Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson, Kareem Maddox & Douglas Davis:
Finally, we can talk about Saturday.
With Harvard out to a comfortable 22 point lead over Penn and Princeton trailing by one in Hanover, a 16-0 run sparked by the play of Will Barrett and T.J. Bray off the bench turned that Dartmouth lead midway through the first half into a 33-18 Princeton advantage and the Tigers held a double digit buffer the rest of the night.
Douglas Davis was one of four Princeton players in double figures, nine of his 14 coming in the first half. Ian Hummer and Kareem Maddox each contributed 12 and Patrick Saunders hit three times from behind the arc in the second half despite a broken left thumb on his way to 11.
A three point play from Brendan Connolly and a lefty Hummer jump hook made it a 40-20 game to open the second stanza. The margin extended to as wide as 25 and the Big Green would get no closer than 14.
Princeton, which shot 50.8% from the floor versus Dartmouth, heads to Harvard tomorrow. A win would advance the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. A loss presents a far more difficult path. Princeton would need to beat Penn on Tuesday and then defeat Harvard on a neutral floor later that week to decide the Ivy League's NCAA bid.
Early on at Leede Arena, Dartmouth looked to drive right at the center of the Princeton defense. R.J. Griffin's penetration gave the Big Green a 2-0 lead. Davis was somehow able to up and under around Rufful and throw in an off-balance teardrop with the shot clock at one.
Ronnie Dixon went past Hummer to the hole and Davis countered with a high-arcing push in the lane over Clive Weeden. The Dartmouth chances were of a much higher percentage than what Princeton was converting.
When Weeden spun to his right and scored versus two Tigers, the Big Green had a 6-4 edge.
Dartmouth looked to switch often between zone and man on defense. Rufful the other way after a Mavraides miss on a drive was soon followed by a turning jumper for Rufful over Mack Darrow that put Princeton down six.
Hummer began to find his openings, scoring three consecutive field goals. A lefty hook came first. Hummer batted the ball from Rufful into the air on the far sideline, controlled and raced ahead, scoring under the contact of the oncoming Weeden. Hummer missed his free throw, the Tigers' only attempt of the half.
Dixon circled around Maddox and scored to his right, a nice play for a 12-8 Dartmouth advantage.
Keen sight by Darrow to Hummer right down the center of the lane made it six straight points for the sophomore.
Mavraides missed an open jumper, his third off-target try to open the game. Jabari Trotter's lefty floater doubled the Big Green lead.
Davis stepped outside and fired home a triple after taking a pass from Darrow. Over eight minutes in and Davis (7) and Hummer (6) had all of Princeton's points.
When Bray entered the fray at the 11:24 mark, the Tigers' fortunes improved. Bray's lateral movement stopped most Dartmouth drives before they could start hurtling inside the arc.
"We're kind of getting slow starts - offensively I think that's fine but defensively we can't start slowly," Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson said. "We're playing teams that are too good. We've got to be locked in defensively to start the game."
Around the horn passing from Princeton eventually went inside to Maddox on the left baseline, right up to the rim for his first basket. 15-14 Tigers.
Dixon to the hole flipped the ball above his head for two over Saunders. Maddox found Saunders cutting to answer.
Matt LaBove bodied Saunders inside and Saunders flopped, leaving LaBove an easy opportunity to turn and score on the block. It would be Dartmouth's last points for over eight minutes.
Maddox moving to his right set up Barrett in the corner for a three. The Big Green looked to occasionally play Maddox man-to-man while zoning the rest of the Princeton team. This reduced Maddox's scoring ability but allowed him to facilitate the offense.
Davis and Saunders misfired from outside, as did Mavraides out of the right corner. Bray tracked down the rebound and Hummer on the left hit Bray cutting down the right for a layup.
A Mavraides drive freed Bray for his third three point shot of the season and a 25-18 edge.
Tyler Melville's short jumper over Maddox was well-defended and Mavraides rebounded, throwing a stellar pinpoint pass from Dartmouth's three point arc that dropped right into the arms of Maddox under the Princeton basket. The Big Green called time down nine.
Melville's three went in and out, then Mavraides came up too strong on a drive, his sixth straight miss from the floor. Barrett fouled over the back on the Gediminas Bertasius rebound - significant only because it was Princeton's first personal foul occurring 15:03 in to the half.
Following two more Dartmouth misses outside, Maddox went to his left for two. The lead remained 11 when Dixon drove right at Barrett and could only muster a shot that came up short of the backboard, glass and rim as it landed on the sideline.
Davis zipped a pass from the perimeter to Hummer for a layup and off a Trotter miss, Mavraides pushed the ball to set up Davis on the left wing for a jumper inside the arc. Princeton's lead was a half high 15.
LaBove took a Dixon feed and scored under the wave of Maddox's arms to end an 8:28 sequence between Big Green scores.
Princeton's final basket of the half may also have been their nicest. Dixon missed a three and Maddox rebounded, then lined a two-handed pass that sailed parallel to the ground from well beyond half court to Mavraides catching in stride next to the Tiger basket for a layup. It was Mavraides' only basket in 12 tries, moving him up to 994 career points.
"These guys have embraced pushing the pace and getting up and down," Johnson said of Princeton's ability to score quickly in transition. "These were a few more plays where they showed their skills in the open court."
After starting the half 5-7 from the floor, Dartmouth went 5-23 the rest of the way. The Big Green shot 33.3% overall, 0-9 from three point range and did not attempt a free throw.
Princeton was 16-30 come intermission (55.3%), 3-9 outside (33.3%) and 0-1 the only time they went to the line. While Mavraides was a woeful 1-8 he did lead both teams with seven rebounds.
Maddox had six points and four assists in 15 minutes, nearly half of Princeton's 10 dimes. Nine for Davis led all scorers on both sides.
"We just stayed true to what we did in our offense and our defense. That's what we do," Davis said of Princeton's 16-0 run. "That's what everybody is coming to know Princeton is about - stopping people and making some shots at the other side."
Returning to their starting lineup of Saunders, Hummer, Brendan Connolly, Davis and Mavraides - the Tigers looked to establish Connolly inside on the first possession of the second half. Connolly slowly lumbered to his right with a few dribbles into the center of the paint, then quickly spun away from Weeden off the glass while drawing contact for a three point play.
Melville lost the ball on a left baseline drive, which Davis picked up off the floor. Hummer's lefty jump hook allowed the Tigers to double up Dartmouth, 40-20.
Rufful on the right and Davis on the left traded triples. Crisp passing from Connolly to Hummer to Saunders in the near corner to Davis on the right wing deserved to be rewarded and Davis' shot hit the front him, popped up and eventually nestled itself in the netting.
Up 43-25, Maddox drew two defenders on the left side of the floor and passed back to Saunders spotting up a few steps behind.
Princeton utilized Maddox as a consistent, steady way to conclude possessions. Darrow and Maddox played give-and-go with the latter grabbing a pass out of the air from the former and scoring in traffic.
Mavraides continued to struggle, needing to think a moment when left wide open on the wing before having an uncontested jumper bound in and out.
Hummer was blocked by Bertasius from behind but stayed with the play for a second chance putback and a 50-30 score. Bray was fouled by Dixon from above and the officials ruled the foul was on the floor despite Bray pushing the ball upwards through Dixon. A diagonal pass by Saunders to Bray for a short banker earned Bray the points he had deserved.
Saunders on the left wing for three took the Tiger lead up to a game-best 25.
Leading 60-36 on a touch pass by Darrow to Connolly for a baby two-hand dunk-ish layin that the box score somehow called a jumper, Dartmouth made a final push towards decency. The Big Green's Rufful hit twice from outside and when Rufful's layup try was goaltended by Darrow after Maddox lost the ball among three Dartmouth players for his only turnover of the game, the score became 62-48 with 6:09 still to go.
The Tigers answered with eight of the game's next 10 and the benches were ready to clear. Maddox exploded by Bertasius and scored with his left hand as he hung in the air and drew Weeden's body close.
Davis made both ends of a one-and-one after being bumped by Melville on a left side drive. Maddox brushed off Melville's reach on a stride to the hoop but left his shot short. Instead he got two free throws which were both on target. Bray's putback of a Barrett outside shot looking to beat the buzzer made the score 70-50 and gave Bray a career high of nine.
Late baskets by Bobby Foley (a three point shot the first time he touched the rock), John Comfort (laying home a pair of Daniel Edwards misses) and Edwards (receiving a lengthy outlet pass by Jimmy Sherburne) closed the scoring.
After all of the scenarios, permutations and discussions over the past week, Princeton's path was now a simple one - win and you're in.
"It is obviously a big game," said Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson of his team's pending meeting with the Crimson after the Tigers' 23rd win of the season. "I think we've worked pretty hard to put ourselves in this spot. We're just going to try and play hard and see what happens."
"It is going to be fun," Davis added with a twinkle in his eye. "I'm looking forward to it. Let's go. Throw the balls out, toss it up and let's play."
-Princeton shot 31-61 from the floor (50.8%), 8-20 from three (40.0%) and 7-10 at the line (70.0%). The Tigers outrebounded Dartmouth 38-29 and had 19 assists to nine turnovers.
-No Princeton player saw more than 29 minutes of action. For those curious, four Harvard starters saw more than 30 minutes of action versus Penn.
-Dartmouth went 24-48 from the field (41.4%), 4-16 from deep (25.0%) and 3-4 on free throws (75.0%). Griffin's 12 led the Big Green in defeat.
-Mavraides was 1-12 from the floor (0-6 from three) with a team-high eight rebounds, two assists and three turnovers.
-Saunders injured his thumb in practice on Thursday. Between Saunders and Barrett's tape over their respective arms and hands the pair of forwards are looking part-Tiger, part-mummy.
-The game transpired in a lightning quick 91 minutes.