Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson, Kareem Maddox, Dan Mavraides & Ian Hummer:
It was looking like a loss, a loss full of positives such as improvements on interior defense, collective free throw shooting and overall team toughness.
It was looking like a loss, a loss to the best team that will visit Jadwin Gym this season, determined by a late 8-0 Siena Saints run.
It was looking like a loss, a loss after Princeton had gone up two in the final three minutes and a trio of unfortunate bounces did not reward Tiger defensive hustle.
Then Dan Mavraides changed everything.
The Princeton senior tri-captain hit two three point shots in the final 10 seconds of regulation, including a tightly contested jumper with :0.08 on the clock as the Tigers rallied to force overtime from down six with a minute to play.
"I've had a couple looks at the ends of games throughout my career here and I don't think I've made one of them. Maybe one," Mavraides said with a hint of relief. "It was good for one of those to finally drop."
Princeton scored seven of the extra frame's first eight points, capped off by Kareem Maddox's third dunk of the day to take control and converted nine of their final 10 free throws for an unexpected, significant victory.
Maddox was one of four Tigers in double figures, coming off the bench 71 seconds into Sunday's game for a career high 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Mavraides' heroics were part of a 19 point afternoon.
Center Ryan Rossiter was limited to 14 points on 5-12 shooting for the Saints, but grabbed a ridiculous 21 rebounds in defeat.
The Tigers took an early 6-2 lead when starting center Brendan Connolly faked a pass, handed the ball to Douglas Davis and Davis slid left and started to aggressively attack the basket as a diagonal lane opened up.
A disappointed Saints head coach Mitch Buonaguro called a time out.
Princeton started the game taking more time on their offensive possessions, but down 7-6 when OD Anosike got left down low for an uncontested dunk, the pace began to increase as the two teams went back and forth.
Rossiter came into Sunday's game averaging 21.4 points and 13.2 rebounds but did not attempt a shot in the game's first six minutes, turning the ball over twice. When he gathered and scored inside his team was up 9-7.
Patrick Saunders, who Maddox had replaced early, returned to the game at the 14:22 mark for Mack Darrow and scored a quick five points. With Maddox leading a break down the floor, Saunders was swift to post deep and turn on his man for an easy layup that evened the ledger.
Out of a media time out Saunders connected from the right corner for three off an assist to T.J. Bray. The freshman guard had just checked into the game and off an inbounds threw a pass down the baseline behind the napping Saints defense creating Saunders' jumper.
While the spotlight is on Bray, his one-handed block out of nowhere ruined an Anosike dunk attempt and kept the score at 14-13 Tigers.
That Siena possession would end on a Clarence Jackson miss and at the other end Maddox went right at Anosike for a bucket.
Back-to-back layups by the mohawked Jackson were offset by Mavraides' deep jumper behind the line to tie the game for a fifth time, 19-19.
Trailing by two, Douglas Davis dished perhaps the two nicest passes he's distributed on consecutive possessions as a Tiger. First, Davis pushed the tempo and threaded a diagonal pass to a slashing Mavraides for a reverse layup. Then Davis used a Darrow screen to get into the lane, wrapping his pass around two Siena players to Maddox on the other side of the basket for a seriously fierce one-handed slam. The Tigers had a 23-21 edge.
Siena began an 11-4 run with a spin off glass over Darrow by Rossiter.
Saunders caught a Darrow pass on the right elbow and his shot was true.
Davis fouled Jackson up top attempting a three and Jackson's trio of free throws generated the half's eighth lead change.
Rakeem Brookins hit a strange shot with his team up two in the final two minutes. Despite firing from the side of the arc, Brookins' jumper had enough spin to veer off the front of the iron, go to the right against the glass and down the cylinder.
Hummer found Mavraides as Rossiter came over to hip check and Mavraides made both free throws.
Owen Wignot's right corner trey took Siena's lead up to a game-high 33-27 before two Maddox free throws closed out the first half scoring.
Princeton trailed 33-29, but much had gone right. Rossiter only had six points and the Saints were shooting 40.0% (12-30) as a team. Connolly's fronting of Rossiter mixed nicely with Darrow's active positioning to force Rossiter away from the basket. Neither Connolly nor Darrow was reluctant to push Rossiter when he tried to post up.
The Tigers were outrebounded 22-13 and Siena converted these opportunities into 13 second chance points.
Maddox was an offensive constant for the first time all season, scoring a game-high 10 and grabbing five boards in the opening 20 minutes.
The senior forward built on this solid foundation in the first six minutes of the second half, recording the Tigers' first eight after the break.
"I knew it was about time to turn things around. I have been disappointed in my play thus far," Maddox admitted. "It was good to come out and help the team in a different way."
Mavraides fed Maddox inside on Princeton's first possession and Maddox spun away from Rossiter trying to double team the lane and went towards the baseline as Anosike fouled him. Both free throws were good.
Brookins found Jackson on a two-on-one to double the Siena lead.
Inside to Maddox. Short jumper on Anosike.
As Maddox took over, Princeton could not get the defensive stop they needed. Anosike scored over Saunders for two.
Back to Maddox, this time spinning baseline for a soft jumper. 37-35.
As Anosike began to fall to the ground he threw up a one-handed prayer that bounced square off the glass and dropped in for another four point edge.
Maddox took a pass on the right block for a change, went across his body with the ball and scored under Anosike in the paint.
Rossiter inside the paint made it 41-37 Saints.
Mavraides went to his left but could not finish a layup as Brookins fouled him, slapping the padding under the Tiger basket in disgust. When play resumed Mavraides knocked down both of his free throws.
Finally, a stop. Davis stole the ball from Brookins and pushed the issue, his attempt to tie blocked out of bounds by Jackson. Off the inbounds, Maddox sized up a jumper from just outside his range but it was Maddox's afternoon and the ball landed nicely in the netting for a tie game.
Still even at 43, a posting Hummer found Darrow on the left perimeter. Darrow had missed his previous six three point shots, but this open attempt was right on the money.
Tie number 11 came as the result of a Brookins free throw and a subsequent Brookins layup as he jumped into the paint and slid his feet attempting a jumper.
A zip pass by Hummer across the field of play to Davis was turned into a quick release Davis triple to make it 49-46 Tigers.
When Davis threw a long outlet pass to Maddox under the Princeton basket and Maddox patiently took his time to control, gather and go up strong it was Princeton's biggest lead of the afternoon.
Maddox had a huge block of a Rossiter jumper that served as a perfect pass to Wingot standing outside the arc for a frustrating three.
Hummer slid into the lane and was fouled by Rossiter going to his left. Shooting 50% from the line entering Sunday, both of Hummer's tries were perfect.
Bray fouled Anosike going up baseline but Anosike missed both of his attempts.
Bray atoned and then some when he split the Siena defense and banked a runner home with his left hand for a 55-49 advantage with 6:09 to play.
Princeton nearly went up eight on a four-on-two push but Hummer's layup try was blocked at point-blank range by a fast-closing Wignot.
Siena responded with seven of the next eight points for the game's 12th tie. Bray fouled Jackson after Hummer's miss. Two free throws good. 55-51.
Maddox could not convert inside and Bray fouled Wignot on the break. One of two free throws good. 55-52.
Davis tried a long two in traffic that would not go. Anosike answered with a soft jumper that bounced in. On the play, Saunders was called for holding Rossiter after the basket attempting to get position. What could have been a four point play became moot when Rossiter missed the front end of his one-and-one.
Up one, Darrow and Maddox shared a nice two man game where Darrow fed Maddox posting and Maddox returned the ball to the perimeter, reset his position and received possession again from Darrow, fouled by Rossiter - his fourth personal.
Maddox's first try was long but the second was on the mark for a 56-54 score. The 12th tie of the game wasn't far off. Jackson found his path to the left baseline around Maddox far too easy.
Davis' teardrop to give Princeton the lead was blocked by Wignot and Rossiter tipped home a missed Anosike layup and Siena led 58-56 with 4:07 left in regulation.
Overloading the Siena defense with quick passes, Davis fed Darrow who went quickly to Hummer for a strong take off the glass as Anosike fouled him. Princeton could not regain the lead, as Hummer's free throw was off the mark.
Maddox tried to keep the loose ball alive after Hummer's miss, running off the floor and diving by the bleachers across from the Tiger bench, earning applause as he returned to the floor.
Jackson's three attempt came out long and it looked like Siena might get an offensive rebound, but Mavraides slapped the ball into a nifty low dribble that pushed Princeton forward and Maddox was ahead for a slam.
Again Brookins had an easy layup for tie number 14.
Hummer was too strong spinning left for a layup attempt before shades of Princeton's painful last second losses to James Madison and Presbyterian came to the front of one's consciousness with an unlucky bounce of the basketball.
Hummer's active hands slapped a Siena pass loose into the lane above the free throw line. Princeton could not pick up the ball in the center of their defense as it bounded loose and the Saints' possession ended with Wignot open on the right side of the arc as the Tiger defense tried to recover.
"These guys were working their tails off defensively and we got some deflections, and they popped to their shooters who lined them up and knocked them down," said Johnson of what transpired.
Darrow sprung open by the Tiger bench for three but his shot was long and Princeton still trailed 63-60.
Jackson cut into the lane and dished to Anosike as Maddox closed. Maddox bodied Anosike as he scored and Maddox slapped his hands together in frustration as the whistle blew. A rare free throw conversion from the 34.7% career free throw shooter had the Tigers clinging to hope, down 66-60 with exactly a minute left.
After the game, reviewing the difference between defeat and victory, Coach Buonaguro felt that the game's next play was what prevented his Saints from grabbing the win.
Instructed to switch on every screen, two Siena players stayed inside when they should have checked Davis and a high-arcing triple made it a three point game with :47 left.
Darrow fouled Jackson on a drive and both of Jackson's attempts went down.
Davis could not make it two in a row but Darrow kept the ball alive and passed to Mavraides in the far corner. Mavraides used a pump fake, squared up and fired up a deep jumper that drew Princeton back to 68-66 with :09.2 to go.
Mavraides fouled Jackson and Jackson split a pair to make it a three point game. Davis rushed the ball over half court and Princeton used their last time out to set up a tying attempt with five seconds to go.
Mavraides inbounded, used Darrow's body to to create a small window on the right wing when he got the ball back and jacknifed himself in the air after two dribbles on the right wing with Wignot coming out on him. Mavraides was able to square in the air and the biggest jumper of his Princeton career was just over Wignot's outstretched arm and on its way to the basket.
"Our last game out [versus Presbyterian] we had the last shot, a terrific look for Dan and it didn't go down. For him to come back and be in that same moment - there's no way that ball hit the rim. It was true all the way," Johnson said of Mavraides' jumper. "A terrific shot. He shot it to make it and showed some guts."
Those left in Jadwin Gym erupted. For the 16th and final time, the score was tied. Siena inbounded with less than a second left but could not get the ball to the basket.
Princeton's seven jump balls in their first six games of 2010-11 had all gone the same way. It didn't matter who was in the center circle for the Tigers - Connolly? Hummer? Maddox? The ball went to the opposition every time. The eighth try was a charm. Maddox won the tip, his team controlled and Hummer rewarded the effort with an inside basket.
Rossiter was fouled trying to score off glass and split his free throws.
Darrow could not connect again from outside but Hummer kept the possession alive and spun off the glass for a 73-70 score. The sophomore forward scored 13 points in the second half and overtime.
"In the past I would have taken myself out of the game mentally," confessed Hummer. "After coach sat me down at the start of the second half I came in and tried to play more of my game."
A cross-court Siena pass was disrupted by Mavraides and bounced off Jackson trying to save for a turnover into the Saints' bench.
Hummer was bumped by Jackson in the post and Hummer made the front end of the one-and-one for a four point edge before missing the second.
Help defense by Hummer swatted a Brookins layup try into the Princeton band behind the basket. Inbounding with 2:08 on the clock, Jackson slid his feet starting his move at the top of the arc.
The unselfish combination of Davis on the left wing to Darrow in the middle down to Maddox for a two handed stuff pushed Princeton up six.
With Siena still far from the double bonus, the Saints began to foul. Mavraides converted both halves of a one-and-one with :48 showing to keep the lead at six. This pair of makes began a 90% finish at the line that did not allow Siena to retain possession with a chance to tie.
"Tonight was a team effort in terms of facing adversity, probably epitomized by Dan's shot going in," said Johnson of his team's victory - one that was important both for the program's reputation and for the confidence of a squad that lost two tough games in the final possession earlier in the week.
-Hummer finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Davis added 11.
-All five Siena starters scored in double figures. The Saints got six points out of their bench.
-Princeton was 27-58 from the floor (46.6%), 7-17 from deep (41.2%) an 25-31 from the line (80.6%). In the words of Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson: "If we don't make free throws. We're not feeling as good as we are right now."
-Siena shot 27-70 (38.6%), 5-20 behind the arc (25.0%) and 18-29 on free throws (62.1%). Jackson scored 16 points on 4-20 shooting.
-The Saints were the first team to outrebound the Tigers this season. Rossiter's 21 boards were part of a 48-37 edge on the glass including 18 offensive rebounds.
-Happy [redacted] birthday to my friend Mike Braun.