"Sometimes you talk about '50/50' balls. It was like '90/10' [Harvard] tonight." - Princeton coach Mitch Henderson
The Crimson did all the little things better than the Tigers at Lavietes Pavilion, translated all the small plays into huge ones and on the heels of consecutive three point shots by Laurent Rivard that were both set up via controlling loose balls before the Tigers could snare them, took a lead late in the first half they would sustain throughout the final 20 minutes.
Rivard's second jumper was an absurd corkscrew blind turn-around three as time expired, but it would not have occurred if Princeton had been able to grab an Ian Hummer block that hung in the air pleading for two hands to snatch it. Rivard's unbelievable shot made it 32-28 Crimson at intermission.
The Harvard lead would extend to as many as 11 before five straight by the Tigers midway through the back stanza put them in position to make a run. However Princeton had three tries at the rim roll off and missed the front end of a one-and-one before the unexpectedly poised Crimson responded with four straight points from Kenyatta Smith and the Tigers were slowly submerged.
Smith, making his second straight start after 15 consecutive games coming off the bench, was 5-5 from the field with seven rebounds and six blocks, all in just 20 minutes. In addition to 14 points Saturday he swatted an unreal 16 shots on the weekend.
Steve Moundou-Missi added 14 off the pine, the only player on either side to score who wasn't a starter. Rivard's four threes gave him 12 and freshman Siyani Chambers added 11.
For Princeton, Ian Hummer fought his way to 18 somewhat quietly with T.J. Bray and Will Barrett adding 11. Hans Brase also had 10 before fouling out.
The rest of this recap plus postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson & Ian Hummer can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson & Ian Hummer:
Both Harvard and Princeton entered the game with two things in common: Both teams had just one conference loss in Ivy League action and both were executing their offensives as a very high, consistent clip.
That was most certainly not the case in the game’s first two+ minutes. Princeton had three turnovers (a lob by Brase to Hummer that sailed over the latter’s reach, a travel by Koon and a post feed from Barrett knocked away) in addition to a missed layup by Brase at point blank range for good measure.
This was but the first of several misses in close by the Tigers in a contest that could not afford such. Princeton was 7-17 against Harvard on layups and tips while the Crimson were an efficient 5-7.
Harvard missed a jumper at the free throw line, a left wing three and stepped on the sideline before Smith opened the scoring by spinning off Brase in the lane 2:33 in.
Hummer responded by backing down Wesley Saunders, then after Saunders could not connect as the shot clock was expiring, Hummer pivoted repeatedly in the lane and found Brase who popped up to dunk on Smith and draw a foul. A free throw gave Princeton the early 5-2 advantage.
Saunders was off on a jumper but Rivard was able to track down an offensive board that should have belonged to Brase, one of three Rivard had on the night, something that can not happen for a player who rarely goes inside the arc. As one of you described in the forum: “That’s like Blutto getting mugged by Olve Oyl.”
The result was a pair of free throws by Saunders after Barrett fouled him on a lefty drive.
Koon, who saw his touches reduced against Harvard using just 12.9% of 56 available possessions, missed from the left corner after Bray found him with a skip pass. The ball kicked thrice off the rim and came to Smith.
Smith’s right block jump hook over Brase moved Harvard back in front one.
A great diagonal bounce pass by Barrett to Hummer was out-trumped by Smith, who made a sensational block of Hummer’s layup attempt. Smith followed up TEN BLOCKS versus Penn with numerous additional swats of Princeton tries in close, which were distinct from the Tigers’ unforced misses at the rim.
Saunders got in front of a second Barrett entry to Hummer and the other way Chambers stopped at the free throw line for two.
“I thought we started off the game very poorly with just a lack of understanding on how we were going to win,” Henderson said after Princeton’s third straight loss at Lavietes Pavilion. “Three out of our first four possessions were turnovers. The pace of the game was just off for us. We weren’t moving.”
“You have to give credit to Harvard, they caused a lot of that stuff for us, but we lost our way,” Henderson added.
A spinning Bray in the lane found Bray sizing for three at the top of the arc and an 8-8 mark.
Hummer went to the floor for a loose ball and Bray hung in the air drawing contact from Smith on a drive, making both free throws. It was also Smith’s second personal foul and Smith departed, replaced by Moundou-Missi.
Hummer spun away from both his man and the basket, scoring beautifully off the glass. A quick transition try by Webster outside the arc was off, but Moundou-Missi interrupted a Hummer lob to Brase and Chambers quickly was reversing at the other end.
Bray posted Chambers, something in retrospect he should have been doing to initiate almost every half court possession, and scored going to his right. After a terrible start the Tigers had scored on four of five times with the ball and were up 14-10.
Saunders’ response was going to his left and drawing contact from Koon, banking off the glass as the whistle sounded. Mack Darrow took a Bray pass and was open for a flip over his head that did not drop. Moundou-Missi sized a long jumper over Darrow inside the arc on the right wing and Harvard had the lead right back.
With Hummer catching a quick breather, Harvard went into a zone on defense and the result was disastrous for Princeton. The Tigers’ first possession ended after 35 seconds without a shot and with Hummer back on the floor the second possession saw too much arc passing without the ball going inside and Hummer needing to chuck an 18’ jumper just to beat the shot clock.
Webster and Moundou-Missi played pick and roll with Moundou-Missi slipping under Barrett, taking a slight lob and dunking ferociously over the helping Hummer, bringing a smile to Cornell’s Johnathan Gray I’m sure.
Hummer’s putback of a Barrett baseline jumper drew Princeton back within 17-16.
Now neither team could stop the other, which was how many thought this game would transpire. Barrett for three off a Hummer feed with the shot clock expiring. Webster answering from deep over Hummer. Hummer with a right baseline jumper. Moundou-Missi with a superb backboard-less reverse layup over his head.
A push in the lane by Bray that missed the rim and Bray grabbing the ball from Chambers and forcing a travel were mere blips in the continued offensive excellence on both sides.
Coming out of the half’s final media time out, Koon went left on the inbounds for his first field goal. A tip out by Moundou-Missi kept Harvard’s possession going and Chambers found him with the ball on the far baseline for a jumper over Brase. Bray drove to his right and Barrett followed behind to connect on a three from the right wing.
Hummer had a chance to double Princeton’s 26-24 edge but missed the rim in the lane. Chambers was on target to knot the ledger a third time.
The final two minutes of the half set the stage for what was to transpire after intermission.
Barrett found Brase who was stripped going up. Moundou-Missi’s free throw jumper was short but Barrett without a Harvard man on him could not clasp the rebound that went out and back to the Crimson.
Saunders’ jumper was off yet Chambers got into the lane and as the ball sprung loose the Tiger defense lost its shape. He hadn’t attempted a field goal to this point, marked nicely by Hummer primarily, but given some diminished defensive integrity Rivard was delighted to step into a pure three.
Koon could not answer out of the right corner but Brase unchecked was there to dunk the ball home.
With four fouls to give and the shot clock off, Chris Clement had the job of fouling once time reached into single digits. He did his job well, grabbing some jersey taking Harvard’s possession down to seven ticks and then but five.
Off an inbounds Rivard tried to launch from the far wing but Hummer’s reach deflected. The ball bounced off two players and into the air, coming somehow back to Rivard who without looking at the rim turned and fired to where he guessed the basket should be. It was a shot that he would be unlikely to repeat under similar circumstances but on this occasion the miraculous was reality and Princeton was down 32-28, their biggest deficit of the half.
At the break the offensive numbers were closer to what both team’s conference stats would project. The Tigers shot 11-21 (52.1%), made 3-5 threes (60.0%) and 3-3 free throws. Brase and Hummer each had eight. Harvard was 13-26 (50.0%), 3-6 outside (50.0%) and also 3-3 at the line.
The difference was Rivard’s marksmanship and six offensive rebounds for the Crimson compared to three by the Tigers.
““That was sort of the way the night was going,” said Henderson of the frame’s ludicrous final shot.
Princeton never really shook how the first half concluded. Smith spun off Brase once more for a bucket inside. Brase muscled and missed but was fouled by Webster on a second opportunity, converting both free throws.
Rivard, who had only attempted 17 shots inside the arc all season, dared enter inside the circle and drove down the left baseline, setting up Chambers for a three and the lead was up to seven.
Barrett responded outside, found by Bray posting and crossing into the lane. Quickly and over an extended hand Webster stepped to his left and rose for three more.
Down 40-33 the Tigers got some stops but couldn’t do anything with them as they missed six consecutive attempts including four layups. After using a nice jump step to split two men and get into the lane Hummer was blocked again by Smith. Hummer called for a foul but he wasn’t going to get much sympathy from the officials. Brase inside met the same fate. A lob by Bray posting to Brase was a third deflection for Smith in less than a minute of action.
The following moments are fairly indicative of how the second half went, if not the entire game. Hummer drove left but left the ball short of the goal. Brase had a great effort offensive rebound and got to the glass with his man behind him but left his try short as well.
Finally Hummer ended a 2:19 scoreless stretch on both sides with a shot in the lane as he followed a posting Bray to the basket.
Moundou-Missi got past Barrett who looked to have a clean block of a dunk attempt but was called for bringing his arm down onto Moundou-Missi’s head. Both free throws went and the lead was seven again.
Bray unsuccessfully tried to muscle a shot over Chambers in the post and at the other end a pass by Saunders to Rivard was deflected by Barrett but not deflected enough. Once the ball reached Rivard he was primed to chuck home his third three – not one of which had come in the legitimate flow of an offensive possession. Oy.
Princeton called time but hope continued to slip as play resumed. Mack Darrow was off on an open three. Chambers also could not hit outside and Bray noticed Hummer in time ahead of the pack for a swooping layup.
Darrow’s floating right hook was short and Saunders spun and scored as Barrett fouled him for a three point play.
Down 48-37 with 11:36 showing, well aware of similar comebacks with equal amounts of time by Brown and Cornell in recent weeks versus Harvard, Princeton teased one last push. Koon got into the lane and went high in the air drawing contact from Moundou-Missi as he scored and adding a free throw. Rivard was contested properly and could not hit out of a half court set. Barrett was the recipient of a long Koon outlet and had an easy layup to draw within six. When Moundou-Missi was whistled for an illegal screen away from the ball the Tigers even had possession once more.
A posting Bray was just off. Brase battled for a second try that didn’t drop. Bray got the next offensive board and called time before he was tied up.
Out of a Princeton time out Hummer into the lane with his back to the basket clearly slid his feet into a travel.
Rivard was off once more from outside and Bray got a fortunate reach whistled on Smith as he stumbled. This put Princeton into the bonus yet on a night where neither team had missed a free throw to this point Bray was the first to blink.
Smith’s running right hook over Brase extended Harvard’s lead to eight. Smith’s help defense closed out a Hummer strong lefty drive with a block and while Chambers missed going to his left, Brase was flagged for a push on Smith’s weakside follow and two free throws later the lead was 10 once more heading into the final eight minutes.
The most blistering shooting team in the Ivy League picked the wrong half to cool off.
“We’ve been pretty hot,” Henderson acknowledged, countering “You’re going to get cold sometimes but that shouldn’t change execution but that was a problem tonight.”
While Princeton was able to pick up some points with the clock stationary, they couldn’t record enough stops for that to matter. At 53-44, Hummer to Bray alone left of the rim missed a point blank layup as the crowd groaned. Chambers wrapped a pass to Smith who had no problems placing the ball home. There were no other chances down single digits to follow.
With the Tigers in a 1-3-1 on defense Rivard finally found a window on the right side out of which he made it 60-48 Crimson. It was Harvard’s third straight immediate answer to Tiger points and the visitors from New Jersey would not get within 10 the final 4:51.
“We’ve got some issues [defensively],” Henderson admitted. “There has got to be some substance to what we’re doing. I thought Harvard was just a little step faster than us tonight to balls you have to come up with.”
Henderson extended his hands to his team and told them to back off from fouling in the final 12 seconds, conceding defeat to the better team on this particular evening.
While Harvard had made his team look unexpectedly ordinary over 40 minutes, Hummer felt that while Princeton needs to win their final seven games to clinch at least a share of the conference title, they are fully capable of doing so.
“It is all in our hands,” said the senior. “We just have to play we usually play. Today was not that way. We were missing chippies and a couple things that were not characteristic to our team.”
Basically a six man Harvard rotation was able to show newfound poise, avoiding comeback and collapse against the Tigers’ equally deep squad. Doing all the little things was rewarded in a big result.
“Basketball sometimes is a game of momentum swings and it just felt like it was in their corner all night,” Henderson said.
Likewise the Ivy League is contingent on swings of momentum from weekend to weekend and after falling behind the league leaders in the standings, it is 5-2 Princeton who is now backed into a corner with no margin for error and pressure mounting if they hope to catch the 7-1 Crimson.
-Princeton shot 20-50 overall (40.0%), 4-11 from three (36.4%) and 13-16 on free throws (81.3%).
-Before a 1-6 line behind the arc in the second half the Tigers were 53-99 (53.5%) from outside in Ivy action.
-The Tigers actually finished with more offensive rebounds (11) than Harvard (9).
-With a late dunk Hummer exceeded 1,500 points at Princeton.
-Harvard made 23-48 attempts (47.9%), 7-18 treys (38.9%) and 16-18 from the line (88.9%).
-The freshman Chambers played all 40 minutes, dishing five assists and committing six turnovers.
-Harvard’s second half points-per-possession was 1.13. Princeton’s was 0.89.
-It appeared the entire Northfield Mount Herman basketball team was in attendance, including Princeton recruit Peter Miller.