Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson, Kareem Maddox & Douglas Davis:
Make it seven straight heading into a brief Christmas break for the Princeton Tigers.
A balanced scoring attack, led by Kareem Maddox and Patrick Saunders in the first 20 minutes - then Dan Mavraides, Ian Hummer and Douglas Davis in the vesper, allowed the visiting Tigers to slowly pull away from the homestanding Towson Tigers midway through the second frame.
"It feels good to go into the holidays with a win," said Davis after his team's ninth success of the campaign and the 50th victory of Sydney Johnson's head coaching career. "It feels good anytime you get a win on the road."
Leading 46-44, Princeton scored 12 of the game's next 16 points, capped off by two Mavraides free throws.
While Isaiah Philmore had 16 in the first 16 minutes for Towson, Princeton was able to shut him down thanks to some tactical changes the rest of the way. Philmore finished with 18 on the day.
Patrick Saunders tallied 13 of his team-high 15 before the break, including three offensive putbacks. Davis started slow but hit four times behind the arc for 14. Maddox equaled that total inside. Hummer put up a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds. Despite 1-9 shooting, Mavraides reached 10 thanks to 8-9 free throws. His last two from the stripe gave the Tigers a 73-60 lead in the final minute.
Towson hit 5-16 from the floor in the game's back half, 18-21 from the line.
Princeton crushed their opponent on the glass, 40-23 with 17 offensive boards - the most versus a DI foe since 21 second chances against Yale in 1999.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead on their first possession, Saunders feeding Brendan Connolly on the right block back to Hummer cutting left off the glass and Princeton would not trail the remaining 39:41 of the rare Wednesday afternoon start.
With Towson in a zone at the outset, quality opportunities presented themselves. Hummer found Saunders deep on the left baseline for a long deuce to double the lead.
Philmore's one-handed tip of a Erique Gumbs shot put Towson on the board but Saunders did one better, the ball swinging a step further back in the left corner for a 7-2 lead. Saunders' putback of a too-forceful drive by Hummer extended the advantage to seven.
Even with a strong open, Johnson was not satisfied from the bench. "Flat!' he yelled. "Let's go!" he continued.
"I've seen [my team] when they're pretty dang good and we weren't there right at that point and it showed," assessed Johnson after the game.
The Tigers continued to do damage via the offensive glass. Look at these three straight possessions with Princeton up four:
-A trey try by Mavraides on the right wing sailed left and Connolly was right there to put it home.
-Connolly turned deep but could not finish and Saunders raced in from the side as Towson watched for a lefty tip in stride.
-A left side Mavraides three came to Saunders in the lane for a short jumper. Princeton had a 15-7 edge.
As Mavraides struggled to find his shot, two other interesting things were occurring on the floor:
-Every Douglas Davis jumper was coming up well short of the rim. Davis' pull up on the break hit the front iron and Towson quickly went the other way, Danny Quinn's left corner jumper coming from right inside the arc.
-Philmore was proving to be a difficult matchup for the Princeton defense.
The Tigers extended their lead to 23-13 on a Maddox layup and a nice play where Mavraides on the move to his left found Maddox for a soft diagonal lob on his right - but Philmore raillied Towson.
A three point play by Philmore, found by Josh Brown on a circle drive, was the start of a Towson push. Maddox blew by Philmore to his left for a two-handed slam, then Philmore faced up Hummer for a jumper on the right side of the floor.
A Philmore layup with 6:03 let in the half gave him 11 points, ended a 12-4 Towson run and made the score 27-25 Princeton.
The orange and black have expertly turned cuts into post opportunities this season and with the lead down to two, they did just that. Mack Darrow watched Maddox glide through the lane but instead of running under the rim he turned 90 degrees to face and position the trailing Philmore. Receiving the ball, Maddox went to his right and scored from the center of the lane as Philmore committed his second foul.
A posting Braxton Dupree pushed Saunders away with one hand onto the baseline for an offensive foul to give the ball back to Princeton. At the other end, a swooping Hummer hooked the pill home lefty to extend the lead to seven.
Philmore drove to his right, saw Hummer positioning for a charge and pulled up off glass.
Finally, Davis got in the act, his pull-back three making it a 35-27 score - but Philmore answered from the top of the arc.
With the Tigers up six and 3:49 left in the half, Maddox switched his primary defensive assignment to Philmore. The sophmore forward's afternoon was about to change.
An acrobatic Davis layup, found by Hummer after a ball fake and a perfect pass, rolled in as Rashawn Polk bodied Davis to the floor. Davis was short on his free throw and the Tigers had a 38-33 advantage.
Dre Conner cut that lead down to three at the half with two free throws after T.J. Bray fouled him.
Princeton shot 16-32 in the first half (50.0%), 2-10 from three (20.0%) and 14-22 from inside the arc (63.6%). The Tigers were 4-6 at the line and committed just two turnovers.
Towson was 13-25 (52.0%), 2-4 outside (50.0%) and 7-10 on free throws (70.0%). Philmore was 7-8, all other Tigers 5-17 in the opening frame.
Princeton showed a touch of zone when play resumed, with Dupree having an easy right baseline jumper over Connolly go down.
"Shooters shoot, so whenever I'm open I know that I can shoot."
Those are the words of Douglas Davis. Coming off a 2-6 half, 1-4 from three, Davis had no hesitation launching a true triple after using a Mavraides screen to create space.
With the ball back, Maddox inside found Davis outside a second time. Davis' jumper was again short and in transition Brian Morris popped a three from the right side to make it a 41-40 game.
Connolly was fouled and missed both his attempts, giving Towson the ball with a chance to move in front for the first time all day. However, Morris traveled attempting to throw an interior pass.
Davis kept doing what he knows how to do - this time using Connolly's body to separate from his defender and connect on the left side.
It was 46-42 Princeton when Mavraides drove right and saw his ball roll off the rim to Connolly on his left for a putback.
Two plays by Maddox at each end of the Towson Center began Princeton's move. First Maddox posted Dupree and pumped when he turned, using the glass for two.
Then Maddox watched Morris eagerly as he dribbled on the perimeter, giving a hair of room that Morris could not resist - but Maddox did so with the confidence he could block Morris' runner of the backboard and into Mavraides' hands.
Mavraides pushed the ball, spun into the lane and scored as Polk fouled him. A free throw completed the three point play and took the lead up to 51-44. It was Mavraides' first and lone field goal of the game.
Conner got two back at the free throw line, then Darrow picked up Maddox's spinning shot in the lane, used the rim to free space and reversed for two. A near steal came to Davis on the left side and Davis fired with a touch more height from in front of the Princeton bench to take the lead up to 56-46. Towson called time.
Philmore's drive left with 9:05 to go was his only bucket of the second half and ended a 9:27 stretch without a Towson field goal.
Connolly found Hummer right down the lane for a nice combination.
Towson did almost all their scoring at the free throw line. Coming in to Wednesday a 62.5% shooter, Dupree was 10-12 versus Princeton.
With the score 64-51 after Saunders missed a layup, missed a follow and then placed a third try home, Towson proceeded to cut the lead down to five on a Brown drive and six free throws.
Like they did on Friday at Wagner, Princeton responded. Hummer fed Darrow on the elbow, who passed back to Hummer slashing from the top of the key for a layup.
Hummer tipped Conner's entry pass away and threw a long outlet over Mavraides' head that the Princeton tri-captain ran down before Conner was whistled for a blocking foul. Mavraides split a pair, then Brown misfired from deep behind the arc and Darrow restored normalcy by accepting a shovel pass from Hummer and reversing it home.
Johnson appreciated what he saw from his team in the second half more than what transpired in the first. "I thought we were a lot more aggressive and focused in," Johnson stated. "It took us some time to ease into the game."
Princeton's interior domination was no surprise to those who have watched the Tigers during this seven game winning streak, but their success against a decently-sized Towson frontcourt impressed the Towson staff.
"We've been outrebounding almost every opponent by an average of almost five rebounds a game," said Towson coach Pat Kennedy after his team was outscored 46-14 in the paint, 20-4 in the second half.
"Collectively they're the strongest and most physical team we've played all year."
-Princeton shot 26-61 for the game (47.5%), 5-16 outside (31.3%) and right on their season average from the free throw line with a 12-17 showing (70.6%).
-Towson went 18-41 (43.9%), 4-10 from three (40.0%) and 25-31 on free throws (80.6%).
-Princeton had 20 second chance points. Towson had two.
-Princeton had 17 offensive boards, Towson had 19 defensive rebounds.
-Davis (158) passed Kyle Koncz (156) for fifth all-time at Princeton in made three pointers. Next up, Sydney Johnson (162).
-Johnson's career coaching record moves above .500 for the first time since he was 2-1 three games into his Princeton tenure.