the post versus Hummer offset by Hummer driving and dishing to Koon.
While this was transpiring Marshall also pushed off Hummer with his left arm, his third personal in 13 minutes of action.
Hummer tried to flop his way to a charge call as Harney bumped him. Down went Hummer, up went Harney and an uncontested layup somehow spun out.
After a Koon offensive rebound of a Bray miss, Koon cut without the ball and Darrow fed him perfectly with a one hand, one bounce pass that Koon was able to throw down with a single hand.
Darrow, who played 22 minutes off the bench, switched hands in the air running to his left, flipping a shot home with his right for a 40-38 count.
Princeton was themselves scoring inside regularly but could not fashion a stop. Forsythe backed in Darrow and used a hook.
Brase picked up his dribble yet still squared a shot in close and after a missed three by Abreu, Connolly’s sweeping hook was off, but there was Brase to tip the ball back in with two hands.
The Tigers had not sought many three point opportunities but how could Darrow pass up a feed from Hummer doubled in the post for a shot at the top of the arc that was pure. For the first time since 5-4, Princeton had the lead.
It did not last long as Forsythe scored inside over Hummer and after a Bray dropstep move was not rewarded Abreu grabbed an offensive board and following Bray being pushed to the ground had space to fire from three which made it 49-45 Zips.
Undeterred, Bray drove swiftly to his right and curled in a runner as Forsythe fouled him for a three point play.
Marshall returned with his team up one and with the big man on the floor an offensive rebound deflected to Harney for a gift basket.
Hummer attacked the Akron pressure and the last line of defense was Marshall who committed his fourth personal. Hummer split a pair at the stripe which made it 51-49. It was Hummer’s first point of the second stanza.
Hummer’s next pass was right to Abreu and Harney glided for a layup the other way as Henderson called time with 7:09 showing.
Wilson, who went scoreless on Sunday, was off from the right wing – wide open by the Princeton bench. Brase tipped up an offensive board and Darrow struck a second time from deep to make it 53-52 Zips.
The margin was the same with 4:38 left when Hummer backed in his man and scored off the glass. A right side three from Jake Kretzer was way off and with Connolly in the post the senior big fed Brase stepping into a midrange jumper on the right flank which bounced in, out and back in again.
The lane parted for Deji Ibitayo who could not finish an open scoop and a tip follow bounded over the backboard. Princeton had the lead and the ball.
Koon inside gotto the rim but his attempt rolled off and Treadwell facing up Hummer initiated contact, and went off the glass over him.
“We came up short on a few really important possessions,” Henderson said as he recalled the above sequence. “Once you get up one with the ball missing an easy shot underneath the basket that I think is going to go for us with Denton - that would have really put us in control up three.”
Darrow passed on an available three try and the Tigers’ next possession ended with Bray on the right wing from NBA distance launching an open but errant three.
Koon nearly got his hand on a lob pass to Marshall that hit the floor, where Koon was tied up. The possession arrow stayed with Akron and with one second to use of course a far off jump hook by Marshall beat the horn and saved the game for the Zips.
Koon hesitated and went to his left, improving to 21-23 at the line (91.3%) with a pair of free throws.
Akron had the ball with 1:14 showing clinging to a one point lead but the math favored Princeton. There was just one problem.
Having only committed three second half personals to this point, Connolly fouled on the floor, giving the Zips the ball with :47 to go and :35 on the shot clock.
Connolly looked to play sound defense on Marshall but was whistled for a bump from behind with :22.5 to go. Now Princeton could no longer ride out the possession, get a stop to try and win. They had to foul two more times.
Eventually Abreu was put to the line and the 81% shooter made both his tries. Henderson bemoaned after the game that this was the wrong Zip to foul.
The best Princeton could offer out of a time out was Hummer on the right arc as time dwindled drawing Wilson behind him for a desperate three that caught just a portion of the rim with three ticks left. Marshall rebounded and clinched the game with a free throw.
“It wasn’t a great look,” Henderson acknowledged. “I would have been happy with a strong drive to the rim.”
Henderson realized his team had played well, just not well enough to beat a Top 50 team in their own arena.
“I’m happy with where we are as of December 30, but also knowing that we’ve got to be pretty on the ball if we’re going to win games – we’re not catching a lot of easy breaks with the way we’re built,” he said.
A break like a 16 foot hook in the waning moments that cost Henderson’s team their final game of 2012 as well as a second straight significant victory to close the year.
-Princeton was 24-50 from the field (48.0%), 3-9 from three (33.3%) and 7-11 at the line (55.6%) with the Tigers going 5-9 after intermission (55.6%) and Hummer 3-6 on the night (50.0%).
-Unexpectedly Princeton won the glass 28-22 with 10 offensive boards.
-Akron shot 26-49 (53.1%), 2-13 from three (15.4%) and 8-11 on free throws (72.7%).
-Five of Koon’s baskets came off Hummer assists.
-Will Barrett (thigh bruise) returned to the starting lineup and was scoreless in 10 minutes of action.
-Barrett’s replacement Darrow had a nice line – Eight points on 3-3 shooting with five rebounds in 22 minutes
-Princeton finished the calendar year with a 18-12 record.
-Thanks to everyone who joined me in The Forum tonight. I hope you and yours have a healthy and happy New Year!