Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Ian Hummer & Douglas Davis:
Leaving plenty of points short of the rim, either at point blank range or from the free throw line, Princeton found itself chasing Elon for the entire second half.
On four separate occasions the Tigers teased within one but were unable to reclaim a lead they only held briefly early.
After the Phoenix threw a cross court pass away with :13.6 to go, Princeton received one final opportunity.
However, Douglas Davis’ three point attempt at the buzzer hit only the iron as time ran out and the Tigers were on the wrong side of a 56-55 final.
Princeton made a woeful 15 of 29 free throws (51.7%), which was barely better than Elon’s 12-23 (52.2%).
“Anytime you get 19 offensive rebounds and you shoot 29 free throws, you like your chances,” said head coach Mitch Henderson after the orange and black’s third loss in four games. “A pretty disappointing result tonight.”
Ian Hummer had 18 for the Tigers on 5-21 shooting, 2-14 in the opening frame. He was joined in double figures by Davis with 12.
Drew Spradlin’s 13 paced three Phoenix in double digits.
Because Princeton was running their offense well versus Elon’s man to man defense save for the final step of putting the ball in the basket, the depth of the Tigers’ issues weren’t completely apparent early. Princeton missed their first six shots but they were mostly the shots you would want taken by the players you would want taking them: Will Barrett on a long-armed drive, Hummer in the post, Davis out of the left corner.
Only Hummer’s long jumper off the dribble floating right felt forced.
Finally T.J. Bray fed Hummer in the post who passed to Davis cutting for a 2-2 score.
Spradlin to his left in the lane was countered by Hummer to a curling Patrick Saunders.
When Hummer got deep position on Ryley Beaumont and called aggressively for the ball from Mack Darrow, scoring as he was fouled, it was impossible to know that:
-7-5 would be the final Princeton lead of the night.
-Hummer would make but one of his next 10 shots before intermission.
Egheosa Edomwonyi faced up Darrow and scored to tie the game a third time. Darrow turned the ball over under pressure and Austin Hamilton had a lil’ flip in the lane.
While Davis crossed over his man with a wide dribble and launched a three point shot on the left side with 10:14 to go to even the ledger, Princeton continued to come up one possession short of making it a different sort of game.
Even at 15, Elon suddenly scored 13 points in seven possessions. A drive, a dish and a fake from Edomwonyi sent the Phoneix back in front for good. Hummer got screened off in traffic leaving Sebastian Koch open on the right wing for three. A reverse layup by Hummer and a Hummer hook each couldn’t drop. Lucas Troutman, quiet to this point, hit a lefty hook over Darrow.
A posting Bray was flagged for hooking the smaller Hamilton in the lane and at the other end of Jadwin Gym Spradlin cannoned a triple on the far side.
The Elon lead extended to 28-15 when Darrow slapped the ball lose from Edomwonyi but the ball bounced right back to the Phoenix forward for two.
Still down 13 with 2:56 to go, Princeton began to put the ball in the basket more consistently. A deep righty hook from Darrow started this short run. Davis’ drive drew the defense allowing Darrow to size one up at the top of the arc.
Out of an Elon time out Koch could not connect but Denton Koon’s open left-handed scoop didn’t fall.
Some two man action between Hummer and Davis, the former screening for the latter setting up a path to the basket where Davis scored as Spradlin fouled him drew the Tigers within 32-25.
The shot clock four seconds ahead of the game clock, Elon held the ball until Spradlin on the left baseline was cut off by Hummer for the Princeton junior’s second personal. Spradlin added one of two free throws and Davis stumbled with the ball as the half expired.
Not only were the Tigers 10-32 from the floor for the half (31.3%) but they were actually 2-3 from three point range, meaning their attempts inside the arc hit at a 27.6% clip. Princeton was also 3-5 on free throws (60.0%).
Hummer was 2-14 from the floor and at times looked to be trying to do too much to help his team, racing to the game as compared to allowing the game to come to him. “Most of my [first half] shots, probably 3-4 excluded, were shots I should have taken around the rim – hook shots that I usually make,” Hummer assessed. “I guess I just got caught up in the moment. There are 3-4 [forced] shots that I should have passed out.”
Elon went 12-23 overall (52.2%), 3-6 outside (50.0%) and 6-13 at the line (46.2%). Spradlin’s nine led all scorers.
To start the second half - returning to their original starting five of Bray, Barrett, Connolly, Davis and Hummer - Princeton continued to mix good offensive movement sans the final, most crucial step.
A posting Hummer drew the defense into the lane and dropped a pass to Connolly under the hoop for a layup, his lone field goal. Princeton got the ball back when Connolly blocked a Spradlin drive with the shot clock at one.
Davis rolling to the basket fed Connolly going up for a dunk but only Connolly’s hands reached the rim as Troutman blocked the attempt from behind. At the other end Hamilton got caught in the air but was able to feed Spradlin for a layin and a four point swing.
Saunders from the just behind the free throw line fired long and Hummer got a whistle grabbing the offensive board, the fourth foul on Elon versus zero for the Tigers. Hummer made both his attempts.
The momentum continued as Koon blocked a Spradlin jumper and Bray pushing into the paint found Saunders for the layup.
With both Hummer and Davis resting, Princeton was able to inch closer. Spradlin missed a pair at the line, part of a 1-6 start for his night. A high arc hook shot by Saunders rolled off the rim before a lively Koon slipped between two defenders for the offensive rebound, fouled going back up. Koon made one of two and it was 37-34.
Edomwonyi lost the ball and got it back a second time to score in the lane.
Hummer was fouled trying to finish off a Bray pass. Hummer missed both free throws, but on the second he beat Edomwonyi to the ball from the line and was fouled another time going up. Hummer split his second pair.
When Hummer got his hand in a passing lane on the perimeter and turned a Kevin Blake turnover into yet another whistle on a drive, Hummer could again only make one of his two chances. It was however a one possession game again.
Hummer with his right hand was unable to draw Princeton within one but Connolly snared an offensive rebound, fouled by Jack Isenbarger trying to strip the ball free. Connolly made both his free throws for a 39-38 score.
Connolly then bodied Brett Irvin on a move inside for Connolly’s fourth personal foul. With Darrow subbing for Connolly, Irvin scored inside.
A penetrating Darrow down the center of the paint dished to his right where Koon went quickly up with two hands for a dunk.
Spradlin looked like he carried but kept control long enough for Bray to foul him. 1-6 at the line to this point, Spradlin made both chances.
Hummer found Davis in the lane and Davis hung in the air long enough to score off the glass.
Like they had each of the prior two times they made it a one point game, Princeton could not get the defensive stop to have the ball in their hands with a chance to take the lead.
“We had many opportunities to get back in that game, we just couldn’t grab the lead,” said Henderson. “It was unfortunate with opportunities that we had that we couldn’t pull it out because our defense was so good.”
Troutman kept possession alive on the offensive glass and scored off the window.
Koon attempted a left side jumper which was off the mark, then fouled Hamilton in the far corner on the wrist as he fired up a three point try. All three attempts were true for a 48-42 Elon lead.
Davis attacked to his left and stepped back for two.
Beaumont drove into Hummer sliding his feet for an offensive foul and Hummer was run over by Hamilton as Hummer set a screen on the perimeter. Hummer split another pair at the line and Princeton narrowed within 48-45.
Elon scored the game’s next five points to regain control. A long two for Troutman was followed by a lefty flick for Troutman and Princeton had seven minutes to make up an eight point deficit.
It feels like dÃ©jÃ vu to keep typing the same series of events, but Connolly split a pair as he was fouled going to his left and Bray did the same on his first trip to the line. When Bray missed Connolly kept the ball with Princeton.
With the shot clock running low Bray had to fire a three point try in front of the Princeton bench. Elon came down the court and Hamilton to Ervin to Koch resulted in a painful three point shot to set the stage at 56-49. This was the Phoenix’s only three point try of the second half and they made it count.
Hummer drove to his left and Saunders gave the ball back to Princeton off an Elon player. Saunders went to the floor as the clock stopped and came up holding the right side of his rib cage.
Koon’s lefty drive was blocked by Troutman into Davis’ hands. Davis found Hummer driving on the other side and Hummer was fouled by Troutman. Hummer missed both chances at the line and the lead stayed five for Elon.
Off a Hamilton turnover into Ben Hazel’s hands, Hazel threw a long outlet lob to Hummer. Grabbing and going up in one motion, Hummer could not finish the feed but a trailing Koon bounded the ball home.
Connolly blocked Troutman’s jumper and a pass by Troutman to Koch across the floor sailed into press row.
Davis settled for a long step back try, not the best shot given the circumstance.
Henderson was not happy with his team’s decision-making down the stretch. Too often Princeton tried jump shots even though the Phoenix were in the double bonus for the last 9:24 of the second half.
“Any possession where we were taking a long two, those are the not the shots I think are the best for us in those situations,” he said.
Troutman drove at Bray and left his shot short before Spradlin grabbed the offensive board. It was Spradlin’s turn to miss the front end of a critical one and one.
Hummer to his right recognized Koon sailing down the right baseline. Koon was fouled by Beaumont as he went up with 1:10 to go but could not complete his reverse layup try. Koon at the line left his first chance short and his second hit the rim three times before falling back to earth. The score remained 56-53.
Spradlin left a runner short and Hummer rebounded, undercut by Spradlin. This time Hummer was on the mark both times and Princeton was back within one as :40.4 remained.
Bray guarded Hamilton tightly and nearly created a five second violation, the official bringing his hand back to say Hamilton was no longer being closely defended after a four+ count.
As Bray continued to pressure, Hamilton threw the ball over Troutman’s outstretched leap with :13.6 to go. Princeton called time out.
Davis inbounded to Bray who brought the ball up. Hummer on the left wing looked to drive but once he was in traffic he passed back out to Hazel. While Hazel did not show any intention of shooting, he did come back to the free throw line and fired a pass to Davis on the left wing. Davis tried to step into the potential game winner with the clock nearing zero but got nothing but iron as the game concluded.
“While the last shot was disappointing I felt the game was lost in the first half and at the free throw line,” Henderson confessed.
With the Tigers 15-38 on layups and tips, not to mention 1-10 on two point jump shots, it was hard to disagree with this claim. Princeton's defense kept them in the game but their offense, like so many of their attempts from the field, just came up short.
-Princeton shot 19-58 overall (32.8%), 2-8 on three point attempts (25.0%) and 15-29 at the line (51.7%). The Tigers had nine assists (five belonging to Hummer) and a season low eight turnovers.
-Elon hit 20-44 tries (45.5%), 4-7 from three (57.1%) and 12-23 from the line (52.2%).
-The two teams combined to go a hideous 27-52 on free throws (51.9%).
-Princeton’s 19 offensive rebounds were the most by a Tiger team since 21 in a 1999 win over Yale.
-Hummer’s 15 free throw attempts were the third-most by a Princeton player since 1996. Both Mason Rocca (10-18 versus Rutgers) and Judson Wallace (15-17 versus Davidson) went to line more often in games that had an overtime period.