It was all about the execution.
Princeton scored on 10 of their opening 11 first half possessions, shot 56.3% as a team on the night and were never legitimately challenged by Dartmouth after an even 10 minutes in Hanover.
Tied at 19 following a three point shot by Malik Gill, the Tigers went on a swift 15-3 run and made it to halftime up by 14.
To start the second half the Tigers again were exceptionally potent across the board with the ball, converting on five of their initial six times up the floor concluding with a Hans Brase two-hand slam that provided the visitors a 53-33 margin.
There was no subsequent drama. The lead from this point would not drop under 15 and extended as high as 25.
“I think it started off just with us taking care of the ball offensively. In the second half I think we showed the picture a little bit better defensively,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson.
Four Tiger starters hit double figures, led by Denton Koon with 18 points. Ian Hummer had 14 plus a 6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, Brase totaled 12 and Will Barrett 11.
T.J. Bray missed out on joining his fellow starters by a digit but did add six assists.
The one Big Green player the Tigers could not stop was Gabas Maldunas who scored 16 inside.
The rest of this recap plus postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson & Denton Koon can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson & Denton Koon:
It might sound concerning that Dartmouth scored 1.18 points-per-possession in the opening 20 minutes but learning that Princeton put up a gaudy 1.76 PPP likely would likely alleviate any worry.
The Tigers scored the first eight times they had the ball in their hands, and on nine of their opening 10 possessions. The offense wasn’t the problem. Dartmouth countered with 8-11 execution.
“It was a little bit of a disappointing start to the game defensively,” said Henderson. “I thought we made some nice corrections but most of their points were earned. We made mistakes and they made us pay for them.”
What was troubling was that the Big Green seemed to be winning every early 50-50 ball off the floor. Maldunas ran down an offensive rebound of his own missed jump shot in the near corner, then drove left by Brase off the glass to put the home team in front. The game’s first bucket provided the home team with their lone lead.
As Dartmouth showed a zone on Princeton’s first possession, Bray went up and over the defense diagonally to Hummer coming down the left baseline for an alley-oop dunk.
Hummer flopped in the post defensively, getting the ball free on the floor where Dartmouth controlled. However Tyler Melville missed a three and in transition Hummer exploded ahead of everyone else to lay in a second Bray assist.
The Big Green’s leading scorer, 5’11” Alex Mitola, was to say the least, troubled offensively going up against the much taller Princeton players. His unorthodox jumper takes a bit of time to develop and he couldn’t find much of a window to fire through. Mitola’s first attempt from outside landed harmlessly short of the rim in Barrett’s hands and it was Koon’s turn to drive unobstructed into a reverse for a 6-2 score.
It was the start of a scoreless 0-7 evening in Mitola’s first game against the Ivy institution located in his home state.
Melville was able to cross up Koon and reverse to the rim for a pair but sweet combination passing from Barrett on the wing to Hummer in the lane to Brase by the basket with an up-fake got that deuce back immediately.
The action was rapid and with little interruption in the form of whistles or turnovers. In fact Princeton had just one miscue during the first half, a Koon travel with 6:58 showing. That was it.
A lil’ hook from freshman Connor Boehm, former high school teammate of future Princeton guard Steven Cook, made it 8-6 with 16:28 showing.
After four straight made field goals, Princeton finally missed. A lob by Brase to Hummer hit the glass and Hummer could not convert a first time. Hummer stuck to the offensive rebound and converted two free throws as he went back up.
Kevin Crescenzi was the first on either side to go outside the lane for points, converting a left baseline jumper after Boehm wrapped a pass around Hummer in the post.
As Dartmouth came out of their zone defense and settled into man, Barrett from the left wing with the shot clock expiring knocked down a three.
Another quality effort play by the Big Green kept them closer than they had any right to be given what the Tigers were doing on offense. Boehm missed with the shot clock low and an unchecked Maldunas raced in for a follow and a foul on Bray.
Hummer’s lefty push was off, allowing Brendan Connoly to crash the glass for a put-back and a 15-11 score.
The Tigers could not come up with a loose ball and thus Kevin Crescenzi made them pay from the perimeter.
Here’s how efficient Princeton was: Koon missed a three but did not have to move as the rebound came directly back to him. Instead Barrett into the lane was fouled on an up-move and converted both free throws.
7:47. That’s how much time expired before the Tigers came up empty with the ball. Brase inside was blocked by Maldunas and Gill controlled.
Boehm seemed to shuffle his feet with a degree of surprise when he got free inside but scored before any whistle might sound.
Clay Wilson’s three from the top was short. Koon soared high for a rebound and placed the ball equally high off the glass for two.
Gill, who got into a bizarre argument as I was entering the gym with Princeton reserve Ameer Elbuluk about retrieving a basketball before he returned to the locker room following warmups, hit from the top of the arc to even the score at 19 apiece.
This pace would only be sustainable for one team and that was the squad shooting 52.5% from the floor in Ivy League action.
Dartmouth went back to zone and Koon made them pay from the left side with the shot clock at two. Matt LaBove’s jumper was short before Hummer went to a lefty jump hook and a 24-19 advantage.
I mention Brase being blocked a second time by Maldunas for no reason other than this was the only other possession where Princeton came up point-free with the ball in the opening 12 minutes.
Koon was short on a right baseline jumper which skipped across the rim to Mack Darrow weakside. Darrow went up with a running hook that came off the iron to Brase for a putback and a three point play after a foul sounded on Melville.
Maldunas split a pair, fouled by a slapping Barrett on a reach and Connolly was called for a hold on the missed free throw. Connolly atoned with good defense staying in front of Maldunas on a running lefty drive.
Princeton continued to find the guys that needed to be found. A sensational and q.u.i.c.k. diagonal “chin” pass from Bray to Hummer grabbing the ball and going up in one motion made it 29-20 with 5:40 left.
Melville clutched and tossed the ball off the glass prior to Hummer going to his left setting up a confident Koon on the left wing for his second three.
It is remarkable how much better a shooter Koon has become from his freshman season at this point 365 days ago.
“The coaches have helped me so much and put in a lot of time in the gym with me,” acknowledged Koon. “Compared to last year there’s a little bit of confidence. When you make a few shots it helps. Last year I had no intention of shooting from out there.”
“As I was making shots in practice it started to carry over into games,” Koon continued.
What’s great about Koon’s newfound outside threat it is opens up an already quite compelling game for the sophomore. Carpenter was off outside, next Koon from the perimeter drove into the lane with his right hand and scored at the rim. The Princeton lead was 34-22.
Dartmouth got six points back in rapid succession. Barrett went for a steal he didn’t need to chase on the perimeter and Melville’s pass instead reached John Golden on the wing for three. Henderson immediately called time and replaced Barrett with Darrow.
Hummer’s midrange jumper was well long and Maldunas lowered his shoulder past Brase for a bucket and a foul.
Replace “Dartmouth” with “Princeton” in the first sentence two paragraphs above. Bray’s inbounds to Connolly was nearly out of the senior center’s reach but a lunge saved possession and Darrow from the top of the arc was true.
Maldunas was off target. Bray wasn’t. A high arc three set up via Hummer’s drive restored a 40-28 edge and two Bray free throws in the final :34, fouled spinning to his left on an entry feed, extended the advantage to 14 at the break.
The Princeton numbers were NM+ come intermission. 15-25 shooting (60.0%)! 5-7 from three (71.4%)! 7-7 on free throws! An Effective Field Goal % of 70.0%! 10 assists versus one turnover! Matching 5:0 ratios from Bray and Hummer! That doesn’t even touch on the six offensive rebounds and 17-11 glass advantage grabbing 60% of all available second chances!
Koon scored 12 and Hummer 10 in the frame.
Led by Maldunas’ nine, Dartmouth’s offensive output was good enough to compete in many Ivy contests with the exception of this one. The Big Green made 11-27 attempts (40.7%), 3-9 from deep (33.3%) and 3-5 at the line (60.0%). They only had two turnovers of their own.
The only mystery in the second half was not “who will win?” but “where did Coach Henderson’s tie go at halftime?” That question sadly went unanswered.
Hummer got the ball in the post on Princeton’s first possession after intermission, scored and was fouled by Mitola. Hummer missed the free throw, the Tigers’ first missed free throw in two games.
Melville countered with a smooth three but that was easily offset “chin”-style with Barrett finding Koon on the cut.
When Bray was too hard for three, Barrett was too soft on a tip follow and Brase was jusssssssst right on a putback the lead was up to 15. Barrett knocked down a right wing three as he fell to the floor and to cap a 7-0 run Brase slipped open undetected and slammed down a feed from Bray.
The following 16:06 was played even though the meager crowd watching understood it didn’t have to be. Gill banked in a three. Barrett’s curl behind a Brase screen to take a Chris Clement pass and connect from outside was prettier.
Actually, let me contradict myself. The one useful thing to come out of the game’s decided portion was getting Clement some more minutes in the hope he might be more opportunistic offensively to compliment his decent defense. Koon found him on the far corner for Clement’s second three in as many games.
With the score 60-40 after Crescenzi’s pass to nowhere surprised Hummer with the ease of his steal, Hummer passed down the floor and Koon ran to capture the ball, stopped at the baseline to gain composure and went up after he was set, the Tigers misplaced a touch of their poise with reserves dominating the lineup.
Clement lost the ball off his leg on a drive and the other way Golden converted a three in transition. A posting Bobby Garbade was turned over with far too much ease leading to a Brandon McDonnell layup the other way.
Henderson called time to get Brase, Bray and Hummer back on the floor. It was a fairly minor blip. Bray was able to post Gill every time down the floor and Bray scored inside over Gill. In between a posting Bray found Brase on a drive (splitting a pair at the line after being fouled) and a dunk (cutting down the lane and throwing the ball in with both hands).
One thing Henderson likely did not care for was the inability to stop Maldunas regardless of who was guarding him. Brase, Connolly and Bobby Garbade couldn’t run much interference.
Up 72-47 on Clement’s trey with 5:42 left, Princeton would not have a field goal the rest of the way as Mike Washington Jr., Issac Serwanga and Ameer Elbuluk saw the floor meaning all 13 Tigers who made the trip to Hanover saw the court. Dartmouth closed on a 8-1 run.
By executing excellently and efficiently in lengthy stretches to open both halves, Princeton was able to take complete control and keep pace with similarly dominant Harvard in the loss column as the Tigers head to the Crimson’s gym tomorrow night for one of the Ivy League's marquee match-ups.
-Princeton shot 27-48 for the game (56.3%), 8-14 from three point range (57.1%) and 11-16 on free throws (68.8%).
-The Tigers held a 35-21 edge on the glass with 11 offensive rebounds.
-One negative was 10 second half turnovers for the orange and black but it was a fair trade for improved defense.
-In six Ivy contests Princeton is converting 52.5% from the floor, 53.2% from three and 72.5% at the line. Lordy.
-Dartmouth dropped to 82.7 PPP in the second half. The Big Green were 22-51 on the night (43.1%), 7-18 from deep (38.9%) and 4-7 at the charity stripe (57.1%).
-Tonight's Leede Arena attendance was listed as 703. The first and third digits might need to be reversed.