Yale couldn’t miss and now to make the NCAA Tournament, Princeton can’t lose again.
When the Tigers and Bulldogs met down at Jadwin Gym a month ago, Yale had an incredible effective field goal percentage of 77.5% in the first half as they took an eight point lead at the break and eventually ended Princeton’s 22 game home winning streak.
It didn't seem like James Jones' team could do much better than that but on Friday night the sweep-minded Bulldogs remarkably topped that original number handily, going 14-20 from the floor and 6-8 from three in the opening 20 minutes (85.0 EFG%), building as large as a 14 point lead on an Austin Morgan three with 4:03 left before intermission.
“Not much changed from the first game to the second game. Yale was the better team,” Tigers head coach Mitch Henderson admitted. “They had a step on us the whole night.”
Down 12 at the break, Princeton turned in a fairly spectacular second half of their own shooting the ball - 63.6% from the floor and 8-16 from outside the arc - but never slowed Yale down enough and never reached the point where they had possession and a chance to take their first lead.
On five occasions however the Tigers had a shot to pull even, the last coming when T.J. Bray drove the length of the floor and stopped to fire from three, only to have his attempt blocked soundly by Armani Cotton.
Cotton added two free throws with under a second left for the final margin.
Bray scored all 17 of his points in the second half. Will Barrett was 4-6 from three point range on his way to 16 and Denton Koon had 13. Ian Hummer added nine points and seven assists without a turnover.
While the Tigers had 12 miscues versus Bulldog pressure, only five came in the second frame.
Michael Grace and Greg Kelly each totaled 13 for Yale. The Elis shot 60.5% for the ballgame, 60% from three point range and 16-20 from the free throw line.
As Yale was holding off Princeton, Harvard was rallying past Columbia as the Tigers and Crimson flip-flopped a half game lead in the Ivy League for the second time in as many contests.
Postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson, T.J. Bray & Will Barrett plus the rest of this recap can all found after the jump.
Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, T.J. Bray & Will Barrett:
The Bulldogs and the Tigers split the night’s first 10 points, with Princeton playing catch-up all of the final 37:22 (minus one possession).
Austin Morgan used a screen to spring free for three at the top of the arc on the second time the Elis had the ball, a cutting Koon taking an inbounds from Bray soon thereafter and slashing for a pair.
Morgan driving to his left sprung Javier Duren for a wing jumper, followed by the ball rotating from Hummer to Bray to Barrett on the far side for three.
Subsequent to a traveling violation on Matt Townsend, Barrett’s pass was intercepted by Duren leading to a drive the other way.
Hans Brase nearly lost the ball as Princeton pushed to set up their offense faster versus Yale’s pressure than they were able to at Jadwin but the almost-steal caught the sideline after it was tipped free. The Tigers were certainly less passive versus the pressure, having forwards advance the ball once the guards crossed midcourt.
Koon penetrated to the left block but his finish was too strong.
The Bulldogs recorded points on their fourth out of five possessions when Duren connected over Bray’s reach for three, making Yale 4-4 from the floor.
Hummer’s first field goal attempt was a left baseline jumper that sailed short but Barrett crashed the glass and placed the errant shot home.
When Yale missed for three for the first time, Duren off from the right side, Kelly was able to keep possession over Hummer’s reach and was fouled by Bray going up. Kelly converted both free throws.
If Princeton needed an emotional lift, they got none better than a diagonal alley-oop pass from Bray that Hummer caught out of the air from just behind his head, cradled in front of him while still soaring and fiercely reverse dunked with both hands.
A loud slam earned a gasp from the crowd but it did little to slow the Yale offense. Duren made it seven straight on his own as he fended off Bray and scored.
Hummer at the free throw line faked a jumper which he turned into a pass down to Koon. As he went up to flush with one hand Koon was fouled on the wrist by Cotton, converting both attempts.
Only the third empty Yale possession of the night occurred because Brandon Sherrod missed a pair of free throws after Brendan Connolly rotated out to the wing and Hummer had to foul at the rim.
With Connolly and Chris Clement in for the first occasion, Clement struck for the fifth consecutive time behind the arc in Ivy play, taking a feed from Hummer down low and evening the score at 14.
Grace was a one man show swiftly moving his team up three possessions, but Bulldog pressure was the other half of this equation.
A right elbow pull-up came soft of the rim and dropped for Grace. Princeton broke Yale’s press but Connolly inside went further out from the basket than his deep position necessitated and was off with a hook. Hummer’s tip to was too strong. In transition Grace hit from behind the arc.
Clement trying to split a trap saw his pass stolen and Grace this time pulled up on the break just inside the arc off the wing for a deuce.
As chaos began to reign, Bray gave the ball away and the Elis could have extended their lead had Justin Sears not thrown a pass behind Sherrod on the move. The ball came to the Princeton bench with Henderson putting his arms up to avoid unnecessary contact. Still, the Tigers trailed 21-14.
Barrett found a wide opening in the zone and hit from the right wing. Nick Victor had the ball knocked away from him by Clement and Barrett chucked it blindly down the floor. Clement was able to run down the feed and scoop home a drive.
Every time Princeton seemed to be making their push, it became immediately evident that Yale’s shooting display wasn’t going to slow.
Grace pulled up from 20’ over Bray and scored. Bray skipped a pass to Barrett on the right side but his shot was short. Cotton to his right clutched the ball under his arm and scored on a swoop, making it 25-19.
Hummer on the right side was off for three and Clement lost a 50/50 rebound to Duren. In transition Duren left his layup short and the break had been so fast that Koon was free at the other end to take a Hummer pass and dunk with his right hand.
Just as quickly as the lead had dwindled to four, it extended to 10 for the first time. Kelly popped for three off a Cotton assist and following Bray coming up short outside Kelly did the same thing a second time, this time via Sam Martin. Princeton called time trailing 31-21.
A stretch that saw Clement going left miss Barrett with a pass and Koon short on a dipsy in the lane following a Connolly tip of a Duren feed ended with Connolly fouling on the rebound of Koon’s miss.
In a nice set by Yale, Duren pushed the ball to Grace in the near corner and Grace waited for the secondary cutter Townsend to arrive and curl to the rim as the pass greeted him.
Hummer split a pair from the line before Morgan launched and connected over Bray. It was good defense but a better shot. Now the lead was 36-22.
The Bulldogs had built this lead by making 14 of their first 17 attempts regardless of distance or obstruction.
Yet for the final 4:03 of the half there would be just one basket on either side.
Clement with the shot clock dwindling was blocked easily by Justin Sears. After Sherrod could not score over Brase, Koon using the rim as a shield missed a reverse.
A pushing Bray following a Cotton turnover found Hummer underneath for two, the Tigers’ lone field goal in the final seven minutes. Grace finally missed for the first time in the half after starting 4-4, his left rainbow three going in, out, in and then out again. With a five second difference between the shot clock and the game clock, Barrett was stripped by Cotton on a drive but in transition a possible Sears basket with contact in the lane was waved off when the official ruled Bray had already been positioned for a charge.
With :11.1 showing, Princeton pushed the ball and Brase had a chance from the left block to dunk the ball but as he threw down the slam the ball clanged off of the rim. Brase hung on the iron, which negated the fact that the ball actually came back down through the netting after the initial throwdown attempt.
It was a loud conclusion to an oddly quiet final four minutes of an explosive first half. Princeton was down 12 and it felt like it could have been twice that with the way Yale shot the rock. Four missed jumpers and four turnovers in the final four minutes tempered some of the blow, but the Tigers could not capitalize themselves.
The Bulldogs were 14-20 overall (70.0%), 6-8 from three (75.0%) and 2-4 on free throws (50.0%). Again for emphasis, that was after a 14 FOR 17 START.
Princeton went 9-22 as a unit (40.9%), 3-7 from deep (42.9%) and 3-4 from the line (75.0%). The Tigers had seven turnovers leading to seven points for Yale.
Do you want the good news or the bad news?
The good news is that after exchanging turnovers (Bray’s diagonal lob to Koon off his fingertips and Kelly losing the ball versus Hummer in the post), Princeton scored 13 points using five straight possessions.
The bad news? Yale nearly matched them.
Barrett grabbed a Bray miss from the right wing as it popped in the air off the rim and laid the ball home. Kelly’s three from the top was short and Brase tipped the rebound to a teammate starting an attack that saw Barrett slice the Yale zone with a three from the right side.
Having closed to 36-29, Kelly’s dive to the rim receiving a Cotton pass made the lead nine again. Princeton seemed determine to cut down their deficit by a single point at a time. Following Kelly’s basket Bray got on the board for three and the lead was but six.
Duren over Bray as the former fell down by his own bench was good for three more, followed by Barrett in the same spot as where he had struck previously on target.
Cotton had an incredible scoop shot falling away off the glass as he pirouetted into the lane and Koon with a hesitation to fling aside the defense scored inside, making it 43-37.
Hummer yelled “TALK TO ME!” to his teammates while on defense guarding the ball and Morgan for three over Barrett’s long reach was short. Brase bulling inside was fouled by Kelly sending the game into a media time out with 15:43 left.
When play resumed the freshman forward who was 70.4% at the stripe for his season missed a pair.
Like the end of the first half, the game hit another unexpected – yet brief – scoreless passage – Hummer read a post feed by Cotton to the center of the lane and grabbed a steal. Koon telegraphed a pass right to Duren but got back on defense full sprint with Hummer to interfere on a missed Duren dunk try. Bray faked a pass to the corner and when space appeared launched a three that was off the mark.
When the scoring resumed, it was not without some controversy. As Princeton was inbounding on their baseline a pass out to Brase was halted by the sound of a whistle as Koon was called for pushing off away from the ball.
As play headed to the other end and a possible travel was not called, Barrett apparently said something he shouldn’t have and was flagged with a technical. In such circumstances Yale is fortunate to have the nation’s third-best free throw shooter and Grace did his job at the line. Since the tech came with the Bulldogs in possession the ball stayed with the Elis and Clement was whistled for fouling Townsend as he slipped to the rim. Four free throws without giving up the ball made it 47-37.
Things didn’t look good when Bray from the right side was off and Townsend boxed out nicely. Hummer blocked a Townsend try adroitly and Clement was tied up by Duren on a drive, possession going back to Yale.
From the left wing Victor shimmied for a second and if Hummer was guessing the freshman was going right he guessed wrong. Victor got free to the left and when no help defense stepped up had a clean path to a two-handed dunk. It was a 12 point game with 12:34 remaining.
Brase to Hummer nearly resulted in a steal before Hummer purposefully tipped in the paint the ball to Koon for a basket and a Grace foul. One thing Princeton did quite nicely as they mounted their comeback was overloading the Yale zone with Hummer in the center, able to set up a troika of different outside threats.
Morgan lost Barrett with a crossover and fake, then fired with some daylight for three on Yale’s side of the ledger. Koon pushed a pass out to Brase stepping in for a three on the far side.
So, do you want the good news or the bad news this time? Princeton scored on three straight possessions…while Yale converted four times in a row. Victor split the defense on a drive and popped back up to lay the ball in, Bray answering from outside once more.
Brase fouled Grace on a drive with the body and Grace converted a pair.
It would have been four straight scoring possessions for the Tigers but Brase shockingly missed a second pair of free throws with his team down 56-46 and exactly 10 minutes on the clock.
Brase atoned with his second three of the contest, hitting from the far side after an inbounds lob by Grace to Victor went out of bounds. The orange and black were down seven.
Princeton nearly came up with a needed steal thrice on Yale’s next possession but each deflection went the wrong way until a retrieving Sherrod in deep was fouled under the backboard by Barrett with two on the shot clock.
Koon stayed cold from outside but Bray leapt up to control an offensive rebound and score.
Hummer didn’t like the foul assigned to him checking Sears in the post and liked the decision even less when Sears made both ends of his one-and-one.
A save by Brase of a wild Hummer pass off the bottom of the backboard came back to Hummer for a rare bad Yale break and a 59-53 game.
Sears was out of control in the post going against Barrett and Koon from the right baseline found Bray on the left wing for three. As the ball hung in the air the whistle sounded and Grace was penalized for contact on the shot. Bray stepped to the line and made all three chances. For the first time since the 9:19 mark of the first half it was a one possession game.
Townsend got past Koon but left his finish short. Setting up with a chance to tie, a Brase pass to Bray down the sideline missed the mark badly and Bray could only hopelessly run the ball down in the backcourt for a violation before Yale could step in.
Cotton’s left side three skimed the rim before Townsend could back-break with a put-back.
With the shot clock running low, Brase found Bray for a high three that dropped by the Princeton bench with two seconds to spare. It was 61-59 and Henderson called time.
Again the Tigers could not wrap up a defensive rebound, though Victor’s runner was short enough that he had the best chance at the ball coming right off the front of the rim. Victor was fouled by Koon and split a pair.
Breaking the Yale pressure, Hummer got the ball in the paint with his back to Barrett on the far wing. Realizing he was open, Barrett yelled “IAN!” and the senior met him with a pass. It was an open look for a >50% marksman but this shot to tie would not go down.
Morgan raced to the top of the arc but when he took a pass his jitterbug first step resulted in a travel.
Using Hummer up top with the ball to initiate the offense, a pass to Bray was nearly stolen. Bray ran possession down in the backcourt and advanced the ball, finding Hummer on the left baseline for a short jumper and a 62-61 score.
If you were to circle one possession on a night with 57 of them on either side, the following might be where the loop would be drawn. Cotton faces up Hummer, pushes off on the defender he can not get around. Hummer falls to the floor and Duren ends the whistle-less possession by feeding Kelly on the far side for a contested three that goes. Barrett to Bray launching outside responded but it could have gone another way earlier.
I felt Princeton was strong in the post at the other end but Townsend proved otherwise scoring over Brase’s position from a difficult angle off the glass. Koon got off a chance to tie that seemed uncomfortable leaving his hand and arriving short of its destination.
With time now under a minute, Morgan’s three from the top of the arc as the shot clock expired was short and Hummer rebounded.
Princeton called time with :23.7 left. The look came to Barrett off the dribble in traffic up top for three. Not as open as some attempts in the half but still a valid look. The shot was off but as the ball came to the floor during a lot of contact Koon was able to pick up and get fouled. Koon made both with seven seconds to go.
Grace was fouled on the inbounds and the senior guard made his penultimate collegiate game more memorable with both sides of his one-and-one.
Bray brought the ball up and tried to get by Cotton, stopping and sizing on the arc to tie. The problem was that Cotton never moved from his lockstep defending and as the ball left Bray’s hand Cotton was prepared to stop it from going any further.
As Princeton was falling short for a second time versus Yale, Harvard was simultaneously rising above. The Crimson passed Columbia late at Lavietes Pavilion and leapfrogged the Tigers by a half game in the Ivy standings.
Unable to find a way to make the Bulldogs miss on enough defensive possessions, possession of first place was exchanged once more between Princeton and Harvard, meaning the Tigers now almost certainly need to win twice - on Saturday at Brown and Tuesday at Penn - to force a one game playoff for the Ivy League’s 2013 NCAA Tournament bid.
-Princeton shot 23-44 in defeat (52.3%), 11-23 from three point range (47.8%). The one blemish was a sub-par 9-14 on free throws (64.3%).
-The Tigers were +5 with Barrett on the floor.
-Koon is 0-6 from three point range his last three games.
-Yale made 23-38 attempts (60.5%), 9-15 threes (60.0%) and 16-20 free throws (80.0%). The Bulldogs scored over 1.22 points/possession in both halves.
-Tonight the team with the 85.0 EFG% in the first half beat the team with the 81.8 EFG% in the second half. The Tigers scored 1.51 points/possession in the second stanza but it wasn’t enough to overcome what had already been done.
-Yale was 16-27 from three point range (59.3%) versus Princeton in their two meetings this season.
-An Ivy playoff game to decide the NCAA Tournament bid would be on Sunday, March 17th at 1:00 pm ET. The game would be played at The Palestra and would be broadcast by NBCSN.