Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson:
Postgame audio - Ian Hummer & Mack Darrow:
Princeton scored the game's first 20 points and eased to a 66-42 win over Division II West Alabama on the final day of the Legends Classic subregional at Bucknell.
With Douglas Davis (8) and Ian Hummer (7) leading the scoring in the opening seven minutes, the Tigers built an advantage which stayed well above 15 points for the game's final 35:51.
“While I am happy we get on the right side of the win loss column, we’re disappointed overall in the weekend,” said Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson.
The Tigers won once in three tries while in Lewisburg, dropping games to the host school and Morehead State.
“When you’re 1-5 you’ll take anything, so a win is a win but there are still a lot of things we can work on,” Hummer added.
The junior from Vienna, VA finished with 18 points in 21 minutes of floor time. Mack Darrow, starting in place of Brendan Connolly had 10 points, nine rebounds, five assists and no turnovers.
The Tigers’ early surge to put the result away masked a trio of ongoing concerns: Princeton continued to settle for three point shots instead of working the ball into the post, still shot poorly overall from the floor, and were not as attentive defensively in the second half as they were in the opening frame.
Still, the execution with the ball to open the day was a welcome sight regardless of opponent. An up and under move from Hummer keeping his pivot foot while going glass gave Princeton points on their first opportunity and the Tigers would lead from there. A posting Hummer to Patrick Saunders outside resulted in a high-arcing three pointer. A streaking Hummer following a Bray steal was rewarded in transition, then a handoff screen from Darrow to Davis behind the arc on the right side made it 10-0.
The Tigers found points on their first eight possessions, a second three by Davis off the left wing extending the lead to 17.
West Alabama did not score until a pair of Jared Woolfolk free throws seven minutes in, did not record a field goal until Woolfolk connected out of the right corner for three and did not grab a defensive rebound until the 11:58 mark of the half when Brendan Connolly was blocked inside.
When Hummer got a breather with his team still up 17, his teammates became too enamored with shooting from behind the three point line. The Tigers missed three straight times from distance on three straight possessions before Connolly spinning in the post passed out to Ben Hazel who in turn found Will Barrett spotting up for a 25-6 score.
“We had Ian out and the team that was out there likes to stand on the three point line a little too much,” Henderson acknowledged.
Hummer’s steal and breakaway dunk took the Tiger lead up to a new high water mark of 22 with 5:58 showing.
Bray in the lane set up Darrow on the left wing to make it 36-13 Tigers at the break.
20 minutes in and Princeton was 11-31 from the floor (35.5%), 6-18 from three (33.3%) and 8-13 on free throws (61.5%). The Tigers had eight first half assists versus two turnovers.
West Alabama made 3-20 shots (15.0%), 1-5 outside (20.0%) and 6-12 at the line (50.0%). These other Tigers had a lone assist and nine giveaways.
While the second half was a perfunctory exercise, it was one where Princeton missed a chance to hone their play at both ends.
“Once again we struggled in the second half scoring and I’d just like to see more balance,” Henderson said.
Hummer curling behind a Darrow screen for three was followed up by Davis finding a cutting Saunders, who hesitated for a second and scored off the glass. Hummer to Bray to Davis on the right side made it 44-18.
Two individual performances Henderson liked on Sunday were those of Bray and Darrow. Running the offense crisply, Bray contributed six points and five rebounds, handed out six assists, swiped three steals and only committed one turnover.
“I was very happy with T.J.’s effort tonight. We need that so badly – A brain, a solid head that can run a team and who knows what to do over 30 minutes and doesn’t turn the ball over – gets everybody in their positions where they can be successful. That was encouraging.“
“We need something at that position and we got it tonight. He had his hands on passes and was tipping balls to himself,” Henderson said of Darrow’s work in the middle. “It is good. That’s what we need.”
With Darrow at center from jump Princeton looked to run their offense off a spot inside the arc somewhere between the elbow and the corner. Darrow was effective finding the right man when he wasn’t setting hand off screens but neither Darrow or Connolly had many post chances that began on the block.
“In the second half for Brendan and I it was a struggle,” Darrow admitted. “We were letting them do too much.”
The lead reached 30 for the first time when Bray found Barrett for three at the 12:22 mark.
There’s not much to say about the final 10 minutes. Darrow to Barrett with a quick look to Denton Koon inside for a two hand slam was pretty. A Darrow touch pass to Saunders by the basket looked sharp. With only five fouls called in the vesper half (but one on West Alabama), the action moved quickly towards its inevitable result.
With four minutes to go Henderson started substituting liberally. Two minutes later Daniel Edwards got his first playing time of the season and Bobby Garbade received the first action of his collegiate career. All 15 Tigers in uniform played, only Bray exceeding 30 minutes of action.
West Alabama wasn’t a quality opponent but they were the right team for Princeton to play at the right point on their schedule. A team unsure about their identity after losing five of six to start the season could feel better about themselves for a change as they drove home to New Jersey.
“To come out of here 1-2 is very disappointing,” Hummer reiterated. “To get a bus right home with a ‘W’, we’ll take it any way we can."
-Princeton shot 23-58 overall (39.7%). The Tigers have been under 40% from the floor in every game this season save the opener versus Wagner.
-In love with the three point shot, especially versus West Alabama’s zone, Princeton launched a Sojka Pavilion record 35 treys, making 12 (34.5%).
-The Tigers did not go to the free throw line in the second half, ending the day 8-13 (61.5%).
-19 assists and 12 steals were both season highs for Princeton.
-Despite nine miscues after intermission, the Tigers matched their season low in turnovers with 11.
-West Alabama made 13-30 field goals after the break (43.3%) and were 16-50 overall (32.0%). That’s a season low for a Princeton foe.
-The other Tigers were 2-10 from deep (20.0%) and 8-15 at the line (53.3%).
-Princeton returns to action for their final home game in two months this Wednesday night at 7:00 pm ET against Lafayette.