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Brown 80 Princeton 67.

Box Score : HD Box Score

Watching Brown disintegrate Princeton's hope at capturing even a share of the 2012-13 Ivy League title, my thoughts turned to another group of New Jersey stalwarts who have been making music since the three point line was first introduced to college basketball - Yo La Tengo.

Their 13th and most recent album "Fade" opens as follows:

Sometimes the bad guys come out on top
Sometimes the good guys lose
We try not to lose our hearts
Not to lose our minds

Seven days ago there was an audible roar emanating from the home locker room at Jadwin Gym. I heard it, as did everyone else walking out of the media room. The Tigers had moved past Harvard by half a game in the conference standings. All that separated Princeton from the NCAA Tournament was a path of three straight difficult yet manageable road games.

A week later there was little more than silence as morose Princeton assistant coaches filed out of a locker room in Providence filled equally with tears and disbelief.

From the joy of first place to eliminated with one contest left to play.

A loss at Yale. A loss at Brown.

Just like that.

All weekend the Tigers played from behind, searching for a single play or moment of significance that could turn their fortunes around. Princeton only led briefly throughout these 80 minutes in New Haven and Providence, scoring the first four points tonight (a Denton Koon hook and a Hans Brase face up jumper) before the Bears answered with 10 straight. From that point the home team had some degree of control over the ballgame that Princeton could never recapture.

Postgame audio from Coach Mitch Henderson plus the rest of this recap can be found after the jump.

Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson:

Even when the Tigers ran off 10 straight to turn a 22-12 deficit into the night’s second tie on an Ian Hummer free throw with 4:14 left before intermission, Sean McGonagill’s open left wing triple started a 9-2 run in the other direction.

The adrift trip to Yale and Brown exposed some unspoken truths about this year’s model of the Princeton Tigers, shortcomings the team had been able to overcome for several weeks once Brase was inserted into the starting lineup back in mid-December but not able to turn into a championship.

Princeton never became a strong enough defensive team, despite the coaching staff’s repeated assurance that the Tigers could be one. Princeton dropped from an adjusted efficiency of 98.6 a year ago to 98.9 entering last night’s game. While the offense in turn improved slightly, in head coach Mitch Henderson’s second year his team had to outscore opponents more than they had to gut out turgid contests.

Eight of Princeton’s 11 losses (including Friday’s defeat at Yale) came by seven points or less. By contrast only four of the wins were of this variety and the triumph over Dartmouth would not have qualified if it wasn’t for five empty points from the Big Green in the final five seconds.

A big difference between the 2010-11 Ivy champs and this year’s runners up was the former’s ability to labor through victories. Even last year there were times late in a game (Rutgers, Rider, Florida State and at Columbia each come to mind) where Princeton had to make a play to come out victorious.

The 2012-13 Tigers weren't built to grind. More often than not they had to play at a high level across the board to get that W. There's wasn't much margin for error.

It is hard to recall from a mid-March hotel room in Providence many late game successes on offense that decided results, with the exception of Will Barrett’s three point shot to ice the season opener at Buffalo and the Ian Hummer tip/T.J. Bray save to trump Harvard what seems like ages past.

Despite their size, Princeton never developed into the promised strong rebounding team many expected to see. Rebounding was an edge. It was not a true advantage. In their elimination Brown won the glass 43-29 and grabbed more offensive rebounds than the Tigers.

The Ivy’s two leading rebounders Rafael Maia (7) and Cedric Kuakumensah (7) leading the way was no surprise, but they were not the only reason the Bears grabbed 50% of their offensive rebound opportunities in the first half.

One moment is frozen, even though it technically was not an offensive rebound. Scrambling for the first time and showing greater urgency down 59-50, Matt Sullivan was wild but as Barrett tried to track down the rebound, Sullivan came over to rip the ball clean and save the possession as he cut down the red rope barrier taped around the floor sailing out of bounds. This led to an extra free throw for the Bears.

As they had averaged all season, Princeton had about as many second chances as they allowed.

The past three weekends – even when sweeping Harvard and Dartmouth - Princeton received almost no support beyond scoring from Hummer, Bray and either Barrett or Koon.

Brase scored 2/4/2/5/6 before adding 11 tonight. Brase missed six consecutive free throws on the weekend, including a pair against Brown with his team down 10-6 early. At one point all five Princeton starters were over 70% from the line. Brase now pulls up the rear at 63.5% - an untimely regression for the freshman.

Fellow center Brendan Connolly went 7/3/2/0/0/7 the last three weeks, adding a post presence and some rebounding but little beyond. He grabbed one rebound versus Brown.

The biggest surprise of the season might have been the drop off from Mack Darrow. Last season Darrow provided energy, great post passing and a high level of efficiency. As a senior Darrow became a one dimensional three point shooter off the bench on a team that needed anything but.

Darrow’s last three weekends of scoring were 3/3/5/0/0/3 with one total assist during this span. His offensive rating dropped from 120.3 as a junior (Top 100 nationally) to 105.7 entering tonight and his assist rate plummeted from 20.8 to 13.9.

Darrow cocked a three by the Princeton bench with 9:04 left in regulation to pull his team within 47-42. Tucker Halpern answered from outside, coming to a spot on the wing as Sullivan passed out of the post. Darrow could not find the mark on his next look from the wing and following two Tyler Ponticelli free throws the lead was 10 again.

Both Darrow and Connolly each hit double figures once their senior season.

With defenses rightfully keying on Hummer, greater attention could fall to Koon, Bray and Barrett with less concern of what the three bigs discussed so far might add.

After scoring a career high 23 at Columbia, Denton Koon’s incredible jump shooting numbers came back down to earth, only adding to the unuttered dilemma. Koon missed six straight times from behind the arc against Harvard, Dartmouth and Yale before his running 30’ one-handed bank shot at the first half horn versus Brown sent Koon sprinting off the floor with his team down 33-29.

Any momentum that incredible shot hoped to produce was negated by a pass from Bray to Barrett getting tipped by Albrecht and through Barrett’s hands on the wing when play resumed and Brown scoring 10 of the first 12 after intermission to open a 43-31 advantage on an Albrecht three from just inside the Connecticut border.

Koon would miss two more times behind the arc in the second half, lowering his percentage to a still-impressive 43.2% from 53.6%. That original number just did not seem sustainable for a player who made just one three as a freshman.

Speaking of Barrett, while his 51.1% mark from outside remains close to the best in the entire nation, his inability at 6'10" to create his own shot meant that a 16 point game with four threes when set up versus the Yale zone could be followed by a night with just four field goal attempts when mostly man defense stayed in position.

It is easy to say this in retrospect, but the lack of a development of a second true guard hampered the Tigers. The progression of Chris Clement in Ivy play helped tremendously (especially on defense) but as Yale proved at Jadwin the Tigers’ unconventional lineup could be susceptible to pressure and as Columbia proved at Jadwin waves of smaller guards could get by Koon and Barrett to the tin.

Incredible three point shooting (40% entering tonight) helped mask most individual deficiencies that are more glaring when you go 7-25 trying to fight back to even footing.

Against more conventional rosters, four forwards and a point guard was going to be a matchup nightmare one way or the other. There wasn’t a lot of middle ground.

Sending Brown to the line repeatedly over an agonizing final five minutes, Princeton was able to cut a double digit deficit down to two possessions on five occasions but could not get any closer as time inched down.

A despondent Hummer went down fighting, scoring 21 points on 5-15 shooting and 9-14 free throws. 16 of Hummer’s total came fighting uphill in the second half. Hummer was at the line with 1:28 left and his team down six but split a pair. It was the first of four times Princeton crept to that margin late.

Bray had a chance to close within four as well but split a pair with just under a minute to go.

After a 5-13 stretch at the line Brown recovered to make 11 of their final 12 attempts.

Halpern's breakaway dunk with :15 left set off a loud celebration at the Pizzitola Sports Center, but that was likely drowned out by the cheers coming 54 miles up the road at Harvard.

While fouling to extend the game as long as possible was nearly a success, a sequence with Princeton down 43-37 stands out as the segment where hope was lost.

Hummer was intentionally fouled by Sullivan from behind on a breakaway, but split one of his two free throws to get the Tigers within six with the ball. A Bray inbounds went to a spot that Clement and Brase both tried to occupy for an immediate turnover, Hummer extending to his left could not finish, Barrett threw the ball away to a deflecting Halpern on a Princeton five-on-two before Barrett blocked Kuakumensah’s dunk try attempting to finish a three-on-one for Brown and Bray the other way was short with an open three. After all this action without a point on either side for over three minutes, Albrecht tossed in a shot as Clement fouled him and following a free throw the lead was nine entering the final quarter.

“There was some lack of understanding of what you needed at that time,” Henderson said of this succession. “I think everybody was trying to do it themselves, making a big play which wasn’t needed. That was kind of the way we were tonight. Everything seemed off a little off. We’ve had some trouble with this all season.”

A series of missed opportunities in a campaign that will be soon dissected under multiple microscopes due to the lack of an Ivy title

Later in the Yo La Tengo song "Ohm" Ira Kaplan sings:

I felt you slipping, slipping away
Before I could even see
Tried once more, lost my grip
You were gone

At the brink, with their destiny in their own control, Princeton failed to keep their footing. The issues of the season addressed above could no longer be overcome.

The season was not over, but the year was done and the good guys had lost.


-Princeton shot 21-59 as a team (35.6%), 7-25 from three (28.0%) and 18-27 on free throws (66.7%).

-Brown went 21-42 (50.0%), 6-11 from deep (54.5%) and 32-52 at the line (61.5%). Fouling Maia and Kuakumensah on lobs was routinely the right decision as the two combined for a 2-10 night from the line.

-McGonagill had a game-high 24 points on 13-16 free throw shooting along with eight rebounds. The senior Albrecht added 17 including four three pointers. Sullivan finished his career with 13 and Ponticelli 10.

-Hummer became the second Princeton player in school history to exceed 1,600 points for a career.

-Bray is one assist away from 100 for the season.

-33 personal fouls was the highest number I could find for a Princeton team going back to 1996-97. The closest total was 29 against Monmouth in 2004-05.

-Yale and Brown combined to shoot 55% from the floor (44-80), 58% from three (15-26) while going 48-72 at the line.

Steven Postrel said,

March 9, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

Extremely tough way to lose the title. You have to feel for the players (especially the seniors) and coaching staff.

On the other hand, this was in their hands the whole way and they didn't come through. Neither loss this weekend was fluky or weird--Princeton was very bad and then bad on defense and good then bad on offense. Tonight they missed a lot of layups, FTs, and three-point shots that they normally hit. (One puzzle to me is how Will Barrett ended up taking only one trey the whole game, since that's been a big weapon for the team down the stretch.) Noah Savage on WPRB thought the team was playing tightly tonight, which is understandable given the stakes but the responsibility of the coaching staff and senior leadership to alleviate.

I've been worried all season about the defensive consistency of this team but I thought they might have turned the corner after the loss to Harvard. Wrong. I hope they can cowboy up for Tuesday at the Palestra, where Penn will be looking to add to their misery.

Dave Mills said,

March 9, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

I guess it's the CBI again. Sigh.

Dave Mills said,

March 10, 2013 @ 11:31 am

Two Yo La Tengo references in the same write-up! Excellent bookends, proving that the best thing we can take from this heartbreaker is a well-written tragic ode recounting it.

George Clark said,

March 10, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

I urge all to support a home game in the CBI...Ian Hummer deserves it. Bilsky ponied up last year and the Quakers stayed home, while the Tigers had to schlep to Nowhereville, Indiana, on a school night. Not a good message. I believe potential recruits might appreciate knowing that Princeton supports its program. Believe me, we must do all we can in that area. Next year's freshman big man spent this year backing up Harvard's highly anticipated "recruit of the century", the AI-challenged Edosomething. Hope he gained some insight, but it's going to take more than that.
One more thing: a cadre of a half dozen self-identified Brown football players camped near the Tiger bench last night. I hope it was the beer that provoked as boorish a display of humorless insults hurled at fans, players, staff members and coaches and all things Tiger as I have ever witnessed. Not a classy way to treat guests in their house. If I get tossed out of Jadwin, or arrested, next season during the Brown game, I'll be wearing a Harvard sweatshirt.

Steven Postrel said,

March 10, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

Have to beat Penn first. Not sure CBI would be so thrilled after a loss.

Jon Solomon said,

March 10, 2013 @ 6:07 pm


Thanks. I thought I would take a different approach to this recap and I'm glad that this seems to have worked.


Princeton hosted Duquesne in the CBI. Less than 1K showed at Jadwin, but the game was played during Spring Break.

I couldn't really make out what that group of Brown fans was saying but from what someone else who was sitting closer said, it wasn't pretty.


I think a +.500 Princeton team would get a CBI bid for the same reason Oregon State always got a CBI bid.

Patrick Ying said,

March 10, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

George, the pain will subside by next year, but if it doesn't the legal fees won't be worth it. Realize that being a football player at Brown is akin to being a women's studies major at the Citadel.

Steven Postrel said,

March 10, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

BTW, for "rising above trouble" songs, Oingo Boingo is hard to beat. Perhaps "It Only Makes Me Laugh" would be good here. Maybe "Try to Believe."

Barry Thostesen said,

March 11, 2013 @ 11:44 am

Jon: Excellent reacap of this weekends games and the season in general. I agree with your analysis. The lack of guard depth proved fatal, as I had feared, and commented on, at the beginning of the season. Koon; for all he brings to the table , is not a guard, and will in fact be back at his normal forward position next year, with the return of Sherbourne and Hazel, and the 4 guards in this year's recruiting class. Hopefully some combination(s) of those 6 players and the continued development of Clement, Wilson, and Washington, will solve the deficiences in defense, speed, and ball handling in the backcourt, which hurt us most of the year.
Ironically, we could be a thin in the front court next year. The 3 starters should be Koon, Barrett, and Brase, with Garbade the first big man off the bench. We do not know if Lawrence will be ready to contribute anything. In-coming recruit Caruso may have to contribute right away. Based on his highlights, he seems to be a good rebounder for his size, with good jumping ability, plus he appears to have at least an average outside shot.
But this was the year with the window of opportunity, and we did not capitalize on it. With the return of Casey and Curry, and another great recruting class, Harvard is going to be very , very tough for the next few years. And we cannot expect Penn, to continue to struggle.

Jon: Do you get a "feel" from coach Henderson, that the Administration and AD are going to be more flexible in its overall support, to allow him to compete with Harvard and Penn going forward?

Anyone who believes money was the only reason SJ jumped to Farifield, isn't being realistic.

George Clark said,

March 11, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

Barry--You asked Jon but I will offer my opinion FWIW. I don't believe the AD is standing in the way of the basketball program, if for no other reason than his background as the earliest product of the Carril Cradle. The policy decisions are made in Nassau Hall. Perhaps a new administration there will be somewhat more accommodating to the needs of what is, at least arguably, Princeton's highest profile athletic program. Historically there was no need for the type "flexibility" you desire because Carril was able to compete with Penn on the court pretty much on equal terms. His success provided the ultimate rationale for "doing it the right way." The present administration was content to let SJ walk. If three Harvard titles in a row in a row doesn't change the mind set perhaps five or six will do the trick.

Jon Solomon said,

March 11, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

One thing that came to mind the past few days is how fine the line between winning the Ivy League and *not* winning the Ivy League can be.

In 2010-11 a Cornell three at the buzzer doesn't go and a Harvard layup rolls off at Yale. Austin Morgan loses the ball off his foot down one at Jadwin. Two Ian Hummer free throws in the final five seconds to vanquish Harvard. Rosen calling time out with Penn out of'm. Dan Mavraides taking over late versus Columbia. I'm sure other thin margins will appear as I review that great year in closer detail. That's just what LED UP to Doug Davis' shot in the playoff.

Two seasons later there's an incredible Harvard comeback versus Dartmouth, no shot off down two to the Bulldogs, a crazy turnaround Laurent Rivard three at the first half horn facing Princeton, not to mention a non-called push off with the Tigers rallying at Yale...

It ain't easy.

Steven Postrel said,

March 11, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

With the bottom and middle of the League tougher in the last few years than it used to be, more or less parallel to Harvard's rise (and Mike James has the data to prove it), it's much harder to win all the games you're "supposed to" as a contender. No more tossing your jock on the court and collecting the W. Columbia is probably the best last-place team I've ever seen in the Ivies.

That puts a premium on contenders who can deliver consistently strong performances with few lapses. Up-and-down performance will result in overkill on some nights and frustrating losses on others. In the past, Princeton's won some titles with greater consistency despite a lesser ceiling, but this year I think it went the other way.

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