Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson:
Postgame audio - Pawel Buczak & Dan Mavraides:
In a game where both Cornell and Princeton had to work exceptionally hard to find open looks and uncontested shots, the Big Red fended off the Tigers all night and most importantly when it mattered most - at the final buzzer.
"Cornell's a good team," said Tiger head coach Sydney Johnson. "I think we showed what we're made of, especially on the heels of Saturday, where we disappointed ourselves [versus Brown]. Tremendous effort, I think that was pretty evident."
"Our guys responded pretty well in terms of how much harder they needed to play," Johnson added. "I was encouraged by that."
But for the second time in as many meetings, the Big Red grinded out a three point victory over Princeton, a win earned at the free throw line, where the home team shot 22-25 and 15-17 in the second half.
Cornell, who never trailed, made a season low 35.1% of their attempts from the field.
Even 7'0" Big Red center Jeff Foote, a 59.4% free throw shooter entering Friday, was a confident 7-8 from the stripe and finished with a game-high 19 points on 6-7 shooting.
"He's a 50% foul shooter and he made his free throws," Johnson said of Foote's performance. "All credit to him. That's his Achilles' heel and he made them. Jeff Foote made his free throws. God bless him."
Stout perimeter defense hounded potential 2009-10 Ivy League Player of the Year Ryan Wittman into 3-11 shooting and a 0-5 game behind the arc, but a pair of Wittman free throws with two seconds left after Dan Mavraides’ scooping drive cut the Cornell lead to a single point with just over four ticks on the clock provided the night’s final margin.
Mavraides, who was unable to get a tying three attempt from just inside midcourt up to the rim, had 13 points and a game best seven rebounds for Princeton. The Tigers outrebounded Cornell 31-25 and snatched 12 offensive boards.
Kareem Maddox added an acrobatic 11 off the bench for Princeton and Pawel Buczak had 10, including two large second half three point shots.
Princeton conceded the opening tip to Cornell, with forward Patrick Saunders jumping center against the substantially taller Foote. On the Big Red's first possession Foote backed down Buczak inside and earned a late whistle as he pivoted in the paint. Foote's first two tries at the line were on target.
Having already played one another 13 days ago and having drawn up scouting reports that highlighted the other's offensive tendencies, each team was well prepared for what the other was trying to do.
Buczak was tied up by Chris Wroblewski and Princeton's first possession ended with a Marcus Schroeder travel as he tried to drive into the lane with one on the shot clock.
Foote followed a Louis Dale miss to make it 4-0 and the Tigers turned the ball over on their next two possessions. Buczak was bothered and threw the ball into the Cornell bench.
Zach Finley, wearing a protective mask to cover his facial injuries from late last Saturday versus Brown, had a pass picked off by Jon Jaques, but Jaques gave the ball back to Princeton when he threw the ball into the stands on the break.
After three turnovers and one missed jumper, Princeton finally hit the scoreboard at the 16:39 mark when Mavraides found a sliver of space as he caught a Douglas Davis pass and connected from the top of the arc.
Princeton looked to force Foote to his right shoulder all game, and Finley fouled him on a dropstep. Foote made one of two from the line.
Schroeder bounced a pass to Mavraides in the lane for two and despite Princeton's trouble getting into their offense they were even at five.
Wittman caught and fired from the right elbow extended to put Cornell up two. Davis could not connect on a crossover three try and the player who beat him out for Ivy League Rookie of the Year last season, Wroblewski, took a pass from Mark Courey in the post and hit from behind the arc.
A Wittman three, launched over Mavraides, missed the rim and landed on the baseline. It was one of three airballs for Cornell in the first half.
Pawel Buczak's long two try was off from the right side of the arc, but Saunders grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Dale on the deep hook attempt.
Saunders' two free throws were offset by Foote, who scored off glass over Buczak.
Jaques was off target outside and Cornell slapped out the rebound to Dale. The Big Red went inside to Foote and Davis slid down to help on the baseline. Davis slapped the ball away from Foote, but was called for the foul.
Johnson, irate at the way the game was being officiated to this point, had to be restrained by assistant coach Tony Newsom, who hipchecked Johnson away from the officials and back to the bench.
Foote and Buczak were physical inside when play resumed, before Foote caught, got position and scored.
Princeton freshman Ian Hummer's wild drive down the lane was cut off by the torso of Jaques, who absorbed the easy charge.
Foote's backcut from the top of the paint did not draw attention and Foote had an unobstructed two-handed dunk to make it 16-7 Cornell at the 10;22 mark.
Looking for offensive consistency, Princeton found it off the bench courtesy Kareem Maddox. First Maddox drove with his right hand off glass. Then Maddox went high in the air from the weak side to follow a Saunders midrange jumper. When Davis faked a three to get Geoff Reeves off his feet, then had to adjust his shot mid-air but still hit when Reeves recovered as Davis stepped inside the arc, the Tigers were within three.
A Wittman jumper again missed everything and Schroeder controlled.
Davis had a chance to tie, but it sailed long. Finley had the rebound for a second, but possession was controlled by Adam Wire as Finley fouled him.
Alex Tyler's fadeaway jumper was answered by Davis, who faked a jumper and instead passed to Buczak inside for the easy layup.
Tyler airballed a hook shot, then Mavraides' pull up three at the top was short.
Foote went around Buczak and under the rim for two, which made it 22-15.
Maddox had an impressive drive to the hoop, spinning, banking and scoring while fouled by Tyler. His free throw drew Princeton within four.
Down by six, the Tigers finished the half strong.
Wittman traveled on a handoff screen when Schroeder got out to interfere. At the other end Schroeder drove, was bumped in mid air and still scored off glass. Wittman lost the ball and Schroeder picked it up, with Princeton signalling time.
Maddox's number was called again and he spun left, banking the ball home to make it a 24-22 game.
"We know he has an advantage on his man against most teams athletically, Mavraides said of Maddox. "He was able to get [his defender] on his side and go hard. I don't think he got a lot of calls and he played tough. He went up there and just finished really strong."
Johnson was more direct when asked about Maddox's difficult shots that led to nine first half points. "They were tough because he got fouled on them," Johnson stated. "I think he was pretty aggressive and we just tried to say to play through what was happening out there."
Foote found Wire cutting for two, but Schroeder answered dribbling left and pulling up with a jumper.
Wittman's attempt was long and Mavraides rebounded.
Princeton had the ball for the entire final minute of the half. Maddox could not convert, but got his own rebound. Buczak was off the mark, but Saunders controlled. The Tigers held for the final shot of the half, a Maddox three from the top of the arc. Maddox was 1-11 from three coming into Friday night and those numbers didn't get any better, his shot long of the intended target at the horn.
Foote scored 13 of Cornell's 26 first half points, yet the Tigers' defense felt better than it had been when Foote scored six straight early at Jadwin. Like the rest of the Big Red, with the exception of one easy slam, Foote was not getting patented easy drop-ins.
Princeton was 10-24 in the first half (41.7%), 1-8 from three (12.5%) and 3-3 at the line (100.0%). Cornell shot 9-21 (42.9%), 1-5 from deep (20.0%) and 7-8 from the stripe (87.5%). Both teams scored 14 points in the paint.
Foote finally missed turning to the left baseline and Schroeder rebounded.
A pass by Buczak to Davis was intercepted by Dale before Dale's jumper went out of bounds back to Cornell. Wroblewski was off the mark and Davis had a wide open opportunity to give the Tigers' their first lead from the same spot on the floor where he gave Princeton its only lead against Cornell two weeks ago.
Wittman out of the far corner swung a pass to Wroblewski on the left arc and the first basket of the second half was eerily similar to the first basket of the second half at Jadwin. Cornell had a 29-24 lead. Wroblewski drove and left the ball for Foote to take the lead back up to seven.
An offensive rebound by Finley of a Davis miss was followed by a foul on Maddox, who was whistled blocking a Wittman catch and shoot deuce. Maddox stood in disbelief, then Wittman made both free throws.
Mavraides drove and kicked back to Buczak in front of the Princeton bench for his ninth three pointer of the season. After Reeves slipped, giving the ball back to the Tigers, Buczak left a bounce pass for Mavraides slashing into the lane and he was fouled by Jaques. Mavraides made one of two at the stripe for a 33-30 score.
Ian Hummer was bumped inside going up for a hook and Johnson's displeasure with how Princeton was being treated close to the basket began to boil. The fact that Schroeder was called for a reach in foul on Wroblewski six seconds later a good 35 feet from the net was too much for him to watch without a response.
First, the jacket came off.
Then, Johnson began to yell across the court at the officials, demanding the game be called evenly.
The end result was Johnson's first technical foul as a head coach. Wittman made both free throws, but Johnson had made his point.
"I'm not one of those get a technical to 'rah rah' the guys," said Johnson. "There were some things going on out there that the competitor in me felt that I did not want to accept. I encourage people who care a lot about Princeton basketball to watch that tape and maybe they might agree."
Johnson wasn't crazy about the next play either. Maddox drove and a whistle sounded. The near official looked ready to call a foul, but the far official saw it as a travel.
Trailing by eight, Princeton put together their cleanest offensive stretch of the evening. Finley was fouled by Jaques turning inside and made one of two at the line.
Wittman's entry pass was stolen by Finley. Maddox posted Foote and scored via the hook.
Cornell had a shot clock violation as the ball went into Foote late and he lost possession, the ball bounding around before time ran out.
Maddox inside went to Buczak from the far corner for three to make it a 38-36 game.
Foote was fouled by Maddox under the hoop and he again made both of his tries.
Mavraides snapped a three to draw within 40-39 at the 7:44 mark and Cornell called a time out.
When play resumed Wittman curled to his left for an easy layup.
Mavraides' line drive three to tie was short, but Hummer controlled in the center of the paint. Davis would lose the ball in traffic back to Cornell.
After Davis was too strong on a bank, Wroblewski was fouled driving at Buczak and made one of two. Davis would finish the game 2-12 from the field, 0-6 outside.
A split second hesitation cost the Tigers. Buczak curved to the hoop and was open under the rim. Finley was a hair late getting the ball inside and instead of the easy layup, Wittman had time to foul Buczak on the way up. Buczak was long on his first try and way short on the second, giving Cornell the ball with their 45-41 lead intact.
Dale got past Mavraides, but was too strong on his drive over the rim.
At the other end Buczak created space with a shudder move, then scored with his left hand.
With just over two minutes left Buczak came out to contest a Dale three. Buczak blocked the ball with his hand, but was called for the foul on the follow through. The normally stoic Buczak looked shocked at the whistle. Dale, an 83.7% free throw shooter, made all three of his chances with ease.
Maddox's hands were an unexpected place for Princeton's next possession to end, as an open Maddox tried to convert his second three pointer of the season from the right side. The shot was short and Finley was unable to save.
Princeton's defense had put them in this position, so Johnson opted not to foul and commanded his squad to play solid D. Cornell's possession ended with Wroblewski unable to pull up on the left baseline and Mavraides rebounded.
Mavraides drove down the lane and was fouled by Wroblewski, making both chances.
Again Princeton played defense. They would either get a stop or they would be down two possessions. It was in their hands. Wroblewski was off target and Finley went strong for the rebound in front of Foote.
Princeton called time out trailing 48-45 with :17 on the game clock. Unable to get a clean attempt to tie from the perimeter, Mavraides drove around Foote and scored on a scoop with just over four seconds remaining. The Tigers did not call time to stop the clock and Cornell quickly inbounded to the far corner, a Reeves pass coming back to Wittman after two precious seconds had disappeared.
The senior Wittman went to the other side of Newman arena and did what seniors do, knocking down both attempts.
Buczak's inbound was deflected over a leaping Saunders and by the time Mavraides came up with the ball on the left side, all he could do was turn and heave a jumper that was clearly short leaving his hand.
"It was interesting how the game played out," Johnson said of a game that followed a similar script to the teams' first meeting - with Princeton chasing Cornell all night and excellent defense taking away both teams' strengths.
"I talked to our team about how we really put our heart out there and played pretty hard and there was some stuff going on there that we couldn't control. That's a lesson that I think is good for our guys in terms of playing facing challenges in the future," Johnson remarked.
"There's not a guy out there that didn't play hard tonight for Princeton."
Playing hard isn't going to bring the Ivy League title back to Jadwin Gym this season, something a distraught Mavraides was well aware of after the game. Despite having a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds of both meetings, Princeton fell short both times.
"It is definitely frustrating," the junior guard stated. "This year you had to beat Cornell to win the Ivy League championship and we came up short.
-Princeton finished 18-47 (38.3%) from the field, 4-19 from behind the arc (21.1%) and 7-11 at the line (63.6%). Cornell shot 13-37 (35.1%), 4-16 in the second half (25.0%). The Big Red was 2-9 from three (22.2%) and 22-25 at the charity stripe (88.0%).
-Cornell players not named Jeff Foote combined to shoot 7-30 on the night (23.3%).
-Foote went an incredible 11-12 from the field against the Tigers this season.
-Princeton scored 18 points off Big Red turnovers and had 11 second chance points.
-The Tigers dished seven assists and committed 13 turnovers, Cornell's ratio was 9:10.