Cornell didn't get a lot of clean looks at the basket in the opening 20 minutes at Newman Arena on Saturday night and the few open shots they attempted uniformly came up short. It was a horrid 5-32 frame by the Big Red (15.6%) and a simultaneously stifling defensive performance from Princeton as the Tigers held Cornell to one field goal over a 7:05 span opening up a 33-14 lead at the break.
“I really liked the way we controlled the game with our defense early on,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson following the Tigers’ first Ivy road weekend sweep since a visit to the Empire State in February 2011.
It looked like the second half would be more of the same as Will Barrett's three pushed Princeton up 22 when play resumed. The lead was a healthy 42-24 with 14:30 to go when Cornell mounted a very serious run, playing their penetrate-and-then-press game to run off 17 of the following 23 points and actually close within seven.
Chris Clement's lefty drive and kick to T.J. Bray for three out of the right corner returned the lead to double figures with 7:47 showing and from that point forward control of the contest was returned.
“Threes like that kill a defense and give us so much energy,” Bray said. “Denton [Koon] set a good flare screen on it too. Everyone made the right play.”
Come the final buzzer Princeton could look up and see an overall margin equal to where the game stood at halftime but it was as agonizing a 19 point win as conceivable.
Ian Hummer was superb throughout - 10-12 from the floor and 3-3 at the line for 23 points. Barrett added 13 and Koon 11. Clement topped his career high of six set the previous evening by a digit.
As a team Princeton went 22-25 from the stripe, 14-15 in the second half.
Shonn Miller was impressive for Cornell, scoring 23 by going 10-11 at the line with 10 rebounds.
A full recap plus postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson, Ian Hummer & T.J. Bray can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson:
Postgame audio - Ian Hummer & T.J. Bray:
Both teams came up empty on their first two possessions before Bray stepped to his right as Hummer came left and sized a three point shot. Bray also had excellent defensive footwork to keep Devin Cherry from getting past him, a force at the shot clock buzzer short.
Hummer struck with a right hook for a 5-0 edge and Cornell coach Bill Courtney called time to sub out three of his starters at the 17:18 mark.
The Big Red missed their first eight attempts, including a follow by Errick Peck that Hummer slapped out of bounds and a Peck jumper over Hummer that sailed long.
At the other end Hummer had a rare miss going past Peck and in transition Dominick Scelfo (who a young seatmate of mine swore was named "Dominick Cellphone") passed to Peck in the far corner for a three.
One thing Cornell wanted to do was to press Princeton after made baskets. However, without made baskets there could be no pressure.
“We didn’t miss many,” Henderson stated. “I think it made a difference that we were executing.”
Bray split a pair at the line, fouled by Eitan Chemerinski on a block attempt that may also have caught Bray’s body. Hummer’s help defense to try and swat a Galal Cancer drive left Peck open for an easy tip follow that should not have been so available.
With Brendan Connolly in and posting, Hummer cut behind him and scored to make it 8-5 Tigers.
Clement entered the game with 13:11 remaining and for the second straight night made an immediate impact. He stepped in front of Miller’s post feed and recorded a steal.
“I thought Chris was very good,” Henderson stated. “He helped us in so many different ways.”
“He’s such a little pest in there when guys have the ball,” the junior Bray added about his backcourt classmate. “When he’s doing that it makes driving a lot tougher.” One thing Clement’s emergence has also allowed is for Bray to spend some time at shooting guard with the ball in Clement’s hands.
Mack Darrow quickly from the left wing for three was off but Nolan Cressler’s drive was also errant.
Bray going to his right passed back to Darrow at the exact same spot for an on-target triple and an 11-5 edge.
Cancer at the free throw line was off with a jumper and Josh Figini won an offensive rebound from Darrow. Miller’s post and jump hook over Koon drew Cornell within four.
While Princeton’s defense was excellent, the Big Red aided the Tigers’ scheme by settling for long two point tries – especially as they fell further and further behind.
Miller’s shot came with 10:54 to go and it would be a long time before the words “Cornell” and “made field goal” found themselves in the same sentence.
A posting Koon turned into the lane and shoveled a pass to Connolly for a reverse layup. Connolly’s help defense also deflected a Cancer attempt and Connolly’s screen with the ball was sizable enough for Clement to step behind and hit from behind the right arc. Connolly also spun off of Figini and was fouled on a two hand dunk attempt, making one of his subsequent free throws.
It was Miles Asafo-Adjei’s turn to come up short on a jumper. While Clement’s pass at the other end of the floor may actually have been to no one, it was Hummer who stepped forward to pick up the ball and toss a jumper in like it was a purposeful feed.
Miller over Koon was short and a hooking Hummer pass to Koon on his way to the basket was a thing of such beauty on a frozen rope it caused me to remark “Oh my goodness!” to the friends I was sitting with.
Cornell burned a second time out, now down 21-7.
Miller posted, squared in the lane and was fouled by Hans Brase, connecting on both his attempts. Brase, who has regressed these past two weekends, traveled after a series of interior pivots going up against Chemerinski.
Barrett used his length on consecutive possessions, first stealing the ball from Scelfo and rushing ahead for a coast-to-coast dunk. It was nearly two straight steals for the long junior but Barrett could not run down his second deflection before it went out of bounds.
Brase rumbled to his right at Chemerinski and was fouled, hitting both free throws.
Bray went to the floor to retrieve a ball Miller lost, passed to the more vertical Koon and outletted to Hummer for an easy layup. Princeton was tripling up Cornell 27-9.
A long two by Peck was not what Cornell needed and Hummer rebounded. Connolly’s pass to a posting Bray was stolen by Scelfo and Scelfo brought “Cornell” and “made field goal” into the same sentence via a drive to the glass that received relieved cheers with 3:49 left.
Clement’s step back jumper in the lane was short and the Big Red had points on consecutive possessions when Miller went to his left and got the continuation after Connolly fouled him.
Princeton responded with the half’s final six points to take their largest lead to-date.
Bray faked Scelfo in the air but was off from three as the shot clock sounded. It didn’t hurt the Tigers as Cherry missed a layup and Miller somehow airballed a two hand follow.
A posting Darrow had a lovely pass to a cutting Koon in rhythm, fouled by Cherry and good on two free throws. Peck’s spinning, fading jumper versus Hummer had little chance and after a number of different curls Hummer scored from the free throw line with a jumper.
It was Cancer’s turn to fire a contested three and Hummer boxed out ably. With Darrow posting further out from the block Hummer could slide down the left baseline, take a feed and draw a foul from Peck. Two free throws and it was 33-14.
Scelfo fired a pull up three over Koon with time about to expire that was off the mark. A tip out came to Scelfo from 40’ at the horn that went in and out. This long prayer was actually one of the few open looks Cornell received in the initial 20 minutes.
It was a great half for Princeton, who shot 11-19 (57.9%), 3-8 from three (37.5%) and 8-10 on free throws (80.0%) while dishing nine assists versus five turnovers. Hummer had 12 points and five rebounds.
Cornell, who never led, made 5-32 attempts (15.6%), 1-6 outside (16.7%) and 3-3 at the line. The Big Red had a single assist as Miller totaled half their points. Cornell’s first half points per possession? A nauseous 0.50.
“We were just doing good job of contesting shots,” explained Bray. “This week in practice we really focused on our rotations and I thought they were perfect all weekend. There weren’t a lot of slipups overall. That first half showed what we’re really capable of.”
The initial possession of the second half belonged to Princeton and it was suitable for framing. Hummer left a backdoor bounce pass for Bray who turned his drive into a pass out to the far corner for a willing Barrett stepping in who connected behind the arc. Things were going swimmingly.
Cressler’s try was blocked by Barrett but Brase’s feed to Hummer was picked off. It was the start of a sloppier undoing by the Tigers.
Miller scored on Brase inside, a lazy Barrett pass resulted in a Chemerinski steal and Asafo-Adjei’s quick drive to the basket.
Brase’s face up right baseline jumper wasn’t the right shot for the moment but Cherry could not score high over Brase.
A pass by Bray to Hummer went through Miller and grazed Hummer before going out of bounds.
The one place Princeton was still getting nice production was on the offensive glass. Things would have been much worse if it wasn’t for some timely boards, starting with Brase missing a three and Bray poking free a second chance that resulted with Hummer being set up on a cut.
Two free throws by Asafo-Adjei were soon followed by Brase sloppy on a cross being stolen by Peck for a layup. Cornell was within 16.
Brase battled to put back a missed Barrett three which changed the scoreboard to 40-22. Miller scored easily against Darrow in the post, followed by Hummer controlling a left-handed hook.
Princeton had Cancer trapped in the near corner but a double team meant Miller was open on the right wing and when Peck’s pass found him the lead was down to 15.
Koon suffered through a sequence where he was striped by Asafo-Adjei for a layup and then got far too cute trying to leave a pass behind his back to Hummer which Peck was happy to step in front of.
Cancer missed inside, then slapped the ball away from Bray who appeared to have the rebound secured, missed a second try, fought for a third attempt and laid the ball in. The moribund crowd enjoyed this greatly, as well they should with Cornell closing to 42-31.
One fact that wasn’t going to hinder any Big Red comeback was the foul totals. Cancer’s whistle meant Cornell was over the limit with 13:00 showing. Koon made both ends of a one and one to stave off the rally slightly.
Scelfo’s lefty scoop made it 11 a second time. Darrow was off for three but Clement saved the possession and when Bray could not connect on the right side Barrett worked inside to put the ball home.
Cornell couldn’t slice the lead into single digits but Princeton couldn’t expand their edge. Cherry had a serious of nifty penetrations at Barrett, crossing and spinning to the glass for two.
Koon going to his left lost the ball off his person attacking Cancer. A high arc three on the left wing by Miller was off to the right.
With the shot clock running low and Hummer having picked up his dribble the only option was a 17’ jumper which Hummer sunk softly. Miller spun into the lane at Barrett and was fouled, converting both free throws.
A diagonal pass versus pressure by Bray to Barrett popped out of the latter’s hands, yet fortunately for Princeton Miller could not finish inside.
Cherry drove and Scelfo followed that drive with a successful slash to the tin. Darrow was extremely awkward trying to half-push a shot up at the rim on the dribble and while Cherry left his layup short Chemerinski crashed the boards and laid the ball home.
Cornell was within 48-41 and the crowd was involved.
“Some careless plays, but I liked the way we responded,” Henderson admitted about this stretch and the one that followed.
The lead down to seven for the first time since the middle of the first half, it was Clement again making his presence felt. Clement drove left, passed down the line to Bray in the corner by the Princeton bench for a huge three.
“Man, we needed that one,” a relieved Henderson said afterward.
That bucket transformed Princeton. For the most part the sloppy play, poor decisions and weakened defense disappeared.
“The pressure really got to us,” Hummer confessed. “We threw a couple balls away but we were able to make big shots when we needed’m.”
Cherry took his eye off the ball unguarded on the wing and a pass went through his hands and harmlessly into the Cornell bench. Breaking the press Clement was bumped by Cherry (his fourth) and made both ends of his one and one.
Scelfo was wide right for a deep three and Hummer’s pull up going right into the lane was nylon. Clement helping on a drive tied up Scelfo, the ball going to Princeton. Koon posting on the left block was pushed by Cancer before he stepped out and made both free throws to complete a 9-0 Tiger push.
Now Princeton was matching everything Cornell offered as time dwindled. A two hand putback from Miller? Barrett going right and squaring with a jumper on the right baseline. Miller fouled by Darrow reaching for two free throws? The Tigers going over the press with Koon finding Barrett fouled on a reverse layup and knocking down a pair.
When Hummer fed Koon on the far side for a three that sailed in as the shock clock expired quietly the lead was 19 and Hummer had 100 assists for the season. All that drama and things were exactly as they had been when halftime began.
Hummer’s drove left and rolled the ball in as Peck fouled him for a three point play and two Clement free throws made it a 72-52 advantage before Jamal Cherry’s single free throw provided the final margin.
“The second half of tonight notwithstanding, the weekend I think overall was the right kind of defensive effort for us,” Henderson said.
It really was a terrific 73 minutes of basketball the past two contests for Princeton. The Tigers’ defense set the tone and winning a pair in New York means Henderson’s squad can prep for Friday night’s home showdown versus Harvard knowing victory means the conference crown is still very much up for grabs.
This coming Friday and Saturday will also be the final home appearances for Ian Hummer and the class of 2013.
“I can’t think of any better set of games to play in my last weekend,” said Hummer, already looking forward. “It is going to be a sad event but hopefully we can get two wins.”
If Princeton’s defense can be as good at home as it just was on the road, they’ll certainly have that chance.
-Princeton shot 22-38 on the night (57.9%), 6-15 from three (40.0%) and 22-25 on free throws (88.0%).
-Cornell bounced back from 15% shooting to make 52% of their second half attempts, evening out to 18-57 overall (31.6%), 2-9 outside (22.2%) and 15-19 from the line (78.9%).
-What did in the Big Red? Well for starters they were 2-24 on two point jump shots.
-Princeton was a perfect 8-8 on dunks/layups/tips.
-With 23 points Hummer moved within five scores of Kit Mueller and nine of Douglas Davis for second all-time in scoring at Princeton.
-Chris Clement has made his last four three point attempts.