If you have little choice but to win your final seven conference games in order to have a chance at the Ivy League title, the first victory is likely the hardest.
Someone forgot to tell Princeton that.
Bolstered by stellar defense off the bench from Chris Clement and holding the Lions scoreless for the final 4:27 of the first half and then nearly three minutes into the vesper frame while recording 15 consecutive points in the process, the Tigers led by as many as 31 down the stretch at Levien Gym.
“We were sort of alive on defense,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson. “I thought all of the things that bothered us in the first game [a tense 72-66 Tiger victory at Jadwin Gym] we corrected.”
Denton Koon paced the way with a career high 23 on 9-13 shooting including eight straight to make it 61-32 Princeton.
Ian Hummer added 17 and five assists while Clement contributed a personal best six in addition to a block, a steal and his active hands creating multiple loose balls.
Maodo Lo totaled 15 for Columbia, 10 of which came in the opening 12 minutes. Beyond that no Lion recorded more than six.
Princeton's senior class will graduate a perfect 8-0 versus Columbia. The only real obstacle in the Tigers' way on the day was some serious tunnel traffic that caused the visiting team to arrive just 50 minutes prior to tipoff.
The rest of this recap plus postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson, Denton Koon, Ian Hummer & Chris Clement can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Denton Koon, Ian Hummer & Chris Clement:
When these two teams met in Princeton on February 2nd the Lions were able to eviscerate the Tiger defense with drive after drive after drive. While Columbia seemed apprehensive versus the opening look Henderson’s team was showing and could not get much going inside the arc, Grant Mullins still found Lo on the right wing with the shot clock at one to put the home squad up 3-0.
With Koon looking to post more from the outset, Hummer to his right converted a runner that got Princeton on the board. Alex Rosenberg left a look inside short and Hummer was rewarded by a dish and kick from Koon into the far corner for a three – his fifth triple of the season.
After an offensive foul by T.J. Bray, driving from just over half court into the lane and then into Mark Cisco, Cisco slipped to the basket at the other end and laid home a Lo feed as Lo drew great defensive attention up top.
The first of three Hans Brase blocks set up Hummer on an outlet to Koon for a layup and while Lo converted a second three off a Cisco feed with the shot clock again about to expire, Bray attacked the rim and when no defensive help arrived had his lone bucket of the evening.
With 15:12 left in the half, coming out of the first media time out, Clement and Brendan Connolly saw the floor for the first time. This was quite decidedly where the game changed.
The insertion of Clement raised Princeton’s overall defensive level. The Tigers began to play an aggressive, active defense that would not allow much daylight and by helping on drives created myriad deflections and loose balls.
“I just really wanted to help us play good defense,” Clement stated after the win. “Last time [Columbia] had an edge on us,” admitted the junior. “They have a couple quick guards and I was trying to anticipate things. I think everyone was focused on being closer to the ball, not leaving anyone out to dry tonight.”
Just like Ben Hazel and Jimmy Sherburne in the second half of last year’s rally at Columbia, it was a less-heralded guard who had a huge impact in the outcome this season as well.
Not only was Clement great on defense but 10 seconds after entering the contest he did not hesitate when given a look from deep on the far side which put Princeton up 12-8.
“I’m trying to take what’s there,” Clement said. “I know I [was] hurting my team when I’m passing up open shots.”
Clement has made his last three shots from outside the arc and has a trey on each of the past three Friday nights.
Stout D from Connolly did not allow Cory Osetkowski a good look out of the post. Bray left a push in the lane short but grabbed the ball off the front of the rim and was fouled going up, splitting a pair.
Poor free throw shooting in the early-going was one reason why Columbia stayed in the picture for a while. Princeton opened a lousy 2-8 from the line.
Steve Frankoski got Will Barrett in the air with a pump fake and was pure on a long baseline jumper. Hummer offset this bucket with a left baseline push shot of his own.
Here’s the sort of impact that Clement had on the defensive end:
By getting his hands in on a Frankoski drive, the result was a travel. Following an errant Barrett drive, Clement tied up Brian Barbour with possession staying at Columbia’s end.
“[Chris] not only was alive defensively and really making a lot of great plays, he got his hands on so much of what they were trying to do defensively and came up with them too,” Henderson stated with emphasis on his sentence’s end.
Barbour, who was sick enough that he apparently required multiple pregame I.V.s, played just nine minutes off the bench and did not score.
At 15-11 Tigers the game bogged down offensively but there was no drop on defense.
A great Hummer save leaping over the baseline gave a ball John Daniels lost to Princeton but Clement trying to stop his dribble at the free throw line slid his feet.
Mullins’ pull up jumper was short and Mack Darrow rebounded off the weakside. Connolly could not convert a sweeping hook to his left that came up short. Frankoski and Darrow traded misses from outside but on the second of these shots Connolly was there to rebound and what could have been called a clean Osetkowski block was a whistle and two free throws going back up. Unfortunately, Connolly left both his attempts short off the line.
After 3:41 with no points on either side, Darrow tracked down a missed Bray three in the near corner and threw a beauty of a pass down the baseline to a cutting Hummer from the opposite wing. Cisco fouled him and Hummer split a pair at the line – missing the first long and making the second.
Lo went left into the lane for a 16-13 score. Darrow responded from the top of the arc for three.
This time Lo drove right and swept off the glass for his ninth and 10th points.
Down four, Cisco was fouled by Brase with a push to his back, Brase’s second personal. This got Connolly back in the game and on this night the senior was more effective than the freshman.
Barrett’s reach slapped a Lo three point try out of the air and out of the bounds. When play resumed Hummer poked the ball away from Mullins up top and was fouled as he drove ahead. Now it was Hummer’s turn to miss a pair of free throws and the score remained 19-15.
A drive and dish set up Lo on the far side for a three that went in and then out. This was Columbia’s last great chance at staying competitive. They just didn’t know it at the time. The Lions would have only two field goals in the half’s remaining 8:00.
Hummer across the lane to Connolly resulted in a foul and mercifully two made free throws. Cisco screened for Rosenberg, took a pass back and tossed in a deuce from the left wing that seemed outside his range.
It was merely a speed bump. Clement played in concert with Connolly on the wing, got position inside on Frankoski, used a head fake and scored off the glass as he was fouled.
Barrett stepped directly in front of a Frankoski pass on the wing and tossed a high arcing outlet pass that Clement eventually ran down. Clement on the right block was starting to pull the ball back out as a trailing Hummer cut to the hoop and was fouled by Brad Gilson. A free throw and the lead was 27-17. For some reason the official play-by-play gave this assist to Barrett.
Clement poked free another steal but it would not go in the scorebook as such due to Connolly diving on the ground to save a loose ball getting slapped out of bounds.
Retaining possession, Rosenberg drove right on Hummer and far out from the basket threw the ball at the glass from mid-air as a whistle sounded. The shot dropped in and cut three off Princeton’s advantage.
It would be Columbia’s last points for an excruciatingly long time.
Princeton looked to post different Tigers repeatedly using a lineup with Darrow at center but when opportunities did not appear, Bray found Koon on a cut inside.
Isaac Cohen was too strong with a drive to his left. Koon missed the rim completely posting up but grabbed his own rebound and scored with a shrug as Cohen fouled him, increasing the lead to 32-20 with a free throw.
Things went from ugly to repugnant on offense for the Lions in the half’s waning moments. A shot clock violation. A turnover. A second shot clock violation. A horizontal jump shot.
While this was happening, Hummer was bumping off of Rosenberg and scoring with a left hook. Princeton would have had two more had a long Hummer outlet to Koon soaring for a breakway dunk not been slammed hard…off the back iron. Koon tried to rebound his own miss but could not reestablish himself after sailing out of bounds. All Koon could do was pound the ball on the hardwood as he placed it there for the official. No bother, as Hummer down the center of Columbia’s 2-2-1 into a 2-3 on defense lobbed a short pass for Connolly to catch and lay home.
Playing three guards on the floor at the same time (Clement, Bray and Koon) with Hummer resting, Daniels’ line drive jumper over Barrett was well short at the horn and the Princeton lead was a sizable 36-20.
The Tigers shot 13-24 as a team (54.2%), an efficient 3-5 from three (60.0%) and turned 2-8 at the line into 7-13 overall (53.8%). Princeton had eight assists versus four turnovers and grabbed six offensive rebounds despite only missing 11 shots. Hummer had 13 points and three assists plus two steals.
For Columbia it was a 8-20 frame (40.0%), 2-6 from behind the arc (33.3%) and 2-3 on free throws (66.7%). Lo was good for 10 as the Lions were outscored 18-6 in the paint.
Things didn’t get any easier for Columbia when play resumed. Sure, Koon got called for a cheapy push off and Cisco got deep position in traffic where he missed at point blank range but none of what I’m describing involves the ball going into the basket.
Brase faked a three and lumbered into the lane where Rosenberg was called for a blocking foul. Even better for Brase, the stride was ruled in the act of shooting and both attempts were true, Brase’s only points of the night.
Following a Koon steal, Hummer had a gorgeous diagonal feed on a line to Koon slicing to the opposite side of the rim and the lead was up to 20. Cisco left a right hook short, Hummer to his left spun back and squared in the air for two more and Kyle Smith had no choice but to call time trailing 42-20.
Frankoski’s three with Barrett guarding him tight ended the scoreless stretch for Columbia with 17:03 to go. A single bucket was as close to “a run” as the Lions could muster. Off an inbounds Bray found Koon inside with relative ease.
Koon had six straight for the Tigers. He won an offensive rebound in the lane and laid back home a missed Hummer three try and converted two free throws after Bray found him guarded by the smaller Cohen.
Clement continued to make his time on the floor meaningful. Blocked inside by Daniels, Clement stayed with the play and spotted Koon on the right wing for three. That shot was off but Clement had a second offensive board and the possession ended with Koon on the left block getting the ball to Connolly who flipped it up and in while in the process of being fouled by Zach En’Wezoh. Connolly’s free throw had Princeton more than doubling up Columbia 51-25.
It reached a point where Hummer inside got such position on the freshman Brad Gibson that Gibson had no other option but to grab a huge handful of Hummer’s jersey to try and stave off a layup – no foul was called, the basket was good and on it went.
In a 1:28 stretch Koon fired from three on the right wing and hopped down the floor as the ball kissed the rim a good five times before finding the netting. After a Mullins flip it was Barrett’s turn to find Koon in the same spot for a three that did not need any assistance on its way to the target. Frankoski passed to nowhere, Hummer got an easy steal and led a break with Koon for eight straight by the sophomore.
Sophomore center Bobby Garbade added his first career three pointer for a game-best 65-34 advantage and with Mike Washington Jr., Ameer Elbuluk and Issac Serwanga each in for around four minutes of action, the first of seven necessary victories was one that transpired with unexpected ease.
Whatever defensive corrections were made by the Princeton staff since the teams’ last matchup flummoxed Columbia into a dreadful performance. The Lions had just 18 of their points at the rim compared to 32 at Jadwin.
“We worked a lot this week on ‘showing more of a picture” is what we call it, being more in the lane if you’re off the ball,” explained Koon. “In the first game they spread us out so much.”
Not on this night.
One down, six to go.
-Improving their already-strong shooting the second half, Princeton was 23-41 overall (56.1%), 6-10 outside (60.0%) and 13-23 on free throws (56.5%). After starting 2-8 at the line the Tigers then closed 0-4.
-Princeton was 13-16 on layups/tips while Columbia went 9-17.
-The Lions made 16-41 attempts (29.6%) and scored 0.75 points per possession.
-Columbia was 1-11 from three point range in the second half, 3-17 overall (17.6%) and 5-8 at the line (62.5%).
-Princeton held a 32-23 advantage on the glass with each team recording 10 second chances.
-Hummer is up to 97 assists for the season and seems likely to shortly become just the 12th Tiger with triple digit dimes for a campaign.
-40 total points was Columbia’s meekest output since a 63-35 loss at Jadwin Gym in 2009.
-As you may have already seen in our photo essay, former Princeton standout and current Richmond coach Chris Mooney was at Friday’s game. The Spiders take on Fordham tomorrow afternoon and Mooney was able to catch up with former Richmond center Dan Geriot and former Richmond coach Marcus Jenkins afterwards. I asked Mooney the last time he saw a Princeton game in person and he recalled the 2004 NCAA Tournament when the Tigers and Mooney’s Air Force squad were pooled in Denver.