Sunday was an island between two distinct epochs, a two week exam period without a game behind it and a run of 13 contests in 40 days that will decide this year’s Ivy League title immediately in front of it.
Princeton did not shoot the ball particularly well in their return to action but had enough size at both ends and got to the line frequently enough to dispatch The College of New Jersey without incident or, perhaps more importantly, injury.
Tiger starters scored the game's first nine points and following TCNJ’s brief halving of a double digit deficit to five versus an early lineup heavy on reserves, returned to the floor to promptly convert back-to-back three point shots and build an 11 point advantage that would only increase for the remaining 28:32 of the afternoon.
Outrebounding an undersized foe 29-17 in the first half, with freshman Hans Brase grabbing 11 of those boards, Princeton extended a 39-17 halftime lead as most of their work was done at the foul line, where the Tigers shot 14-18.
The final buzzer could not come quickly enough after intermission as Denton Koon (12 points in 22 minutes) and Brase (11 points and 15 rebounds in 26 minutes) remained on the floor to anchor the rotation. The lead went from 20 to 30 to 40 as the visiting Lions suffered through a near-10 minute stretch wherein they recorded just a single field goal.
Clay Wilson played a team-high 28 minutes, 2-10 from three point range as his 0-10 marksmanship behind the arc the prior four games finally found the target.
All 13 Princeton players in uniform saw at least six minutes of action. The Tigers were 21-58 (36.2%) as a unit but 22-29 at the line (75.9%) with a ridiculous 60-30 edge on the glass boosted by 21 offensive rebounds.
Emmanuel Matlock and Ryan Keegan each had 10 for TCNJ, which went 0-14 from three on the day.
A full recap plus postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson, Denton Koon & Hans Brase can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Denton Koon & Hans Brase:
On Saturday night The College of New Jersey took 11th-ranked Ramapo to the final possession before losing by one as a Lion shot did not drop at the horn. Giving up size at every position to Princeton, TCNJ was in for a tough go less than 18 hours later.
It certainly didn’t start well for the visitors from across the county. Ian Hummer picked a pass off in the lane and fed Will Barrett to open the scoring. Local product Sky Ettin’s turnaround jumper was short, while Koon’s shot on the left side was long for the Tigers. Brase grabbed the first of his rebounds and was fouled weakside, converting both free throws. Koon added one of two at the line, fouled on his way up by Jayson Johnson.
Hummer to Brase to a cutting Koon was too strong at the rim, as was Johnson attempting a jumper over T.J. Bray.
Hummer went right for two and following a miss by Johnson that Bray contested nicely, Brase curled to the rim and laid in a Bray feed. TCNJ called time 2:59 in down nine.
Johnson finally put his team on the board with a drive to the right that he floated over Koon, but Brase increased the lead by sizing his third three pointer of the season from the top of the arc. Fox scored to his right for a 12-4 count and Henderson, as he did early on in the same game a year ago despite a small lead, began going to his bench.
In came Clay Wilson and Brendan Connolly, out went Koon and Brase.
Hummer slid his pivot trying to go left out of the lane and Barrett tossed a pass over Connolly’s reach. To the pine they headed with TCNJ down six, as Chris Clement and Mack Darrow hit the floor for the first time.
Darrow led Connolly sealing his man inside but Connolly’s shot was too hard in close. Connolly altered a left baseline jumper by Ettin at the other end, then Clement found Darrow in the lane who converted two free throws after being fouled going up.
It was 17-8 after a Connolly three point play, this time finishing a Darrow feed as he was hacked on the arm by Joe Kane.
Keegan was able to get through Wilson and convert a scoop shot, then Clement traveled on a spin move. Matlock stuttered to the glass over Darrow and while Darrow’s fake of the three turning into a pass for Connolly to rattle home got two back, Keegan was fouled by Wilson (his second personal) going right and made both free throws for a five point game with 9:44 on the clock.
Back off the bench came Barrett, Bray, Brase and Hummer immediately to restore order. A lob to Hummer hit the floor but Hummer ripped the ball away and eventually Barrett connected on the right side of the arc for three. Keegan deep from the left side was short as Hummer rebounded.
Wilson fed Brase in the post who waited for the defense to sag towards him allowing Bray freedom at the top of the arc for his lone three of the day.
While Bray was 1-5 from the floor he added four assists, two rebounds, a block and a steal in 14 minutes of action while not committing a turnover.
The lead was double digits and there it would stay.
Ettin’s pass missed the target and went over the sideline. Hummer was tripped up by Keegan and made both sides of his one-and-one after a media time out.
Princeton blocked a series of inside looks for TCNJ, with Koon and Barrett credited for swats. Brase posted on the right block and spun to his right, fouled by Kane going up but missing both of his rewards.
It was 31-15 following a pair of Brase makes after being fouled rebounding a Bray miss for three. Henderson subbed out again en masse and this time the replacements performed ably.
Wilson picked up his third personal of the half on a rebound. Wilson’s foul difficulty was one of two negatives that stood out in the first half, the other being a number of point blank open misses by Connolly and Koon in the paint.
The lead reached 18 when Darrow across the lane to Connolly was followed by Brase cutting baseline behind the defense, taking Connolly’s feed and dunking with two hands as DJ Griffin fouled. Brase missed his free throw but that did not completely detract from an excellent play all around.
Chris Clement was bumped going to his left entering the arc by Matlock, the Lions’ 12th personal of the half. Clement went to the line and converted both attempts, his first points since when Princeton visited Lafayette just after Thanksgiving.
Rista ended 8:46 without a field goal for TCNJ with a drive after the recently-inserted Bobby Garbade forced a pass to a cutting Brase that Johnson picked up.
Koon’s drop-step made it 37-17 and after Alex Fox missed for three Koon found himself unchecked in transition so he sized up a long two from the left wing.
That basket brought us to intermission with the Tigers up 22.
Princeton shot 11-29 in the opening 20 minutes (37.9%), 3-11 from three (27.3%) and 14-18 at the line (77.8%). Brase had a first half double-double of 11 points and 10 boards.
The Tigers’ edge on the glass was 29-17. Brase, Barrett and Hummer each had three offensive rebounds in the first half.
The College of New Jersey hit 7-31 overall (22.6%), 0-4 from deep and 3-6 on free throws (50.0%) with five of their attempts blocked.
As the first half began, so did the second – this stanza opening only with five straight for Princeton. Hummer receiving a diagonal pass from Bray and scoring, Hummer pushing the ball and deferring to Bray who found Koon reversing under the rim and Koon adding a free throw after being fouled on a lefty scoop.
Leading by 27 allowed Henderson to replace Bray with Wilson and allowed Koon to occasionally act at the team’s point guard on some possessions.
Wilson did himself no favors with a fourth personal and after Hummer pounded in a left hook he was done for the final 15:54.
Connolly went back to the line after rebounding an errant Brase follow of a Clement three try, converting both chances.
Ettin’s fading jumper - his first basket of the game - made it 48-21. Keegan added a nifty spinning bucket around Koon. It would be the Lion’s last field goal for a goodly while.
Now Connolly’s day was done, replaced by Garbade for the final 14+ minutes, a stretch where Garbade single-handedly blocked six shots., tied for sixth-most by a Princeton player in an entire game.
Clement on the right wing went across his body to Darrow in the near corner for a three. Koon drove diagonally for two. Clement inbounding under his own basket zipped a pass down the baseline to Darrow in the far corner for a second triple. The lead was 33.
TCNJ missed thrice from behind the arc. In between Brase was no good on a pair of free throws, fouled after being found by Connolly out of the high post.
Wilson ended near four game stretch without a basket by taking Brase’s skip pass and chucking in a three on the right side. Wilson soon made it two in a row with a second triple from the top of the arc. However, Wilson’s attempt for a third on the left side was not the charm.
While Wilson did knock down those two treys and Clement had six assists versus three TOs for the game I think I had secretly hoped this contest versus a Division III opponent might result in a breakout for either guard.
My notes highlight moments as time ran down, both good and bad. A Garbade pass to Ameer Elbuluk…sitting on the Princeton bench. Wilson hustling and diving to the floor to steal a loose ball. Mike Washington Jr. entering the game for the first time and recording both a nice offensive rebound and a dubious charge by the Tiger bench soon thereafter.
Washington replaced Brase, alleviating one of two lingering injury concerns.
With one on the shot clock Clement was able to inbound to Koon in the lane going up to beat the horn. Garbade rebounded a well-long Washington, Jr. three and made both of his free throws. That took the lead to 41 as Koon finally exited unscathed with 5:35 to go.
The remaining moments belonged to seniors Elbuluk and Issac Serwanga, though neither was able to score. Serwanga did find Garbade going up in traffic for a three point play and that was pretty much it, save for three final Garbade blocks versus much smaller foes in the last 1:59.
TCNJ scored the game’s final two baskets, finishing on a meaningless 4-0 run. Wilson launched one final three (long) in between.
It was harmless fun and no one got hurt, a bagatelle to get the blood flowing again before 13 conference games that will properly define a complete season.
In the words of their head coach Mitch Henderson, Princeton was “happy to be back at it” but a formidable task approaches starting with Cornell on Friday.
-Princeton was 21-58 for the game (36.2%), 7-27 from three (25.9%) and 22-29 on free throws.
-The Tigers have attempted 29 or more free throws in a game 22 times since 1995-96.
-As already touched upon, Princeton had a 60-30 rebounding edge. Six of Brase’s 15 boards and four of Garbade’s five rebounds were offensive. The Tigers’ rebounding average for the season went up 2.0 boards after this game.
-Ex-Trenton State made 14-61 attempts (23.0%), 7-30 in the second half after going 7-31 in the first. The Lions were 0-14 from deep and 5-8 at the line (62.5%).
-Brase’s 15 rebounds marked the fourth time since Mason Rocca snared 18 versus Georgetown in the 1999 NIT that a Tiger has reached that mark. The other three players to do so are Zach Finley and Kareem Maddox in regulation and Ian Hummer in triple overtime versus Florida State.
-Mack Darrow added eight points, three rebounds, two assists and a block off the bench in 14 minutes of action.
-Hummer became the seventh Princeton player to surpass 1,400 points early in the second half.
-Brian Fabrizius and Edo Lawrence were not in uniform but both on the bench. They were joined by the returning Ben Hazel, who will be a part of the team the rest of the season but is not expected to suit up again until the 2013-14 campaign.