Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson, Kareem Maddox, Bobby Foley & Dan Mavraides:
The opening 33 minutes of Dan Mavraides' final night at Jadwin Gym were a disaster - scoreless on 0-7 shooting from the floor with four turnovers.
His team, which had defeated Columbia by 30 two weeks ago, trailed the Lions 50-44 in a game Princeton had to win to stay right behind Harvard for first place in the Ivy League.
Starting with a tie up of Brian Barbour to give Princeton back the ball, Mavraides took over the end of the end - scoring all 14 of his points in the last 6:15 as the Tigers rallied for a five point win.
"There was a moment where I looked at the clock when we were down six, the game had been miserable for me specifically," recalled the senior tri-captain. "I was just like 'Why am I nervous? Why am I scared? We've been in this position a lot, I've played in this gym all the time, I've made a million shots in this gym.' I just said to myself 'just play in the moment.'"
What a series of moments the last six minutes were for Mavraides and Princeton.
A backdoor bounce pass by Mack Darrow to Mavraides tied the score at 50 and a pair of Mavraides three point jumpers right in the face of Columbia defenders helped Princeton reclaim a four point lead.
"The last two threes that I shot, I had 100% confidence in them and they felt great the whole way up. I just tried making plays. The crowd was a big help. They were loud and energized the whole time," Mavraides said following a Princeton win that concluded a perfect 12-0 home schedule, just the third Tiger team to sweep a dozen at Jadwin Gym. "Me and Kareem looked at each other one time while he was on the free throw line and we were like, 'Let's just do this. We've been here before, they haven't. Let's just win the game, man.'"
After Ampim Asenso came up too strong spinning on the block, Mavraides hit a running bank shot as he floated out of bounds from a difficult angle with :18.9 showing to cap an incredible final chapter of what had almost been an evening to forget.
"I don't know who to thank for that [final shot]," Mavraides said with a smile. "I'm just fortunate it went in."
A pair of Darrow free throws put the game away with nine seconds to play.
Fellow senior Kareem Maddox was Princeton's high man with 20 points and eight rebounds. Maddox got the start for the first time since game three at James Madison, joined on the floor by Patrick Saunders, Brendan Connolly, Mavraides and in his first career start Bobby Foley.
Noruwa Agho's game-high 21 points for Columbia came on 7-20 shooting.
At the final buzzer it was revealed Harvard had lost by one at Yale and the Tigers regained a half game lead on the Crimson with three to play.
The new starting five got off to a good start when Maddox banked in a jumper as the shot clock expired after Brendan Connolly won the opening tip from Max Craig. From that point forward the early minutes belonged to Columbia. Mavraides launched a three that came up short. Agho in the lane used a slight fake and hit. Agho's right baseline jumper over Foley put the Lions in front and Brian Barbour's three at the top made it 7-2 for the visitors. Barbour stripped Foley and went ahead for a layup that sent the Tigers down seven.
With Princeton trailing 9-2 at the 15:41 mark, Foley and Connolly came out for the rest of the evening, replaced by Douglas Davis and Ian Hummer.
Asenso Ampim's jumper ticked off the rim to Mavraides, who pushed ahead into the lane and dished off to Maddox, fouled by Craig. Both free throws were good.
Agho over Davis in the lane made it a seven point game again and following a bounce pass by Mavraides that deflected hard off the knee of a cutting Maddox, Agho picked up a free throw after Saunders fouled him on a drive.
Will Barrett checked in for Saunders and 15 seconds after his insertion threw a pass to Maddox freeing up due to a back screen under the hoop for a two hand flush. It was the Tigers' second field goal after an 1-8 start for the night.
Barrett to Hummer calling for the ball deep under the hoop resulted in a foul on Zack Crimmins and two free throws. Columbia head coach Kyle Smith left Crimmins or fellow 7'0" center Craig out on the floor despite repeated personals. Smith was determined to eventually get production from his bigs that Princeton had driven around repeatedly in New York.
Barbour's jumper versus the Princeton zone caught the front rim and dropped over Barrett.
Maddox to Darrow popping behind the arc on the right side gave Princeton some life and drew them within 14-11.
Both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket. An Agho free throw was all the scoring over a three minute stretch that ended with a very nice offensive possession for Princeton. Saunders and Davis played a two man game with Davis re-feeding Saunders in the right post. When the defense drew to Saunders he turned and threw to the opposite block where Maddox was ready to dunk it home.
Ampim was too strong and so was Saunders with a right baseline jumper, but Hummer slid in and drew a foul from Meiko Lyles as he followed the shot. Two free throws evened the score with 6:41 left in the half.
Agho and Davis traded baskets. The former pulled up over Mavraides and the latter tracked down a Ampim block of Hummer inside for a left side jumper.
Princeton grabbed their first lead when Davis drove left and flipped the ball in with his right hand off the glass for a 19-17 count.
Maddox was flagged for his second personal on a Agho drive, the whistle coming only because Agho missed his shot. Maddox was done for the half, replaced by Barrett. The 68.3% free throw shooter missed both his attempts.
Craig picked up his third personal of the opening frame pushing off on an Ampim drive, eventually but not immediately replaced by Crimmins. Davis zipped a laser to Saunders inside for a short hook and a four point Princeton lead with 3:16 showing.
Ampim answered with a drive into Saunders trying to take a charge for a three point play. Crimmins followed up after a Davis miss with a dive to the basket for two, then picked up his second personal as a posting Hummer found Mavraides driving from the top of the arc and returning the ball to Hummer inside. Hummer made his fifth straight at the line but missed the second.
A left elbow jumper by Agho as the shot clock came close to expiration put Columbia up 24-22.
T.J. Bray's long outlet to Barrett resulted in a third foul on Crimmins and when Barrett surprisingly missed both of his attempts Crimmins fouled Darrow grabbing the offensive board underneath for personal number four in five minutes of action. Darrow made one of his two chances and Barrett read Barbour's passing lane right before time expired to send Columbia off the floor up by one.
Princeton played the first half like a team on the verge of exploding offensively. A big run felt imminent but never came. Agho's jump shooting and Barbour's dribble penetration were both keys for the Lions. While Agho scored 12, it took him 13 shots to reach that total.
The Tigers were 7-22 from the field (31.8%), 1-5 from outside (20.0%) and 8-12 on free throws (75.0%). Princeton had five assists and seven turnovers with four belonging to Mavraides.
Columbia went 10-26 (38.5%), 1-3 from three (33.3%) and 3-7 at the stripe (42.9%). The Lions had a lone assist and six miscues.
The ball went to Columbia to open the back frame. A wing entry to Ampim attempting to post bounded away from him over the baseline. Princeton began to set up Maddox up top for drives with either hand. Maddox went to his left, was bumped inside and scored off the window without a whistle.
Agho used a fake to get Mavraides in the air but didn't sell the lean in for a foul well. The officials still bought it and Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson waived his pointer finger back and forth at a referee implying "no! no! no!" like Dikembe Mutumbo after he blocked a shot.
Agho made a pair, then Maddox went right at Craig and scored with additional whistle-less contact.
Hummer blocked a Ampim follow and Maddox controlled. At the other end Maddox went by Lyles and scored as Lyles caught him on the elbow. For the third straight time no foul followed.
Hummer stole the ball from behind Ampim and a posting Hummer threw a soft push up at the rim that rolled down. As Columbia dribbled up the floor Smith was called for a technical foul and Davis made one of his two attempts to give Princeton their biggest lead of the game, 32-26.
Crimmins scored on consecutive possessions - a right elbow jumper after a slight bobble over Darrow and a right hook over Darrow down low.
Mavraides' scoop was blocked by Ampim and Maddox picked up his third foul catching Agho with the body as he blocked a shot hard with his hands. Maddox had to sub out for Saunders.
With Maddox off the floor Princeton was unable to hold their lead. Crimmins' right baseline jumper drew Columbia back within 34-33 but 13 seconds later Crimmins night was done - clotheslining Barrett on a sidestepping drive for personal number five. Barrett's two free throws went home.
Davis' pressure on Barbour resulted in a travel trying to drop an entry pass down.
Barrett fed a reversing Hummer losing Ampim for a 38-33 Princeton lead.
Columbia responded with six straight. Ampim was fouled by Barrett on a spin move, converting both his attempts. Hummer was stripped by Barbour who drove to the rack. Davis' step back jumper sailed long and Agho slashed into the lane for a scoop to put Columbia back in front. It was Agho's first field goal of the second half, coming with 11:04 showing. Princeton called time out.
The break in the action allowed Maddox to return to the floor. Mavraides as well. A Mavraides three try from the right wing sailed left of the rim, catching nothing but the baseline.
With Crimmins disqualified and Craig ineffective, it became 6'7" infrequently-used junior guard Matt Johnson's turn. Johnson catch and shoot off an inbounds from Barbour took Columbia up 41-38.
Davis got two back with a stop and pop in the lane.
A pair of free throws by the 91%+ Barbour made it 43-40. Davis' contested jumper from the left corner came to Johnson and Johnson launched from the left corner in front of the Columbia bench, just his third three point shot of the season.
With Mavraides struggling, the once-inevitable Princeton run began to look less and less likely. Maddox missed twice inside but the ball bounced out to Princeton.
Hummer found a cutting Darrow, fouled by Johnson. Both free throws dropped.
Agho was isolated with Maddox guarding him, something that allowed Maddox to lock down Agho as he wouldn't stop shooting tough, contested jumpers last season. With the shot clock at one Agho pulled the trigger from the left side for a silencing rainbow over Maddox's reach.
Mavraides' drive was too strong and Maddox could not convert his follow. Columbia had the ball up six, but before Ampim could reach half court, Mavriades knocked the ball away to Maddox reversing field. Maddox dished to Mavraides who in turn passed off to Darrow for a much-needed layup.
The decent-sized crowd, which had stayed seated and interested but fairly quiet to this point. was inspired by the hustle. For the first time the student section stood up and realized nobody was going to ask them to sit down. Organized chants of "Defense! Defense!" rang out.
Ampim rolled one in over Darrow and Columbia called time up 50-44 with 7:07 showing.
Maddox spun away from Agho off the glass. Hummer blocked a Barbour drive and when Columbia inbounded on the left baseline Mavraides grabbed the ball from Barbour with two hands and forced a tie up, possession to Princeton.
Mavraides was a whirling dervish, spinning one way into the lane and then back 180 degrees to the right side as Barbour fouled him on a scoop. Mavraides finally got in the scoring column with a free throw and added a second for good measure.
Mavraides' reversal from tragic figure to heroic leader continued. His reach caused Dean Kowalski to travel in the back court and seconds later Darrow's bounding bounce pass came up to Mavraides alone for a layup down the lane that knotted the score.
Agho tested his distance with a deep three try on the left arc that spun out, but Bray was called for a foul on the rebound. Ampim made one of two at the line.
A posting Maddox was pushed in the back by Johnson and Maddox went to the line for a one-and-one. Maddox had made all four of his free throws, barely touching anything but the bottom of the net. For the first time, Maddox came up long but stepped into the lane and soared high in the air with both hands for an offensive board, fouled by Ampim as he reached his apex.
Now with two more opportunities, Maddox converted two times. Princeton had a 52-51 lead.
A near steal kicked around off some legs before Barbour drove to his right and kept the ball away from Princeton's defense with an extended arm that banked a shot off the glass.
Going to his left, Mavraides was fouled hard by Ampim and again the senior dropped in both his free throws. 54-53 Tigers with 4:11 on the clock.
Ampim's jumper from just beyond the free throw line was short and Maddox rebounded. Mavraides used a crossover dribble on the right side and launched a three pointer, heading back down the floor with three fingers raised on each hand.
Barbour, who had a very good game and ended the night with 18 points, drove with the shot clock dwindling and left the ball to Ampim, fouled by Darrow. Ampim made his first but missed his second.
Hummer's hook shot got tangled and was short of the target. Bray in one motion grabbed the offensive board but his point blank follow caromed off the glass not into the basket but into the hands of Ampim as the crowd gasped.
Bray had to chase Agho and fouled him with 1:59 showing. Two free throws made it a 57-56 game.
Again Mavraides used the crossover, this time on the left wing freeing a window in front of Frankoski for his second straight three.
Barbour out of control drove to his right and was bailed out by a friendly whistle. Barbour added two more to his stellar free throw numbers.
Since his name has been included in almost every sentence describing what Princeton did on offensive since the seven minute mark, here's one more: Mavraides drove the right baseline and passed to Hummer in the lane for a layup.
Ampim's point blank spin was too strong and naturally Mavraides rebounded. Columbia elected not to foul and Mavraides falling to his right - too far out for a layup flip and too geometrically difficult to square into a jumper - went off the glass as his momentum carried him to the baseline. The shot angled in and Princeton had a six point lead with :18.9 on the clock.
"It was just one of those moments where Dan really tried to put us on his back," Johnson said of Mavraides' incredible seven minute home finale.
"Senior Night just made it that much more special."
Barbour drove to his right and Mavraides fouled him for the three point play.
With Mavraides inbounding, Princeton ran over five seconds off the clock. Maddox cut to the far corner and returned the ball to Mavraides who pushed ahead to Davis. Crossing half court, Davis went to Darrow in the right corner and Darrow waited for Agho to make contact with :09.0 displayed.
Like he had done against Rutgers to open the season and at home against Yale, Princeton needed two free throws from Darrow to secure a victory. Darrow came through for the third time in a row, two off the line making it a two possession game.
Barbour's leaning three hit harmlessly off the rim to Hummer as time expired. The five Tigers on the floor ran over to the student section one final time and applauded their fans.
As Darrow had been setting up at the free throw line, something was happening at the scorer's table while few were looking. Something covert, but there was clearly a subtle stir. Andrew Borders, Princeton's Sports Information Director for men's basketball, walked over to PA announcer Bill Bromberg. Without selling the information that had been shared, Bromberg made a slight gesture across the court to the Tigers' radio team of John Sadak and Noah Savage, pointing a single finger in the air.
Only when the final horn had sounded did Bromberg make the reveal:
A final from New Haven.
One beat for effect.
One beat for effect.
Princeton was in the middle of their handshakes with the Lions. Suddenly, there were huge smiles, roars, fist pumps and high fives interrupting the proceedings.
With three games left to play at Dartmouth, Harvard and Penn the Tigers had moved past the Crimson by half a game.
Bobby Foley, talking to the media for the first and likely last time in his collegiate career, summed up the seniors' feelings heading up to New England in a single sentence.
"It is emotional," Foley said. "We're probably never going to have a game in Jadwin Gym again but we're not done playing."
-Princeton shot 20-50 for the game (40.0%), 3-10 from three (30.0%) and 23-29 on free throws (79.3%). The Tigers had only one second half turnover.
-Columbia was 21-52 on the evening (40.4%), 2-6 from outside (33.3%) and 17-24 from the line (70.8%). The Lions turned the ball over 12 times.
-Hummer ended with 11 and six rebounds. Darrow added 10 of his own.
-Maddox produced 20 points and allowed 9.2 for a net of +8.5.
-Mavraides' 14 points give him 992 for his Princeton career.
-Princeton honored the 1990-91 Ivy League champions at halftime. Kit Mueller, Jimmy Lane, Matt Henshon, Chris Marquardt, Jerry Doyle, Troy Hottenstein and Matt Eastwick came to center court at halftime for a photo op and a few sheepish waves.
-The 4,412 attendance number was a season high.