If it wasn't for a foot injury endured during Princeton's non-conference slate last season, tonight would have been Will Barrett's Senior Night.
The re-junior with an extra year of eligibility remaining lifted his former 2013 classmates in their final contest at Jadwin Gym, scoring a career high 23 on 5-11 three point shooting to rally an initially clumsy and careless band of Tigers past Dartmouth.
Barrett made three consecutive shots from behind the arc with Princeton up five, helping extend a late advantage to 57-47 with 3:26 remaining.
The Tigers converted their final 10 free throws to hold off the Big Green before five points against the far bench reserves in the last seven seconds made the final closer than it seemed.
“I’m really happy for the senior class to get a home sweep,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson. “It wasn’t a pretty game for us but I think this kind of happens in the [Ivy] League.”
In addition to Barrett's outside shooting, T.J. Bray hit four of five times from deep on his way to 21 points and Ian Hummer totaled 13 in his ultimate game at home.
A night after going 1-10 from three, the Tigers returned to form connecting on 10-19 outside attempts including an 8-13 second half.
Randy Melville's son Tyler was superb for Dartmouth, scoring a personal best 23 on 9-11 attempts. He was joined by Gabas Maldunas (17) in double figures.
Princeton trailed 19-11 with 6:35 left in the first half and 21-20 at the intermission before returning on an 11-3 run.
Postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson, Will Barrett & Brendan Connolly plus the rest of this recap can all found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Will Barrett & Brendan Connolly:
Numerous factors indicated that the Tigers might start off Saturday night’s game somewhat downtempo. They were tipping less than a full day after the euphoria of their biggest victory of the season versus the last-place team in the Ivy. It was an early start preceded by the always-emotional Senior Night presentation and after a hyped crowd on Friday, Jadwin Gym had little carryover energy emanating out of the stands.
Those pretexts aside, it was not surprising how poorly Princeton performed from the beginning of the 6:00 pm ET start. It was surprising how long the bad play letdown sustained.
A designed attempt to get a basket off the opening tip was the first indication something was awry. Barrett pushed the ball forward to Hans Brase who missed on his pass to a cutting Hummer as Alex Mitola got in the way.
Maldunas got inside on Brase for two. A lane jumper by Hummer was long and while Mitola gave the ball back an entry by Denton Koon to Hummer attempting to post was lazy and John Golden made the effort to step in front and secure.
Golden also glided left and laid in a Melville feed for a 4-0 score. Brase charged, driving into Mitola in the lane and Melville got by Hummer and past Brendan Connolly’s help defense to increase the Big Green advantage.
A skip pass by Bray to Barrett setting up for three wasn’t just blocked. It was ENGULFED by Brandon McDonnell closing. McDonnell would have had a steal grabbing the ball loudly right off of Barrett’s shooting hand had he not landed out of bounds.
Barrett’s next look from the left wing made it to the basket but was long. Golden too came up off target from behind the arc and after Hummer’s runner landed short Mitola airballed a three try.
The freshman guard continued to find no luck or open windows against larger Tiger perimeter defenders.
Bray finally got Princeton on the board 3:50 in when he drove right, picked up his dribble on the far block and scored over Melville.
Connolly kept his feet on defense, which caused Maldunas to travel. In a reverse of one of last night’s late heroics, Bray executed his own one-handed tip follow off the glass of a short Hummer jumper.
Dartmouth answered with seven straight, frustrating Princeton with a combination of zone defenses.
Mitola was off from the right side but Maldunas’ hustle won him an offensive board and when Melville got Chris Clement in the air he tossed the ball at the rim just for kicks and a left baseline running hurl went in with a whistle.
Koon was errant from the right side for three and in transition Melville rainbowed a long deuce over Bray from the left wing for an 11-4 count.
It didn’t get much better for Princeton. Bray’s entry feed was picked by Maldunas, however Golden missed the rim with a pull up jumper, the third Dartmouth attempt so far that did not draw iron.
After Bray saw an entry feed to Mack Darrow picked, an inbounds lob to Maldunas was far too easy and the Tigers were down nine, having only scored four points in a quarter of the action.
“I think the first 10 minutes of the game Dartmouth did a nice job,” Henderson acknowledged. “All of a sudden we were pressing a little bit and they were changing their defenses.”
There were some signs of life from moribund Princeton but their stiffening defense went from solid to liquid. Barrett faked a three and stepped right for a long two. This was offset by a high/low lob from Maldunas to freshman Connor Boehm over Darrow.
Around the horn passing from Hummer to Barrett to Bray in the near corner for three made it 15-9 until Maldunas snatched another second chance and eventually drove right at Brase high off the glass for a pair.
Hummer – who had missed his first three attempts – got past Melville but left his finish short of the rim. It did not cost Princeton as Boehm’s up-and-under move was also a travel.
Facing a 1-3-1 defensively, Koon’s left side jumper was short. Somehow Barrett got inside and flipped up an acrobatic follow that went down. Melville got past Hummer and over a block try for two more Dartmouth points.
“I thought we had prepared nicely but there was a letdown,” Henderson admitted after the victory. “Protecting against that was tough.”
“Going into the game I was thinking ‘we shouldn’t have a letdown’ but in the back of my mind I was also like ‘you have to stay focused because you see it every year,’” the senior Connolly added.
Down 19-11 with 6:35 left, the Tiger defense locked in significantly.
Matt LaBove missing a pair of free throws with his team up eight was fortunate. Hummer cleaning up Barrett’s miss from the top of the arc in the lane and scooping a follow home was momentum.
Golden from the right side popped a jumper out and Connolly was blocked from behind by McDonnell as he took a Hummer feed inside.
With eight seconds to shoot, Darrow could not shake Maldunas and his three try before the buzzer came too late. Mitola’s three from the top was well off and on a rebound Hummer was poked in his right eye and had to come out of the game, even though he tried to convince Henderson he’d be better-servedstaying on the floor.
Koon found Bray for a deep right three and a three point game.
Hummer returned to the court and did not bite on a McDonnell fake, blocking a shot hard directly to Barrett. Stepping to his right a second time Barrett reached the sort of traffic he could rise over as Tommy Carpenter fouled him. Barrett made both free throws and the Tigers were within one.
The hot-tempered Malik Gill was wild off the glass driving at Clement. With a chance to go in front, Barrett tried to rifle a diagonal pass to Hummer cutting under the basket which Golden intercepted with two hands. Melville’s spinning floater versus Clement dropped in as the shot clock expired.
A short left baseline jumper from Hummer was long off the rim and leading 21-18, Dartmouth had the ball with the shot clock off.
Princeton used one of their two fouls they had to give and a travel from McDonnell by the Tiger bench with Hummer closing out on him gave the orange and black possession back with less than two ticks showing.
As Bray prepared to inbound on the backcourt sideline, Hummer motioned to him. Setting up on his team's left arc, Hummer boxed out wide to receive a high entry feed, caught and turned in one motion and Golden reached in to catch Hummer on the arm. A foul was whistled with :00.2 on the clock and Hummer made both free throws.
It was a huge play in a half with 41 combined points.
Down by one, Princeton was 7-21 from the field (33.3%), 2-6 from deep (33.3%) and 4-4 from the line. Bray led the way with 10. Three miscues in the opening two minutes was the start of a 2:8 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Dartmouth went 10-22 overall (45.5%), 0-6 outside and 1-3 on free throws (33.3%). Melville had 11 at the break.
“If you talked to the guys about their defensive intensity to start the second half versus the first half, they would say there was no comparison,” Henderson offered. “I never got disappointed though. I felt like while we weren’t playing well, they had 21 points at half.”
Dartmouth would only add three points to that total in the three minutes that followed. As Hummer soared to his left off the glass to open the vesper stanza, Princeton had their first lead of the contest. Of course, as Koon helped double the post Boehm was open for just the second three to go in against the Tigers in over 80 minutes of recent basketball.
Koon tied the score at 24 as he chased Hummer inside and laid the ball home, unaware he was starting a 9-0 run for his team. Boehm could only catch the front rim and Brase was hammered by Maldunas on the defensive rebound.
Maldunas also fouled Bray on a drive and Bray split a pair from the line. Princeton was up one with 18:52 left and they had an advantage which would hold from this point forward.
Mitola again launched and misfired, off to the right. Barrett drove right and was unlucky on the finish but exceptionally lucky on a rebound that came right back to him as he hooked up a follow with both a touch of surprise and a foul on Golden for a three point play.
Mitola kept heaving. This time he was open but his unorthodox release sailed long. In transition Brase outletted to Bray for three from the left wing and the lead was 31-24.
An adjustment that worked nicely coming out of halftime was moving Brase to the elbow and running the offense versus both zone and man from that location.
Dartmouth responded ably. Maldunas into the lane was slapped by Brase and converted both free throws. Brase overshot Bray cutting backdoor and his feed sailed out of bounds. Maldunas rumbled to his right off the glass by Brase for a three point game once more.
Bray out of the post fed Brase up top for a true triple that doubled the advantage.
As a Dartmouth pass was deflected into the backcourt Clement hustled to outrace Gill to the loose ball. As Clement tried to get around Gill the latter was whistled for shoving the former.
This six point lead was halved by Maldunas, fouled by Hummer closing on the penetrating Gill and unable to recover defensively as Maldunas scored.
The outside shooting from Princeton underclassmen helped avoid a Senior Night-mare. Koon realized he was alone on the left baseline and promptly converted a short jumper. After a running hook by Maldunas was run down by Connolly, Barrett took a Clement pass and connected from deep. Dartmouth called time down 39-31.
Melville all but single-handedly kept his team relevant. His spin in the lane with the shot clock down to four clipped two off the Big Green deficit. A wing-to-wing pass from Barrett to Bray ended with Bray’s fourth three of the night.
Boehm was short on a free throw jumper and from the same spot where Bray had success, this time Barrett rewarded a Koon pass for three and a game-best 45-33 edge with 9:16 to play.
Three straight makes from three was fun to watch, as was (in a different fashion) Melville’s eight consecutive points. Good rotation on offense freed the junior from outside on the left wing. Barrett to Hummer cutting, hesitating and scoring was followed by Melville on the left side again. This time a dejected Koon sunk his head as his solid defensive contest could not stop this jumper.
“We gave [Melville] too many of his tendencies but man he was on fire tonight,” Henderson said. “We tried everybody on him. I would like to have said somebody could lock him down but it just didn’t happen.”
Barrett was off from the top of the arc as well as from in front of the Princeton bench as his open jumper spun off. In between Melville had a rare miss pulling up for three over Bray and not finding the rim with the shot clock dwindling.
Melville was able to fight off Clement and toss the ball at the rim as a foul was called, converting both his free throws. The lead 47-41, Barrett saw Hummer coming hard down the far baseline and met him with a two hand pass as McDonnell fouled from behind. Hummer split his pair.
Melville entered from the arc with 4:58 left and pulled up for two.
Barrett made sure that his former classmates’ final game at Jadwin Gym would be a fond memory. Against the Dartmouth zone first Barrett was true from up top. Following a pair of Maldunas free throws, fouled rolling to the rim and receiving a Mitola pass, Barrett struck again – this time from the opening in the defense near the Tiger bench.
Mitola finally scored against Princeton for the first time in his career. A left baseline jumper drew Dartmouth within seven and ended a personal 0-13 line for the season versus the Tigers.
Hummer powering right drew the defense and set up Barrett in the same location for his third straight triple. Even though Dartmouth had scored on three straight possessions they went from down 48-43 to down 57-47.
The Big Green made it four consecutive conversions as Boehm put back a weakside offensive rebound of a Maldunas miss.
Brase could not keep Princeton hot from outside but it was of little consequence as in transition Melville stepped on the sideline before he could fire a three of his own.
Bray posting Mitola found Brase who split a pair after being fouled forcefully by Maldunas. A few seconds later Brase would swat a Maldunas runner out of bounds.
Boehm made it 58-51 with just under two minutes to go and the last credible Dartmouth threat was wiped out when Gill’s steal of a Bray pass ended with Gill on a breakout sliding and traveling as Clement tried to get in front of him.
The Big Green went into foul mode. Hummer made both sides of a one-and-one. Following Mitola’s heave over fellow freshman Brase, Bray also was good on a pair. The lead was 62-51.
A pair of Gill three point plays and a Maldunas follow were offset capably by a 6-6 showing from the line by Bray, Clement and then Hummer.
With :20 left Clay Wilson replaced Hummer to a nice ovation. Seven seconds later Brian Fabrizius, Bobby Garbade, Isaac Serwanga, Ameer Elbuluk and Mike Washington Jr. emptied the bench.
A Mitola three and a steal and layin at the buzzer by Gill aren’t worth mention but there I am mentioning them anyway.
The end result was Princeton’s second five point victory of the weekend, a pair of games that could not have unfolded in more different ways despite the matching margins.
After just a couplet of critical free throws to his name on Friday, Barrett was one of the biggest changes from night to night, providing a quintet of second half threes that turned an unenergetic display into what had been expected.
It was an apparently emotional scene behind closed doors after the game.
“I work my butt off day in and day out for my teammates. Losing five of my best friends changes everything for me,” Barrett said poignantly about Hummer, Connolly, Darrow, Elbuluk and Serwanga. “We were all little teary-eyed after the game, going up to hug each other.”
Those misty glances changed into a jubilant collective roar audible from outside the media room as Princeton was informed about 30 minutes after their game had concluded that Christian Webster’s tying three point try at The Palestra had come up short, meaning the 9-2 Tigers were now up half a game on 9-3 Harvard – a reversal of where the two rivals stood entering the weekend.
While his own final home game at Jadwin Gym may have been deferred one year, Barrett fulfilled his obligation to the class he entered school with, helping carry the Tigers shot by shot from the verge of irrelevance to the top of the table entering the Ivy League’s final weekend.
-Princeton scored .78 points/possession the first half, 1.43 points/possession in the second half.
-The Tigers effective FG% in the final 20 minutes was 70.8 as Princeton made 13-24 of their overall attempts (54.2%) and 8-13 of their threes (61.5%) plus 14-17 free throws (82.4%).
-By comparison Dartmouth was 24-51 for the game (47.1%), 4-14 from deep (28.6%) and 11-13 at the line (84.6%).
-Princeton’s seniors will graduate a perfect 8-0 versus Dartmouth.
-Faces in the crowd: Bobby Foley, Pat Saunders, Doug Davis, Pawel Buczak, Kyle Wente, John Comfort, Daniel Edwards and Jimmy Sherburne.
-Should an Ivy playoff be necessary it would take place at The Palestra with a date and time still to be arranged.