What coaches refer to as "winning plays" are sometimes simply small moments, magnified.
On a dominant evening where he scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, the biggest play Ian Hummer made was a slap in the air.
That five fingered chop caught Mack Darrow's missed front end free throw bounding high off the back rim with :07.6 remaining and the Tigers desperately holding on to a 54-53 lead.
Hummer's decision to use a curved palm instead of going for a difficult offensive rebound versus Steve Moundou-Missi directed the ball towards the Tigers' bench.
On an evening where he scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, the biggest play T.J. Bray made was a sprint to the sidelines.
Bray raced to the ball and with a curl of his hand as he sailed out of bounds with a crash, sent possession down the floor to Denton Koon in the backcourt.
Koon was fouled with :02.7 showing and converted both his one-and-one attempts, making it a three point game.
A three quarter court pass by Harvard's Jonah Travis was knocked away by Hummer to Bray and Bray secured a game wherein Princeton had just one field goal in the final 9:58 of the second half - which just happened to be a Hummer tip follow of a posting Bray's miss that moved the Tigers back up one after the Crimson had taken their first lead of the contest.
Beyond Hummer and Bray, no other Princeton player scored more than six.
Moundou-Missi was Harvard high man, totaling 15 including a perfect 7-7 from the line. Wesley Saunders added 11 and freshman point Siyani Chambers 10, both on 4-10 shooting.
Two of the top 10 three point shooting teams in the country combined to go 1-18 on the night with the only make coming from Mack Darrow with 9:58 left that boosted the Tigers up 46-36.
Harvard would answer with a 10-0 run.
Postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson, Ian Hummer & T.J. Bray plus the rest of this recap can be found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Ian Hummer & T.J. Bray:
The largest crowd of the season and an overflowing student section that appeared larger than when these two teams met last year saw the home team open up an 8-2 edge in a game they had to win in order to get even with the Crimson in the loss column as March began.
After Laurent Rivard’s contested three set the tone for the evening from behind the arc, Bray drove all the way from half court at Chambers and scored as he went to the basket.
“I’m a little bigger than Chambers so I knew I could get in the lane,” Bray said after Princeton had improved to 8-2 in conference. “This week in practice we really focused on trying to get me the ball in the post.”
Chambers was unable to answer and Will Barrett threaded a feed to a cutting Bray who was fouled by Christian Webster as he went up. Bray hit one of two free throws at the line.
Webster made it 0-2 for Harvard from deep and inside Hans Brase drove to the block but was swatted away by Kenyatta Smith after a pump fake. After six blocks at Lavietes Pavilion, Smith started this game where he left off.
Smith was able to square in the lane and score to put the Crimson on the board.
Brase only played nine minutes due to illness but during the time he was on the floor he was able to set up his teammates nicely on cuts. Brase bounced a ball to a slashing Hummer for two.
Bray’s reach on a Saunders drive created a travel and when play resumed Bray curled to the rim, drew Smith’s contact and scored, his free throw making it 8-2 Tigers.
It was just what Henderson had wanted to see.
“I didn’t think we were aggressive enough in the first game and I think you have to be very aggressive against this team,” Henderson stated.
One big tactical change for Princeton in this second meeting was how Tiger centers caught the ball just inside the arc on the left wing, allowing players like Bray to curl behind and keep diving to the basket while allowing the possibility that cuts could also go in the opposite direction down the baseline. For a long stretch, it was effective.
With six seconds on the shot clock Saunders bobbled an inbounds pass and spun to the lane, fouled hard by Brendan Connolly as he went up. Saunders was good on both attempts at the line.
Koon did not have a standout evening offensively, committing half of Princeton’s 12 turnovers personally, but a touch feed by Barrett to Koon behind two defenders moved the Tigers up six.
Webster lost the ball on the baseline and Connolly showed agility altering his own layup try inside, hanging long enough to draw Smith’s second personal with 14:43 showing. Connolly also made both his free throws. The less intimidating Jonah Travis replaced Smith, who had also blocked Connolly at the tin during the opening five minutes.
Travis’ hook over Hummer was long, Bray sized from three and Hummer was wild with a hooking follow. Chambers missed outside and so did Koon short out of the right corner with Connolly now picking up his second personal rebounding weakside.
Travis did pick and roll with Chambers for a pair before Hummer sealed Saunders, took a Brase feed, and scored down low.
Saunders’ reverse was wild and Hummer posting Rivard could not get a whistle as he tried to convince the officials that he was deserving.
Koon suffered through a stretch where he missed an easy layup after receiving a pass from Hummer and then threw a pass intended for Bray from the wing to the top right to Saunders who had a layup the other way.
Hummer sealed off his man a second time, on this occasion going left off the glass. Brase had just assisted on the basket which moved Hummer past Kit Muller ’91 and into third on the Princeton all-time scoring list.
Rivard was again guarded frequently by Hummer – well aware of where Rivard was floating to on the perimeter after passing inside the arc – however Hummer did not solely guard the Harvard marksman and on one occasion with Barrett defending a pump fake by the Tiger bench got Barrett in the air and a whistle meant three free throws. All three were on the mark and Princeton’s lead was 16-11.
With Chris Clement and Mack Darrow in for the first time, at about the same point where they used it at Lavietes, Harvard went to a zone. The result was similarly disastrous for the Tigers. Clement calling desperately for the ball open in the far corner could not get a pass and the possession ended with a Barrett 18’ runner that missed the rim as the shot clock expired.
Saunders’ pull up jumper was long and Barrett’s rise from the left wing went in and out. As Hummer guarded Saunders, it was Harvard’s turn to run late into a possession and because Barrett kept his feet planted Saunders had nowhere to go once he got down to the right baseline and a shot clock violation occurred at this end as well.
Hummer too got a respite and Brase’s fading jumper in the lane over Rivard was short.
It was only after the game that it was revealed how ill Brase had been.
“He was in the health center all night,” Henderson disclosed. “I went over and brought him some chicken broth around two o’clock. I was happy he got a chance to play but he’s lost a lot of fluids.”
Chambers to a slashing Moundou-Missi resulted in an audible slap going up and a pair of free throws had Harvard within three. As Hummer remained on the bench, a huge basket was Clement’s fake of a three and step in to a long deuce.
Koon had problems as a freshman fouling on three point tries and for the first time this season he was guilty. Rivard used a fake and leaned in to Koon to get the whistle, making two of three. It was a crummy way to get to the line but if Koon stayed planted it never would have mattered.
Hummer returned to the floor. His open three on the left wing spun off and Moundou-Missi subsequently recorded a runner over Hummer.
The Tigers answered with a 6-0 run. Bray into the lane set up Koon down the right baseline for a delicate right hand slam.
Good help defense from Clement made Webster wild but Koon’s push shot was off target.
Chambers slipped on a drive with Clement guarding and received a very favorable whistle. With Princeton over the limit and 5:39 left, Chambers proved it was a bad call by missing the front end of his one-and-one.
Hummer got by Saunders on the baseline and was fouled, making both free throws.
Down 22-17, Moundou-Missi across the lane found Chambers for a right three as the shot clock expired that did not drop. Hummer facing up lost the ball but Webster’s long line drive three was also off.
Bray drove all the way to the rim for another bucket, followed by Moundou-Missi’s illegal screen that Clement could not fight through.
Harvard extended their pressure and it looked as if Barrett was clear past Rivard on a drive but Barrett left his shot short at the rim. To complicate matters Barrett then fouled Rivard on the rebound. It was not just Barrett’s second personal but also moved Rivard 80’ in the other direction for some very free free throws, which were both good.
Koon stepped out going at Rivard, Saunders was awkward in the lane and Darrow surprised with a cut and a swooping layup as Koon found him with the ball.
Harvard called time after Princeton’s attempts to do so were unsuccessful. Henderson got Connolly back on the floor defensively, a switch he would make as often as possible going forward.
Connolly played very good defense, extending his arms straight up as Saunders drove at him but Saunders stopped sharply and floated a shot in anyway.
Bray posting Rivard pivoted his way for two and Saunders hanging in the air was fouled by Hummer, splitting at the line. On queue with the stoppage, Darrow came back in for Connolly.
Again the Crimson played zone and Koon’s skip pass found Clement on the left wing. Clement’s confidence has been soaring recently and Clement’s shot from behind the arc looked true as Saunders fouled. The ball went a touch long but Clement made two of three from the stripe.
The lead 30-22 with :08.4 on the clock, Chambers was able to drive quickly coast to coast for a damper of a layup right before the horn.
Still, a six point lead at Jadwin Gym felt much better than down four at Harvard due to Rivard’s incredible blind three at the buzzer.
Princeton shot 11-25 as a unit (44.0%), were 0-5 behind the arc and 8-10 on free throws. One big advantage came on the glass, were the Tigers held a 20-12 margin as the Crimson did not grab a second chance. Bray had 10 while Hummer added eight and nine rebounds.
With Saunders and Rivard (7-8 on free throws) each scoring seven, Harvard was 6-21 from the floor (28.6%), an identical 0-5 from deep and 12-15 at the line (80.0%). Chambers had his team’s lone assist.
Brase found Bray backdoor on the right baseline for a bounce pass layup to start the second half. Smith, no longer hampered with fouls for the moment, answered with a nice hook down low.
After Brase’s scoop was just off and Bray’s tips did not go, Brase faked a three and as Smith stepped out, came in one dribble for an 18’ jumper that was a new addition to the freshman’s skill set.
Brase also nearly had a tie up on a post entry to Smith but Smith broke free before a whistle and was fouled by Bray, making both free throws.
Hummer on the left block faked Smith in the air and scored off the glass as Smith fouled him. A three point play had Princeton up nine for the first time and gave Hummer sole possession of second place all-time at Princeton in scoring as he passed former teammate Doug Davis.
Hummer still has a chance to catch Bill Bradley's scoring mark if he can just average 234.8 points per game the rest of the regular season.
The Tigers had three straight poor possessions starting with Bray’s pass to a cutting Hummer that was well behind the senior and swiftly out of bounds.
Chambers was able to create more in the second half than he did in the opening frame. His drive and feed to Smith for a flush after what appeared to be a Saunders travel drew the ire of the crowd.
Webster got his hands on Koon’s entry feed to Hummer with one hand and called time from the floor. An easy curl by Saunders made it 37-32.
With Bray inbounding under Princeton’s basket, a designed play to the just-returned Darrow saw the senior pop out from the elbow to the wing and launch a three that was short. Koon was able to control the offensive rebound and after a media time out Hummer shook Smith in the lane and spun back off the glass for two.
Koon now got in front of a Chambers inbound heading up to Webster and the ball caught Webster’s body before going out as Hummer pumped his fist.
Hummer high off the glass put the Tigers up nine a second time. Princeton’s only issue was that they couldn’t get that second basket in a row to build their lead to double digits. Darrow missed a second three and Webster also could not connect outside.
Also, fouls were mounting. Chambers quickly at Bray in transition following Hummer’s inability to finish a lob was a third personal. Barrett bodied Chambers for his third foul as well.
Koon played good post defense but Saunders was still able to pivot left and score deftly. Connolly got a backdoor through a window to Hummer to make it 43-34.
Clement slapped a Chambers pass out of the air but Koon could not hit from three on the left side and Connolly’s turnaround jumper with the shot clock dwindling was not ideal.
Smith rolling into the lane scored off a Chambers assist.
As the game entered its final quarter, Princeton caught a break when Hummer’s pass was stolen by Saunders but as Hummer made an effective “slide tackle” falling down on the sideline Saunders went accidentally out of bounds trying to avoid. This negated a likely breakaway.
Hummer was unexpectedly indecisive on a short right baseline push shot, hitting the side of the rim. However, a sure Crimson rebound deflected out and back to Princeton.
This was significant because with Darrow back on the floor, 15 consecutive misses on either side for three ended with Darrow’s jump shot. For the first time the lead was double digits, 46-36.
Chambers got two back driving at Clement. While Hummer came over for a clean block, Clement got him on the body. Bray leaning in on Webster was off and a two man game between Moundou-Missi and Chambers ended with the former fouled hard by Connolly going up.
The advantage down to six, Hummer was checked by Moundou-Missi defensively and the offense stagnated. Hummer spinning on SM-M was no good but Chambers’ free throw jumper in transition popped out.
Hummer going left at Moundou-Missi shuffled his feet and Chambers hung in the air at Koon for a pair.
Connolly curling to the basket came up short. Chambers’ lane look was off and somehow Rivard came into frame and grabbed a rebound as Hummer fouled him. Something that should never happen was followed by something that rarely happens. Entering the game at 88.9% from the line and 7-8 on the evening, Rivard missed the front end of his one-and-one.
Bray came up the floor with a thumb pointed down, which meant he was going all the way at Chambers. The drive was a good one but the shot came off the rim somehow. Bray did get a rebound and call time, but his deep three on the left side when play resumed was well short.
Koon either tightly contested or just plain blocked a Moundou-Missi far baseline jumper, which came down before arriving at the rim and into Darrow’s hands. Bray inside went high off the glass but could not finish. Webster, who was 0-5 on the night, missed long for three.
Chambers made a great play, tipping the ball from Bray. A diving Chambers poked the ball back to Chambers as Bray also went to the floor.
Moundou-Missi lost Clement in a post mismatch and the score was 46-44. Koon was called for a push off with Princeton on offense and Moundou-Missi got his third and fourth of nine consecutive Harvard points with a no look running hook over Connolly.
For the first time since the opening tip, the score was tied. Hummer went into the lane and was bumped by Saunders going to his left, making both free throws out of the final media time out.
This small lead was short-lived. Chambers found Moundou-Missi exploding up off the left baseline, fouled by Barrett and soon tying the score at 48.
Connolly got off a very nice-looking sweeping hook over Moundou-Missi that went in and out.
Moundou-Missi screened, rolled and scored off a Chambers feed as Connolly fouled him. His free throw had Princeton reeling, down for the first time all evening.
It was not a situation Henderson wanted his team to be in, but it was a situation he had been waiting for them to respond to the entire year.
“We have at times this season, when we’ve been down, we haven’t been able to find that moment where we’ve been able to push through something,” Henderson said. “I thought [the final 2:44] was huge for our program.”
Barrett going to his right tried to bank a shot home as he was fouled by Rivard, Barrett making both attempts at the line for his only points of the game.
Driving to his left, Chambers tried to get a pass out to the wing but on the bounce it split two Harvard players and headed off the court.
Bray was able to post Chambers and got off a very good look at the basket inside. The ball didn’t drop but Hummer racing in made an acrobatic one-handed tip follow count off the glass. It was a stellar individual play.
Whatever joy existed lasted a full 12 seconds after a Harvard time out as Chambers was able to drive right and around Barrett for a layup.
Down one, Princeton called time. Isolating Hummer in the center of the lane with Moundou-Missi behind him, Hummer went straight up and was fouled. Hummer’s sixth and seventh makes without a miss sent the Tigers up 54-53 with 1:06 showing.
Inside neither Saunders or Moundou-Missi could convert as Bray finally grabbed the rebound with two hands in traffic.
Up one with the ball and an 18 second difference between the game clock and the shot clock, Princeton ran some time but Bray could not best use a high screen from Darrow and a fading jumper by Koon in the lane was short.
Chambers pushed, got into the paint and tried to bounce a pass across to Moundou-Missi up the left block. This play had worked before but on this occasion Barrett got his hand in on the feed and as Barrett and Moundou-Missi came to the ground the official realized Moundou-Missi was lying on the baseline as a tie up was due to be called.
Instead of Harvard ball with seven seconds left, Princeton would benefit from this turnover.
Rivard fouled Darrow on the inbounds and while Darrow was a steady 77% from the line last year he dropped to 7-14 as a senior with a long front end attempt.
Looking back on the play-by-play though, Harvard never possessed the ball in bounds during the final seven seconds.
Hummer transforming his hand into a xistera with the rebound coming off the rim made sure of that.
Bray’s dive into the PA announcer’s table made sure of that.
Hummer’s leap to pop the ball up to Bray on a desperation pass after two Koon free throws made sure of that and Hummer’s slap away of the final inbounds as time rolled all the way down made sure of that.
Small moments, magnified.
Small moments, resulting in the biggest win of the season.
-Princeton finished 19-51 from the field (37.3%) and 1-10 from three but were 19-22 at the free throw line (86.4%).
-Harvard went 16-40 overall (40.0%) including 10-19 after intermission (52.6%) and 21-25 from the charity stripe (84.0%).
-The Crimson were undone by 0-8 three point shooting and a 13-2 differential on the offensive glass. Princeton's second half OR% was 47.4.
-Chambers had all five of his team's assists.
-With Ian Hummer's 7-7, all five Princeton starters are above 71% at the line for the season.
-Neither team scored over a point/possession in either half.
-The Tigers were +9 in the 37:35 Hummer was on the floor. Hummer has 1,564 career points with at least four games left in his memorable career.
-The victory was Princeton's 24th straight over Harvard at Jadwin Gym.
-In some superb gamesmanship, the evening’s national anthem was performed (in fine fashion no less) by Princeton football player Roman Wilson, who scored the game-winning touchdown in the Tigers’ incredible comeback versus then-undefeated Harvard.