Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson & Kareem Maddox:
Brown had the gameplan - clog the lane with five defenders planting at least one leg in the paint at all times and make Princeton's outside shooters beat the Bears. The strategy was not dissimilar from last season's second meeting at Jadwin where Brown dared Marcus Schroeder to beat them from behind the arc.
The approach was a successful one.
Douglas Davis went 0-7 from three point range. Dan Mavraides missed both his attempts. Patrick Saunders was 1-6, his conversion ending a stretch of 12 straight off-target triples to open Princeton's night. The Tigers hit 4 of 21 as a team, with two of the makes coming in the last minute.
Brown freshman guard Sean McGonagill was able to penetrate effectively and the Tigers' help defense was inadequate. The Bears opened up as large as an 11 point lead on Garrett Leffelman's left corner rainbow late in the first half, before Princeton scored six straight in the final 1:18 to close within five.
"We got a little bit scrappier and used our defense to get back into the game," said head coach Sydney Johnson about how his team ended the opening frame. "We converted well offensively on our last possession but we didn't really apply ourselves they way we needed defensively long enough to make it a win for us."
The Tigers' lone lead came at the 12:28 mark of the second half on a short Ian Hummer jumper. It didn't last long - one possession to be specific. Leffelman out of the left corner returned the edge to Brown, which they held to the horn.
Converting their first 23 free throws, the Bears were able to withstand each and every Princeton push.
With 5:28 to play, Dan Mavraides found Mack Darrow for a three on the right wing that drew Princeton within 58-55. A driving Tucker Halpern kicked to McGonagill open on the left side for three and the Bears' lead stayed at two possessions.
Senior Peter Sullivan completed his return from a shoulder injury at Jadwin with a game-best 26 points and 16-16 shooting at the line.
Kareem Maddox dropped 19 battling multiple defenders inside and Hummer added 18 points and 12 boards in defeat.
Brown's first series of possessions reinforced the night's storylines: Quality shooting for the home team, poor Princeton defense and some unexplainable officiating decisions.
Tucker Halpern missed a jumper which he promptly controlled and McGonagill's three from the left side hit the front rim and dropped.
Hummer faced up Halpern for a short jumper.
In the first of several questionable calls, Brendan Connolly blocked a Peter Sullivan drive but was whistled for his arm's post-swat follow-through. Sullivan's first two free throws were no different from his last 14 free throws - pure.
Mavraides pulled Princeton within 5-4 on a jumper from just beyond the free throw line.
Sullivan's shuffle to his left dropped and after Hummer could not score inside McGonagill whipped a pass to Dockery Walker for a reverse layup.
McGonagill attacked the lane and Princeton could not cut him off before he accelerated. First an inbounding McGonagill found Sullivan on the low block and Sullivan got Davis in the air for a short bank. McGonagill's drive drew Maddox and a dish to Sullivan made it a seven point game. McGonagill's reverse layup over Maddox took Brown's lead up to 15-6.
Maddox picked up two free throws after Andrew McCarthy left his feet, the layup try rattling out.
With T.J. Bray in on McCarthy, Maddox switched to McGonagil - who threw a pass into the Princeton bench.
Hummer's left-handed hook off an offensive rebound with the shot clock at two made it a five point game. A nice pass by Halpern to McCarthy added a pair to the Brown lead - one of seven Halpern assists versus one turnover.
Princeton could not string stops together and therefore could not cut into the Bears' advantage. A three point play by Halpern over Bray in the post made it a 20-12 game.
An inbounding Mavraides left the ball to Maddox off the glass for two. McCarthy went into the lane for a response.
Bray, like all other Tigers, missed his three point looks - but did a number of other nice things. Bray split four free throws - staying with a possession and fouled by Halpern on his second chance, then stealing the ball from Peter Sullivan's brother Matt and fouled hard by McCarthy on his drive.
Bray poked the ball away from Adrian Williams and led a three-on-two, choosing Hummer on his left for a layup and a 22-18 game.
After Leffelman's left elbow rainbow, Bray saved a loose ball and then a possession on the right baseline with a jumper.
The Tigers came up with another steal, Patrick Saunders leading a two-on-one with Ben Hazel. The Saunders pass to Hazel was a touch early and Hazel traveled trying to make up the distance to the rim.
McGonagill's flip in the lane completed a four point swing. Maddox picked up his second personal bumping Sullivan on his drive to the right. Sullivan made both free throws for a 28-20 game with 4:45 to go in the half. Maddox would sit until the second frame, replaced by Hummer.
Hummer's lefty hook went down. McGonagill got by Mavraides with no help behind him for a layup.
Davis finally connected on the right side and the officials did not see Johnson gesturing vividly for a time out. Play continued with the Tigers down 30-24. Sullivan's jumper on the left side took Brown up eight.
Bray's open three sailed long. Leffelman's rainbow in the left corner off a Matt Sullivan feed did not. Brown led by a game-high 11. Hummer traveled on his first move right before the under-4:00 media time out.
A Tyler Ponticelli lob inside was cleaned up by Bray on the baseline. At the other end of the floor Bray's outside shot went long but Davis grabbed the carom and canned a midrange jumper.
Bray got his hand on Sullivan's layup try and a posting Hummer found Darrow down low, fouled on both arms by Matt Sullivan. Darrow's two free throws set the stage at 35-28 with :41 on the clock.
A driving McGonagill was cut off and traveling was whistled.
Princeton used their first time out and Darrow was able to locate Hummer down the right baseline with five ticks to go. The Tigers hit intermission with momentum despite a five point deficit.
Brown was up for a number of distinct reasons:
-They double-teamed Maddox down low and flooded the lane, leading to seven Princeton turnovers.
-The Tigers were 0-10 on three point tries even when the ball properly went inside/out.
-McGonagill's ability to drive without having to downshift a gear.
"They packed it in," Johnson said. "We've got capable shooters and they didn't knock it down. We were certainly playing inside/out, which is I like."
The Bears shot 14-25 (56.0%), 2-4 from three (50.0%) and 5-5 at the line (100.0%). Princeton was 10-26 (38.5%), did not make a three and stayed close due to 10-12 free throw shooting (83.3%). Hummer and Sullivan had 10 for their respective teams.
Princeton had the ball when play resumed, Mavraides' wild right-handed runner going over the rim. Well behind the top of the arc Davis was whistled for a hand on Sullivan's low percentage three point attempt. All three shots were good.
The Tigers were determined to use Maddox as often as they could. Maddox went left at the overmatched Walker and scored. Leffelman missed and a posting Hummer found Saunders for a diagonal jumper on the left side.
Leffelman shook Mavraides to make it 40-34. Maddox again went at Walker and scored while drawing Walker's fourth foul - the ball kissing the glass and rolling home. Maddox's free throw was no good, a rare miss on his evening.
While Princeton began to take away McGonagill's scoring chances, other Bears - such as a Halpern to McCarthy combo - began to drive and dish. Hummer had to try and check McGonagill at the top of the circle once Tiger guards proved insufficient.
Mavraides kept his feet nailed to the ground and McGonagill could not get an outside look off before the shot clock expired.
Saunders right wing three was open but long. The ball was tipped out to Princeton and Maddox dropped to his left, fouled by McCarthy. His free throws drew the Tigers within 42-38.
A Hummer outlet to Maddox resulted in a long stride layup try short of the rim. Saunders kept the ball alive and Davis' look from the top came up short.
A second outlet to Maddox was more successful, fouled by Ponticelli under the rim. Again Maddox made a pair.
Hummer nearly came up with a save that Williams controlled and before Princeton's defense could reshape Sullivan got free down low and turned to the basket by a surprised Saunders..
At long last, A posting Hummer found Saunders outside for a three on the right side and the Tigers were within one. McCarthy's hook was wild and Princeton went up for the first time when Hummer turned out of the post, squared up and nailed a short jumper.
The only Princeton lead of the game lasted 30 seconds, Leffelman tossing one in from the left corner.
Mavraides could not score inside, the offensive rebound coming to Saunders standing in the same spot where he had just connected. This shot did not have the same success.
Halpern's turning fade-away out of the post was both beautiful and impossible to guard. Maddox answered with two more free throws as Halpern could not guard Maddox going to his left.
Princeton got the ball back with a chance to go in front after Saunders defended Sullivan well on a jumper. Hummer's spinning jumper went out of bounds to Brown. Halpern over Maddox came up short and an open Mavraides on the left wing was off.
With the Tigers down 51-48 at the 8:32 to mark, Maddox in the right corner blocked Sullivan clean. After the ball was deflected and the rebound about be collected, Maddox was called for a foul long after the release on the jumper following through the play. Maddox put his hands over his mouth in disbelief. Coach Johnson argued to no avail. Sullivan went to the line and made all three chances yet again. 54-48 Brown.
Saunders to a spinning Hummer got two back. Hummer was fouled by Sullivan but missed the free throw.
Hummer picked McGonagill's pocket and tried to go up the left sideline. McGonagill attempted to cut off Hummer twice but could not get fully in front of Hummer. As Hummer tried to avoid being bodied out of bounds he pushed off on McGonagill and was whistled for an offensive foul instead of first calling McGonagill's obstruction. The ball went back to Brown. McCarthy turned the ball over and the lead stayed four.
A posting Maddox went out to Saunders for a short, errant jumper.
Sullivan galloped into the paint and eventually Mavraides picked up the foul. Two more Sullivan free throws.
Hummer hit both ends of a one-and-one for a 56-52 count. McGonagill combined with McCarthy on a nice drive and dish for two. McCarthy was the repeated recipient of several keen feeds, this time elevating over three Princeton players on the right baseline.
Darrow cut the lead in half but with the Tigers needing a stop Halpern could not be slowed and McGonagill's first basket of the second half was an outside dagger. The Bears went up 61-55 with 5:01 to go.
Maddox hung in the air but his shot was short. McGonagill found McCarthy after drawing defense with the shot clock running low and the comeback would need to be eight points with 3:11 left.
Halpern's three did not connect, but Saunders was rightfully called for holding his man low on the rebound try. McCarthy made both free throws for a 65-55 count. Brown's run of made free throws eventually ended in the final :35 seconds but by this point the Bears had made 23 straight and their lead was up to a game high 14.
"Defensively I thought we were tragic tonight," said Johnson in no uncertain terms. While Princeton's offense had not been stellar the previous two games at Cornell and Yale - the defense had carried the day since the OT win over Penn. It was unexpected that the Tigers' guarding would be what let the team down.
"It was surprising," Maddox said with slumped shoulders. "I thought we have been playing very hard regardless of whether we were making shots or not in the past few games. I don't think we played as hard as we can on the defensive end."
"Sometimes you have a tough [shooting] night like that," Johnson added. "If we're not making shots and we give up 75 [total points], we've got no shot at anything."
-Brown hit 23-47 attempts (48.9%), 4-9 on threes (44.4%) and an impressive 25-27 at the line (92.6%). Princeton was 21-55 (38.2%), 4-21 outside (19.0%) and 19-24 on free throws (79.2%).
-Davis and Mavraides were a combined 2-19 from three point range on the weekend (10.5%). The Tigers are 8-47 from the perimeter (17.0%) the past three games.
-Four the four hours after Texas' loss at Nebraska, Princeton was the only team in Division I still undefeated in conference play. That would end later on Saturday in Providence.
-Kudos to the Princeton band, which made the unexpected trip to Rhode Island.