Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson:
Postgame audio - Douglas Davis & Ian Hummer:
Sydney Johnson apologized.
The answers were the same because the focus remained the same.
Following the Tigers' 68-53 win over Dartmouth, Johnson felt the difference between the start of the first half - where the Big Green opened on a 12-3 run, and the start of the second half - where the Tigers began an extended 32-10 crush, was his team's execution without the basketball.
"We're not giving you guys new stuff to write about and talk about, but that's where our bread is buttered," Johnson said after his initial compunction. "Defensively we were better. It allowed us to get stops, then convert a fair amount and control the game a little bit more. The first half we didn't stop them enough to do that."
Shooting 60.9% from the field and scoring the last seven points before the break, Dartmouth knotted Princeton at 34 heading off the floor.
Princeton outscored Dartmouth 9-2 to open the second half. The Big Green went nearly eight minutes without a basket after already falling behind by eight. When Randy Melville’s son Tyler scored inside to end this drought there was only 3:12 showing and the result was well in hand.
Ian Hummer tallied a game high 19, aided by Douglas Davis’ 16. Davis added a career best six steals and sits six points away from the 1,000 point mark.
Kareem Maddox did not get many offensive touches (four points, 2-6 shooting) but grabbed a personal best of 15 rebounds, the most by a Tiger in a game decided in regulation since Mason Rocca’s 18 versus Georgetown in the 1999 NIT.
Melville’s 11 off the bench led three Dartmouth players in double digits. The Big Green shot 25.0% in the vesper half.
A right wing three by David Rufful and a drive by Rufful around Patrick Saunders off the glass dropped the Tigers in an early 6-0 hole. After Ian Hummer lost the ball out of bounds attempting a crossover on the right baseline, Kirk Crecco drove right and spun back for a jumper as the shot clock expired.
Solid offensive execution - Saunders on one block kicking to Mack Darrow up top back to Hummer on the other side of the post led to Princeton's first bucket.
Davis stripped R.J. Griffin and was fouled by Rufful on the break. Rufful got turned around and by the time he rotated to face Davis in the paint the layup was beginning to take shape.
A Trotter jumper lipped in, then following three Princeton misses in the lane, Crecco on the right baseline pushed the Tigers down nine.
Dartmouth missed its first shot of the half and made their next six attempts.
Princeton's defense made it much harder for the Big Green to get to 22 then it was for them to reach 12.
Davis utilized a crossover and pulled up in the lane for two before picking Griffin's pocket and earning a foul.
Darrow on the left elbow watched Maddox lose his man and then fired a pass in time as Maddox laid it home slapping the backboard for effect.
Weeden's second travel was the first called, giving the ball back to Princeton. Inbounding under their own basket, Mavraides waited for Hummer to set a screen for Darrow and flash under the hoop. Hummer called for the ball and scored as Rufful fouled him. One free throw later and the Tigers trailed 12-10.
Crecco went high off the glass to his right over Maddox to double Dartmouth's advantage, Hummer answering with a righty jump hook in the lane.
A loose ball was stolen by Davis and Mavradies tied up a Dartmouth player on the floor, the possession heading to Princeton. It was Mavraides who would also give the Tigers their first lead on his first attempt of the contest, popping from the right corner and catching both iron and the backboard before the shot fell down.
Trotter's high arcing pull up made it 20-17 Big Green with 9:37 left in the half.
Maddox and Hummer worked well in concert. Maddox to his right dropped the ball down to Hummer underneath and Hummer made one of two after drawing contact.
Davis' left elbow jumper over Crecco tied the score for a second time.
The Princeton defensive effort continuing to improve, the Tigers went on a short run that appeared like it would be the start of something bigger.
Darrow's hand off screen to Davis set Davis up for three. Melville's jumper with one on the shot clock did not drop, but Mavraides' spinning drive in traffic did.
A loose ball deflected by Davis bounded behind Darrow's back on the right baseline. Davis came up with the ball off the floor and pushed in the opposite direction as Darrow fell to the ground.
Davis dribbled into the left corner as Darrow trailed the play, spotting up on the left wing for a three. Dartmouth called time down 28-22.
When play resumed Trotter launched successfully from the right wing, only to see Davis snap an answer from outside.
After Mavraides missed in the post, Saunders grabbed the offensive board and passed back to Darrow setting up at the top of the key for his second triple. Princeton had their biggest lead to this point, 34-27 with 4:50 left in the half.
Saunders fouled Weeden rebounding Trotter's jumper as the shot clock rang and Weeden made one of two at the line.
A Maddox saving throw was stolen by Crecco, leading to Rufful for three.
It was Crecco who would drive the left baseline at Ben Hazel and lob a try up to the rim as he was fouled which found its way home. The free throw evened the ledger with 1:34 left.
Dartmouth switched into a zone, which Hazel found a spot in but sent his shot wide right.
Griffin could not knock one down from outside and Princeton had the ball with the shot clock off. Davis rushed a shot in transition from the left corner that did not touch the rim, giving Dartmouth a chance to get one of their own off.
Crecco traveled on a hand off screen with four seconds showing, but a slipping Mavraides could not fire before time ran out.
Princeton's offensive numbers in the first half were strong enough to imply a decent-sized lead. The defensive numbers were not. The Tigers shot 13-26 overall (50.0%), 5-8 from three point range (62.5%) and 3-5 at the line (60.%). Davis' 11 led all scorers alongside five steals.
Davis' ability to get his hands on the ball defensively was a big part of Princeton's eventual success guarding the Big Green.
"It has just made him so much more valuable to us, to be quite honest," Johnson said of the junior's improvements defensively. "He's crafty. He's quick. He has the ability to bother other people when he can dig down off of his guy. He's got good hands."
Those good hands created nine steals over the weekend.
"The big thing the coaches get on me about is using my arms and my hands more," said Davis. "Today that really had a huge effect on the defensive end - being able to get tips and deflections here and there. That got us in a little groove for a little bit."
Dartmouth went 14-23 (60.9%), 3-6 (50.0%) from deep and 3-6 (50.0%) on free throws. Rufful put up 10, Crecco nine.
Crecco curled for an airball three as play resumed.
A midrange Mavraides jumper was controlled by Hummer, who missed in the lane. Maddox grabbed the next offensive rebound and set up Mavraides further out for three.
Rufful could not connect and Mavraides attacked to his right and flipped a shot home.
Melville got by Mavraides and with no help defense to dissuade him, had an easy layup.
Some high/low action between Brendan Connolly and Hummer saw Connolly at the free throw line feed Hummer for the left-handed hook.
A Dartmouth backdoor try by Rufful rolled off. At the other side of Jadwin, Davis went into the trees and came away with two free throws.
Hummer's move to his left off the glass pushed Dartmouth down 45-36 with 15:53 showing.
Weeden's hand off to Melville resulted in a three. Maddox could not control a lob and Griffin nailed a tough jumper from dead on.
The Big Green threw what looked like a 2-1-2 defense at Princeton and the Tigers cracked it after a couple viewings. A posting Hummer's zip pass to Maddox resulted in an effortless slam.
Hummer poked the ball free from Trotter and Mavraides raced the other way. His wild layup sailed over the rim into the more-than-happy-to-clean-it-up hands of Darrow on the other side of the iron.
Weeden made one of two free throws following a Darrow foul on a pick and roll. Davis took the Tiger advantage up to 10 for the first time, connecting out of the left corner.
Weeden's free throw line jumper over Darrow with 11:10 to go would prove to be the last Dartmouth bucket for a long swath of time.
Hummer beautifully crossed over Weeden and drove to the rim with his right hand, scoring as Weeden fouled him. Hummer missed the free throw.
The Tigers began to get out in transition, but left points off the scoreboard. After a one-handed Maddox rebound, Maddox took off down the floor and dished a diagonal pass to a cutting Hummer who left his layup short.
Davis did not convert a quick three using a Maddox screen.
Mavraides gave the ball back to Dartmouth, stripped by Melville near midcourt, but Griffin's jumper was off and none of this folly cost the Tigers.
Eventually Maddox leading the break following a defensive rebound went to his right where Hummer was going up strong.
A guarded Davis unselfishly set up Saunders on the opposite side for three and a 16 point game. Hummer followed this with a steal and glide ahead for two. Maddox's blind pass from the post into the area Mavraides was occupying resulted in three more and a 65-44 score with 6:29 left.
Will Barrett, seeing his first time after injuring his tailbone in practice prior to the Brown/Yale weekend, set up Hummer with a nice pass shortly after returning to action. Hummer made one of two.
Johnson began to send in reserves, followed by the reserves' reserves. Melville's drive with 3:12 to go ended a 7:58 segment without a Dartmouth field goal. The Big Green outscored Princeton 9-2 to end the game, the Tigers' only basket a lefty dunk by Will Barrett after faking a three pointer in the near corner and driving down the right baseline.
For Hummer, it was "a complete 180" between halves.
"Second half we came out with a new passion and started putting it inside and seeing what that led to," he said. "We started playing a lot better and converting the easy shots that we missed in the first half."
The passion began on defense and thus the offense flourished. A familiar story, but for Johnson one of his favorites to tell.
-Princeton shot 26-57 on the night (45.6%), 9-21 from three (42.9%) and 7-12 on free throws (58.3%).
-Dartmouth was 7-28 in the second half (25.0%), 21-51 overall (41.2%). The Big Green went 4-11 from three for the game (36.4%) and 7-15 on free throws (46.7%).
-After a 109.1 efficiency in the first half, Dartmouth dipped to 60.4 in the second half. Melville (9) was the only Big Green player to score more than three points in the second half.
-Princeton outrebounded the Big Green 42-29, grabbing 13 offensive boards including 42.9% of all available chances in the second half.
-After slipping down 12-3, Princeton outscored Dartmouth 63-32 to go up 22.
-Mack Darrow's stat line of eight points on 3-3 shooting, three rebounds and five assists versus zero turnovers deserves a mention.
-The last Princeton player with 15 rebounds was Zach Finley in the Tigers' 2009 OT loss at home to Penn.
-Freshman guard Chris Clement did not suit up for the Tigers, injuring an ankle during the Princeton JV game on Friday.