Ian Hummer was sensational in the first half, leading Princeton back from down nine with 11:44 to go as he recorded six of the Tigers' final seven field goals before intermission and assisted on the other.
Hummer (7-8 from the floor for 18 points in 19 minutes of court time) got his team to the break +5 before deferring to teammates Denton Koon and Will Barrett in the second stanza. A seven point Princeton lead down to 41-40, Koon scored six of the Tigers' 15 in a row before Barrett added his first of three dunks on a steal and a breakaway.
Barrett was 4-4 from the floor over the final 20 minutes.
Princeton hit 16-24 (66.7%) field goals as they built an evening-high 21 point lead, before missing their last two attempts of the night with the result no longer an issue.
In a contest where Cornell's strength (repeated waves of 6'2" and 6'3" players swarming the floor) butted up against the Tigers' advantages (size and strength inside), Koon was able to shoot over Big Red guards repeatedly, converting 6-7 vesper opportunities.
Hummer and Koon each tallied 22, the total a career high for the sophomore. Hummer moved to within four points of assistant coach Brian Earl for sixth all-time in scoring at Princeton.
“[Denton] really stepped up when they were focusing more on me in the second half,” Hummer said following his team’s 19th straight conference victory at home. “He’s able to get underneath the basket and get behind the defense, which makes it really easy for guys to pass it to him. The fact that he’s able to finish in traffic with a couple guys’ hands in his face is very important for us.”
The rest of this recap and postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson, Ian Hummer & Denton Koon can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Ian Hummer & Denton Koon:
Cornell’s approach to Friday night’s game was similar to how Wagner defended the Tigers back in November. – pick Princeton up full court and throw waves of guards at the orange and black’s non-traditional one guard configuration.
While the Tigers did not have great difficulty with the press, they were careless with the ball in the half court. However, Princeton was able to go to the line frequently enough to keep the score around one possession.
Hummer went by Johnathan Gray to his right and was fouled by Shonn Miller closing, converting both free throws. Gray’s drive in the same direction and lil’ flip made it 2-2.
After a Bray steal, Koon could not finish in transition but Gray had no such issues the other way, putting Cornell in front for the first time.
Barrett picked off a Gray pass and led a two-on-one with Koon, who was fouled going up by Miles Asafo-Adjei. Koon split a pair from the line.
Bray saw the ball pop out of his hands and into those of Eitan Chemerinski on the left wing, resulting in a breakaway layup for the Big Red big man.
Chemerinski’s attempt to save a loose ball over the sideline at mid-court resulted in an accidental five-on-four for Princeton with Barrett pulling up from mid-range with five on the shot clock. He could not connect but Hans Brase went up for a one-handed follow which bounced off the rim. Brase stayed with the play and was fouled by Errick Peck on a second chance, also splitting a pair.
Without an initial field goal for nearly four full minutes, Bray to his right off the glass pulled the Tigers even at six. The game’s second tie did not last long, as Josh Figini sized a midrange jumper to push Cornell back in front.
A pick and roll to Figini was blocked impressively with one hand by Barrett, out of bounds to Cornell.
Mack Darrow, in for the first time, lobbed a pass behind Dominick Scelfo to Hummer at the rim who was fouled hard by Figini, converting both his attempts.
Even at eight, the Big Red ran off nine straight, starting with Scelfo driving from the top of the arc past Darrow for a layup. Darrow from the right wing was off target and following Nolan Cressler’s push into the back of Barrett on the weakside rebound, Darrow from the left wing was well long. Darrow would go scoreless in 16 minutes off the bench.
With 13:06 to go and the Tigers down a pair Brase replaced Hummer, removing the senior from the floor for the first time. Miller faced up Brase for a long two point jumper, then Figini sized a three from the top of the circle. Miller stripped Clay Wilson and was ahead of the pack for a layup. Henderson called time even though a media stoppage would be coming at the next whistle. Hummer returned to the court with the deficit 17-8 and played five seconds before Galal Cancer fouled him on a back cut.
Hummer trapped in the far corner somehow skipped a pass to Wilson stepping in on the left wing for a three that did not go down, dropping Wilson to 2-17 behind the arc the past five games.
A deep three try by Gray that could have moved Cornell up double figures was well off.
“Watching this Cornell team on video, you get a sense for what they do,” said Henderson when asked about the open of Friday’s game. “Their pressure has bothered some of the recent teams that they played. It got to us a little bit early. After the first five minutes of the game, from that point forward I really liked the way the ball moved and how we handled ourselves.”
Posting on the right side, Darrow found Brase comfortably sizing a three of his own that went in nicely. That shot is going to only make Brase more dangerous the rest of the campaign. Cancer missed the rim on a jumper from the far corner after the ball went around the horn. Hummer around Miller inside made it 17-13 Big Red.
Chemerinski pivoting down low pushed Cornell up six, which Wilson answered from the right wing – set up by Bray’s drive to the right that drew defenders.
Scelfo’s drive and drop to Figini for a two hand slam after a Cressler’s baseline offensive rebound of his own missed three made it Cornell by five with 7:52 before halftime.
What happened between that moment and the intermission was one of the best stretches of basketball I’ve seen a Princeton player offer. Hummer was under control, part of a team offense and yet thoroughly individually dominant.
Henderson also liked what he saw. “[Ian] threw a couple passes that were very important to what we were doing as well and he was terrific defensively,” he added.
It began with a brilliant back cut well away from the action. Bray on the near wing met Hummer cutting diagonally on the opposite side with the ball in motion for a layup.
Hummer across the lane to Koon spotting up in the near corner for three evened the score. While Devin Cherry broke the tie driving at Darrow for two, back came Hummer, rebounding a Barrett miss from distance and scoring over two defenders.
Cressler slipped behind a screen for three and a 26-23 Cornell edge.
While Hummer was controlling the game, other Tigers didn’t just stand around watching him. Barrett going to his right from the arc was fouled, sending him the line for a one-and-one that he split.
A runner from Scelfo straight down the lane off an inbounds feed still had Cornell up four. Hummer quickly evened the ledger, first using a left hook on the left block then laying in Brase’s leading lob after subtly pushing away from Peck.
A ludicrous continuation call gave Asafo-Adjei a basket when the foul should have come long before the attempt, but his free throw was off the mark..
Hummer added a face-up jumper to make it 30-30. Koon was fouled going right down the baseline and dunked over Miller well after the whistle had sounded, several in the crowd sarcastically signaling that a continuation should have been called here as well.
Koon made both free throws to provide Princeton a lead they would not relinquish. A great defensive possession capped by Hummer’s help defense caused Cancer’s try to become a wild one.
Brase to Koon resulted in a foul that occurred during the act of shooting. Koon went one of two at the line.
Cherry going left into the lane was whistled for sliding on a jump stop and Princeton had possession with :47.3 on the game clock.
Instead of going two-for-one, Princeton played for the best possible look. Barrett driving to his right found Hummer on the baseline for a jumper that caused Cornell coach Bill Courtney to shake his head.
I thought Henderson showed shrewd in-game recognition by first having Koon commit a foul 40’ from the basket to get Chris Clement in for Hummer with :08.6 showing and then having Clement commit a second foul with :06.7 showing since the Tigers were still one personal away from the bonus. Hummer would not risk picking up a second foul and Princeton had an extra guard to contest drives from the wing on the floor. Cherry could not convert in the lane and the tactics were a success in retrospect as well. Princeton finished on an 11-2 run to get to the break up five.
The Tigers shot 11-25 overall (44.0%), 3-10 from three (30.0%) and 10-14 on free throws (71.4%) with Hummer a perfect 4-4.
“It makes a big difference when you can go to the line like that,” Henderson acknowledged.
In addition to his 18 points Hummer added five rebounds.
After committing five turnovers in the opening 8:13, Princeton did not have another miscue until the second half was underway.
Cornell went 14-30 from the floor (46.7%), 2-8 from three (25.0%) and 0-1 on free throws. Figini’s seven off the bench paced the Big Red. 10 different players saw between six and 13 minutes of action for Cornell.
What Hummer started Koon helped finish, beginning with a lefty reverse that did not utilize the rim on Princeton’s first possession out of the break. There was an emphasized directive from the Tiger staff to go inside versus the Big Red. Adjustments could reduce Hummer’s effectiveness but that would only open up opportunities for others such as Koon.
The Tigers weren’t in the clear by a long shot. Asafo-Adjei used a posting Chemerinski as a quasi-screen and drove left past him for two. A Koon pass was picked off by Miller who dunked the ball in stellar fashion as Hummer was called for a foul from behind he protested to no avail.
A rapid fire sequence saw Chemerinski nearly record a steal, Miller finally pick up a loose ball, Bray grab a too-ambitious Cherry pass as he retreated defensively and Courtney bemoaned the decision and Bray keep driving for a bucket off the glass.
I can get hyperbolic on occasion, but unless you can top it, allow me to declare the following moment THE GREATEST MISSED SHOT IN AT LEAST THE PAST DECADE OF PRINCETON BASKETBALL EXCLAMATION MARK.
Hummer spun off his man on a drive like a gyroscope, soared into the lane in a single motion like he was slingshot, went up for a finger roll as the crowd gasped…
…and looked back in disbelief as his incredible move ended with the ball trickling off the side of rim.
The crowd’s collective murmur of amazement turned into a shocked, involuntary noise.
The two teams traded pairs of free throws, with Barrett also benefitting from a dubious continuation whistle going to his right and trying to bang a hole between two Cornell defenders sliding together.
Miller’s rainbow on the left wing made it 41-40 with 17:10 to go.
Hummer slashing right was blocked by the rim and fouled on the floor once he controlled an offensive rebound. Bray posting Asafo-Adjei was fouled as he squared up but his shot could only catch the front rim. This became more significant when the team’s leading free throw shooter entering the night missed both of his attempts.
With the ball and a chance to go in front, Gray slid his feet trying to stop on a drive to his left.
Hummer went left on Miller and kept his control, allowing him to score. It was the start of the run which would decide the game.
After Hummer nearly came up with a steal, Miller launched on the left arc over a Princeton defense attempting to reform. The shot was off to the left.
Barrett on the far wing got a pass to Koon cutting, grabbed by a helpless Gray as he scored. Barrett pumped his fist and roared in approval. While Koon missed the free throw the lead was 45-40.
Princeton switched well throughout their next defensive possession, Scelfo missing for three. Hummer with the ball inside the arc on the left side stopped so Bray could square up behind him for a three.
Figini was off outside, Cressler won an offensive rebound battle versus Koon but it didn’t matter as Barrett blocked Scelfo’s three try out of the air to Brase. Hummer got the ball to Bray again who drove into and then through traffic for a layup.
Figini’s bank over Darrow was wild, Hummer’s one-handed rifle of a pass to a cutting Koon a thing of beauty.
“When guys are drawn to [Ian], it is easy to get to open spaces,” Koon explained.
Following a short Figini jumper, Hummer in the lane went out to Barrett who saw Koon dematerializing behind the Cornell defense for a layup. Barrett added a steal, drive and dunk and Princeton was up 56-40 with 10:49 showing.
The lead would not go back to single digits.
Miller ended a 6:31 scoreless stretch for Cornell with a pair of free throws, followed soon thereafter by a three point play for Figini. An 11 point advantage moved back to 16 (and beyond) as quickly as it had briefly deflated.
On an inbounds play to Brase in the near corner, Brase took Bray’s pass, went to his left past Chemerinski and with no second line of defense in front of him as he attacked, dunked with both hands.
How about this sequence for Barrett? First he gets an offensive foul called on Cressler for pushing off, clapping three times in delight after he falls to the floor. Then a skip pass by Bray to Barrett WIDE OPEN on the right wing for a solo three makes it 61-45.
Cornell had no answer for Koon once he got inside. Following a flip for Chemerinski over Brase, Koon went left on the smaller Gray, squared and had no trouble with a short jumper out of the paint.
The Big Red couldn’t turn over the Tigers with their pressure and they stopped getting back on defense when Princeton flipped the script. Going over the top of the press, Hummer left a bounce pass to Barrett for his second dunk of the half.
In the interest of generating some literary drama and keeping you interested in these subsequent words, allow me to draw needlessly additional attention to a Scelfo three over Koon coming out full speed which made it 66-54.
The Tigers responded to this minor challenge with six straight. Bray posting on the right block flipped a pass to Koon in close quarters, fouled going up and converting both free throws. As Henderson yelled “Post Denton!’ from the bench, the sophomore obliged, going around Peck for two more. Barrett racing down the right baseline was fouled trying for a third dunk (this a one-handed finish) and instead had to settle for two free throws and a 72-54 advantage.
Barrett would get that third throwdown though, ahead of the pack to receive a Koon pass and send it in.
Hummer added a tough shot in the lane for a game-high 21 point advantage, meaning the Tigers had outscored the Big Red 68-38 since falling behind by nine in the first half.
After the game Hummer talked about how as a senior, you get to realize how critical each Ivy League game is.
While Cornell’s focus may have been forced to adapt defensively to stop him, Hummer’s focus never altered.
During the first adversity his team had faced in a quite young conference slate, Hummer was serene through a most vital stretch yet able to defer to a pair of more than capable teammates to help finish the job.
-The Tigers made 27-51 field goals (52.9%), 5-13 three pointers (38.5%) and 17-25 free throws (68.0%). Princeton scored 1.26 points/possession in the second half, 1.17 for the game.
-Cornell by contrast was 22-53 (41.5%), 4-15 from deep (26.7%) and 11-14 at the line (78.6%). Miller had 12 to go with Figini’s 13.
-Cherry recorded five of the Big Red’s 14 turnovers, all without an assist.
-Princeton was +28 when Hummer was on the floor.
-Bray’s stat line of nine points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals with two turnovers in 36 minutes is worthy of mention.
-Brendan Connolly only came off the bench for the game’s final minute. I expect you’ll see more of the senior center on Saturday night to counteract the size of Columbia’s Mark Cisco.