Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson, Ian Hummer & Dan Mavraides:
It is hard to decide. I'll let you choose. Which was more impressive?
The way Princeton was able to dominate Columbia inside or the way the Tigers shut down the Lions on defense?
Ian Hummer scored a career best 25 points on 9-13 shooting and added 12 rebounds as Princeton raced to an 8-2 lead and never trailed. It was Hummer's fourth double-double of the campaign.
Kareem Maddox (10 points, seven rebounds) and Dan Mavraides (a steady 17) were able to frustrate the Ivy League's leading scorer Noruwa Agho into 6-16 marksmanship and four turnovers. No other Lion hit double digits.
The Tigers had 13 assists against one TO in the opening frame, building a 42-26 edge at the break as they assisted on 76.5% of their baskets. Ben Hazel's coast-to-coast drive and dish to Brendan Connolly ended a 13-2 run at the horn. The lead stayed above 12 for the final 22:22.
In the second half the Lions made 4-29 (13.8%) of their attempts and did not record a field goal in the final 15:07 of regulation. Columbia reached the final buzzer at 27.6%, a season low for a Tiger foe.
"I was really pleased with their focus," Tigers head coach Sydney Johnson said of his team's overall performance. "I was very, very pleased with how we competed defensively."
Douglas Davis had 10, giving him 1,015 points for his career and moving him past Will Venable into 26th on the Princeton scoring chart.
The Tigers were more than happy to let Asenso Ampim fire midrange jump shots from the top of the key when Columbia had the ball, especially if that limited Agho's touches. The Ghanaian senior's free throw extended jumper was short to open the game and after Mavraides' right handed floater dropped, Ampim connected from the free throw line.
Hummer's righty hook over Ampim broke the early tie.
Agho's first trey try did not find the target and Mavraides' drive to the glass with two on the shot clock made it 6-2. Now it was Hummer's turn as the two alternated their team's chances. Hummer scored on the left baseline in traffic. Princeton had attempted four shots and made four shots.
Pesky guard Brian Barbour hesitated and drove glass to his left. Mavraides threw the ball away up the court - Princeton's lone turnover of the half - and now Barbour went to his right for a two point game.
A two man combination between Patrick Saunders and Hummer saw Saunders feed the paint and then receive a return pass, hesitating before scoring inside.
Ampim hoisted from inside the arc and his shot went down. A Saunders jumper at the right elbow missed the rim, then a drive and dish between Ampim and Mark Cisco evened the scoreboard at 10.
Davis connected through a small window in the left corner for a three point Princeton lead. Agho's first field goal, crossing over Maddox for a jumper drew the Lions back within one.
Regardless of outcome, Princeton was getting all the shots they wanted against the Columbia defense. Mack Darrow's sweet feed to Hummer didn't earn the assist as Hummer came up short.
Agho failed to take proper care of the basketball and the alert Darrow picked the ball up off the floor outside the arc. Darrow looked down the court and fired a pass over his head to Maddox soaring for a layup.
Hummer guarding Ampim did not equal a conversion. Hummer cutting out switched directions and shedded Agho as Darrow found him for two.
Agho's drive and dish to Ampim on the left block was slammed home with two hands for a 19-16 Tiger lead with 9:25 to go in the first half. The Tigers began their methodical pull away with Mavraides in the lane going to his right.
The next time Princeton had the ball Hummer overloaded the zone at the free throw line and made the right decision to Mavraides in the right corner for three. The lead was the biggest of the game, 24-16.
"I was impressed with that," Johnson said when asked about how his team ran their zone offense on Friday night. "We got it in the middle. When there were passes out it seemed like they made those plays or they looked to dump it down. I think they played freely and naturally and it worked out pretty well for us."
Cisco split a pair of free throws, the first tries at the line by either team. Maddox on the right block spun to the baseline past Ampim for two.
Agho, now guarded primarily by Ben Hazel, drove to his right for a bucket.
The Tigers missed a chance to end a defensive possession when two different players could not control a loose ball. Steve Frankoski made Princeton pay by launching a shot out of the near corner for Columbia's only three of the half. Davis had a response from the opposite corner.
The Lions trailed 29-24 after a Agho pull up off the dribble with 4:21 left. Princeton had played very well on both sides of the basketball but did not have a significant lead to show for it. That would change.
Mavraides drove and Davis followed him for a midrange jumper. Brendan Connolly, who played 12 productive minutes, blocked a Barbour jumper and ran the floor to the center of the paint. Hazel pushed the ball to the deeply positioned Connolly and Connolly scored over Agho, drawing a foul. The three point play brought the lead to double figures, where it would stay.
Agho's drive rolled off and Maddox saved the rebound - leaping over the baseline and passing back to Mavraides with his right hand. Mavraides drove the floor and dished off to Hummer, fouled hard by Barbour going up. Hummer made both free throws, part of a 7-9 showing at the line.
Davis took the ball from Agho and Hummer got deep position, his hook off the mark. Maddox grabbed an offensive rebound and instead of going right back up Hummer wisely reset the offense with a pass to the top.
Another ace Darrow feed set up Hummer going to his left, fouled by Frankoski as he scored. Hummer missed his subsequent free throw.
"We read each other very well and in this game it really showed," Hummer said of Princeton's execution versus the Columbia zone. "It was going from the foul line to the post, from the post making a move and pass out."
Agho hit on the right side and Columbia called time. The Lions trailed 38-26 with :52.5 showing. Best case scenario, they would be down nine at intermission if they got a stop and hit a three.
Best case turned to worst case. Maddox down the left baseline found Hummer coming to the right block and Ampim fouled him. Hummer converted both tries.
Holding for the last shot, with T.J. Bray and Ben Hazel in the Princeton backcourt to close down the perimeter, Cisco got the ball inside and spun for what looked like an open shot at close range. He didn't see Ian Hummer approaching for a block that Hazel controlled. With time ticking down, Hazel raced up the left sideline and down the left baseline, leaving a pass for a trailing Connolly to lay in as the horn sounded. Princeton was suddenly up 16.
"They made loose ball plays," Johnson said of his team's 13-2 run over the final 3:42. "Things like that are huge and I hope that they appreciate that because that was how we were able to establish ourselves before the half."
The Tigers were 17-28 from the floor (60.7%) in the first half. Mack Darrow (0-2) was the only Princeton player to attempt a shot and not convert at least one try. Darrow more than made up for this trivial factoid by decimating the Columbia zone with four assists. The Tigers went 3-5 from the arc (60.0%) and 5-6 on free throws (83.83%). Hummer scored 14 points in 16 minutes. 24 of Princeton's 42 came in the paint.
Both Hummer and Maddox were able to abuse their defenders by drawing them to the perimeter and making a quick first step to the basket. Hummer in particular against the Lions' big men Cisco and 7'0" Max Craig caused a matchup issue Columbia was unable to solve.
Hummer enjoyed the chance to accelerate beyond the Lions' oversized centers. "Guards are kind of frustrating to go by because they're so quick," Hummer said with a slight smile. "If I can get the big guy out on the perimeter and get him to move a little farther away from the basket I think I can exploit his, uh,slowness."
Columbia shot 12-29 (41.4%), 1-4 from three (25.0%) and 1-2 on free throws (50.0%). Agho had 10 points and three turnovers. Ampim took seven shots, mostly jumpers.
Princeton ran a near-perfect backdoor on their first possession of the second half. Connolly's bounce pass to Saunders was on the money before Saunders sent the layup long. Agho could not score so Mavraides found Hummer going up over Frankowski for two.
A rolling Cisco capped a short 6-0 Columbia run to draw within 44-32. Every time the Lions reached a deficit of 12, Princeton pushed them further away. In this incident, Maddox spun out of Cisco's arms and scored on the other side of the rim as a foul was called. The free throw was no good. Four of the Tigers' five missed free throws for the game opened the second half.
Meiko Lyles' three point shot from the left corner was the last of Columbia's second half field goals, coming with 15:07 to go. It again drew the Lions within 12 and again Princeton pushed back.
This push was a touch more forceful, eight straight points. Maddox on the left block threw a perfect pass that met Hummer scoring as Danny Feldmann fouled him. The free throw was no good.
Hummer's steal from Agho started a Princeton three-on-one, Davis bypassing the possible highlight with a partially guarded Maddox streaking on his left for the sure drop to Mavraides on the right. Columbia called time.
A pair of Hummer free throws and a pair of Mavraides free throws took the lead up to 56-36 with 12:42 showing.
Unable to put the ball in the basket, Columbia did benefit from a second half called far tighter by the officials than the first half was. When Davis fouled Barbour attempting a three on the left side and all three attempts were true the Lions had scored seven straight at the line.
Maddox leaning jumper into Cisco ended this run.
Columbia scored one point over the final 7:45. With Princeton up 13, the Tigers closed on a 18-1 charge. Mavraides hung in the air and was bumped by Lyles, a possible make up call after all the whistles on Princeton.
Darrow's three point shot from dead on came up short, so all Hummer did was slide into the center of the lane, catch the ball off the rim in front of Agho in mid air and put it back in softly as Agho fouled him.
Mavraides' hesitation reverse down the right baseline restored a 20 point advantage. With another game on Saturday night, it was time to start resting Princeton's rotation.
Will Barrett got in the game for the first time and dropped in a right hand push while fouled for a three point play.
Next it was T.J. Bray's turn. Bray drove from the left wing and kept going unobstructed until he was scooping with his right hand off the glass.
Finally, with all Princeton players in uniform having seen the floor, John Comfort tipped home Daniel Edwards' layup try and the Tigers had defeated Columbia with surprising ease.
Playing tough defense and converting often enough offensively to stay in front by double digits for the majority of the game, Princeton improved to 6-0 in the Ivy League, half a game up on Harvard.
-Princeton shot 29-51 for the game (56.9%), 3-8 from three (37.5%) and 15-20 on free throws (75.0%), missing their first four tries of the second half. The Tigers scored 1.2 points per possession against the Lions and were 20-27 (74.0%) on layups and tips.
-After a 13:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the first half, Princeton dropped to 4:10 in the second half.
-Columbia hit 16-58 overall (27.6%), 2-11 from deep (18.2%) and 12-19 at the line (63.2%).
-Mavraides is 56 points away from 1,000 for his Princeton career.