Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Ian Hummer & Douglas Davis:
The start to Princeton’s 31 day road trip was in serious jeopardy of running off the pavement before they even crossed state lines. Their 17 point lead gone, Rutgers in front for the first time all night with 1:38 left in the second half and a frequently silent crowd now up on their feet, the Tigers regained control of the wheel - scoring on their final three possessions and escaping the RAC with a two point victory.
That final pair came on Ian Hummer’s left-handed floater in the lane with :02.7 to go. Hummer was able to post at the tail end of a play that did not flow exactly as scripted and snake under Austin Johnson to push up the game-winner.
“We wanted to get the ball to Ian on the block and give him a little bit of room to operate,” Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson said. “We’ve had some success for that play. They didn’t double and it turned out nicely for us.”
Jerome Seagears’ attempt from mid-court did not make it to the rim as time expired.
Hummer finished with 21 points on 7-15 shooting from the floor and a season-best 7-9 performance at the free throw line. He added eight rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocks.
Douglas Davis hit five times from three point range and was 3-4 behind the arc in the second half.
Denton Koon provided 10 points off the bench, making all five of his field goals.
The Tigers led 51-35 with 6:47 to go but four minutes later the scoreboard was even.
Eli Carter’s 17 paced the Scarlet Knights in defeat.
A sloppy start full of settled-for jump shots instead of higher percentage interior play lasted longer for one of these two teams than the other.
Princeton missed their first five attempts, starting with a baseline jumper from Davis on down to a pair of tries inside from T.J. Bray.
However, a screening Hummer freed Mack Darrow behind the three point line and Darrow tossed in a pass from Davis for a 3-0 count. Hummer followed that with a scoop under the arms of Scarlet Knights big man Gilvydas Biruta.
Rutgers in turn missed their first six shots as well as a pair of free throws and committed five turnovers. They were scoreless through the first media time out. Following a Davis feed to Hummer cutting that rattled in as Mike Poole committed a foul, Princeton held an 8-0 lead seven minutes in.
Finally Dane Miller was able to drive to his left off the glass with 12:57 left in the half to get Rutgers on the board.
Expecting to see 40 minutes of ball pressure starting in the backcourt, it was surprising that the Scarlet Knights did not attempt to hound Davis and Bray earlier.
Hummer driving to his left found Davis with a two hand pass and Davis connected on the right side for three, the 211th triple of Davis’ career which inched him past Steve Goodrich on the Princeton all-time scoring list into 11th place.
Seagears popped at the free throw line before Princeton responded with a dunk from Denton Koon. The play was set up by Darrow diving to the floor to save a loose ball. From his back Darrow found Patrick Saunders and Saunders got the ball to Koon under the rim. Koon quickly sprang up to throw the ball down.
A far side three by Carter and Austin Johnson’s layup converting a poor entry pass by Saunders quickly the other way drew Rutgers within four.
Davis hit again from outside, this time on the right wing in front of the Rutgers bench.
It was looking like a first half similar to last month’s game at NC State where Princeton’s inability to add to an early lead would result in the BCS school catching the visitors from the Ivy League.
Biruta, who went scoreless last year at Jadwin Gym, was able to tip home a Johnson layup try on the weakside for his first career points versus the Tigers. Hummer answered at the other end, beating a double team off the glass.
Sure it is a small sample size, but Biruta was a perfect 2-2 from three point range this season and when he fired from the top of the key that percentage stayed unblemished and the game was tied for the first time since the opening tip with 5:17 left before the break.
Hummer’s quick move on the left baseline resulted in a foul on Carter and Hummer made both of his free throw attempts.
A Hummer post move with the shot clock low was blocked by the helping hand of Poole but Davis stole the ball back from Biruta and led a two on one with Bray. Giving the ball up late, Bray was unable to finish the break. Hummer got underneath and grabbed the offensive board, fouled by Biruta. At the line for a one and one Hummer made the first before the pressure of five consecutive free throws for the first time this season overwhelmed him into a miss.
Hummer’s reverse layup finishing with his left hand did more than draw a collective “oooooh!” from the crowd. It also put Princeton up 23-19 late in the half.
Perhaps because Bill Carmody was in the building wearing a bright orange t-shirt from his days as Princeton head coach, the Tigers went into a 1-3-1 zone on defense.
Poole’s right baseline jumper went in and out. Davis came up short after some inside/out play and Davis was inside the circle as a secondary defender on Poole’s drive, resulting in a foul. Poole made one of two free throws and if Rutgers could get a stop they would have the final possession of the half with a chance to tie.
The shot clock was under five when Darrow had to race to the far sideline and save a loose ball. Darrow got the ball to just-inserted John Comfort who turned on the left wing and connected as time ran out on his only shot of the game, doubling Princeton’s lead.
Myles Mack was short from the top of the arc and Princeton led 26-20 at the break.
Halfway home, Princeton was 9-27 from the floor (33.3%), 4-16 from three (25.0%) and 4-5 at the line (80.0%, all Ian Hummer). Hummer had 12 to double the Tigers’ second-highest scorer. It was not pretty but it was effective.
Rutgers shot 8-22 (36.4%), 2-9 from three (22.2%) and 2-6 on free throws (33.3%) committing 13 turnovers.
An early push after intermission by the Scarlet Knights drew them within one. Carter missed a layup so poorly he could control the ball again on the other side of the rim that it nearly cleared. Princeton’s defense losing its shape, Carter found Mack on the right wing for three. Davis answered with a razor-precise three on the diagonal position of the floor. With that shot Davis passed Gabe Lewullis for third place at Princeton in most made three pointers. He also gave his team a six point lead.
Bray was rightfully called for an offensive foul in the backcourt as he pushed over Mack guarding him tightly. Mack hung in the lane among Darrow and Hummer for a high degree of difficulty layup.
Darrow was knocked down leaping in the air with the ball in the post, looking more for a foul call than trying to shoot at the rim. The other way Rutgers went and Mack scored on a drive, fouled by Koon.
Princeton’s lead was sliced to a single point after the free throw, 31-30. The crowd was showing interest in the game again. Then the Tigers ran off nine straight to silence everyone wearing red in attendance. Hummer on one side of the post found Koon creeping in on the other. Hummer broke up a bounce pass intended for Biruta and scored off the glass for two.
Back in the 1-3-1 on defense, Carter missed from the left side for three and Johnson’s hook shot after an offensive rebound was left well short.
Hummer on the arc passed diagonally to Koon cutting for a quick dunk off the opposite block.
Biruta missed for the first time this season from three point range and Davis did not out of the far corner. Suddenly it was a game-best 10 point Princeton lead.
That advantage continued to build. Biruta all alone under the basket following a well-executed pick and roll blew a two handed dunk, which came to Davis. It was Davis’ turn to find Koon, again cutting hard and jumping quickly to score inside. An airballed three from Mack came right to Bray under the rim. Hummer across the lane found Davis outside for his third straight make of the second half and a 46-32 score.
Once-highly coveted by Penn, freshman forward Greg Lewis for Rutgers set an illegal screen and was whistled for it. Hummer’s lefty floater from the free throw line and a Darrow free throw took the Tiger edge up to 17 with 7:58 to go. Princeton appeared in complete control.
Hummer was unsuccessful on a free throw jumper before Johnson drove and was fouled by Koon.
Bray was bodied in the backcourt by Miller and the lead stayed a comfortable 16 with 6:47 showing after Bray’s first two points of the night off the line.
Miller had an offensive rebound for a pair and Bray pushed at midcourt made one of his next two free throws.
For whatever reason, it took 32+ minutes, but Rutgers finally began flying all over the floor on defense like the Princeton staff had expected them to do going off of tape from the Scarlet Knights’ earlier games this season.
“They were playing as hard as you can possibly play and it really affected us,” Henderson confessed. “I think we were stuck [at 52 points] for what seemed like the whole night.”
It wasn’t the whole night but it was almost four minutes of game time. During that span Rutgers ran off 15 straight.
A “chin” screen freed Bray for a second but he lost the ball going up. Carter pulled up from the top in transition to draw within 12.
Davis pushed the ball to Hummer who surprisingly blew a high probability layup try. Davis fouled Carter and Carter made both sides of his one and one. Lead down to 10.
A Davis pass went off Koon’s hands and back to Rutgers. Carter faked a three and leaned in for two. As Princeton inbounded, the ball came to Hummer, who was guarded tightly by Johnson. Hummer used his elbow to create some space and made contact, resulting in a Flagrant 1 technical foul. It was a worst case scenario resulting in:
-A third foul on Hummer.
-Two free throws by Biruta, both good.
-Possession staying with Rutgers due to the offensive foul.
-Mack driving down the lane and scoring before Hummer could block his try at the rim.
-A 52-48 game.
The pressure increased and RAC of 2011 sounded closer to the RAC of yore. Hummer in the post with the shot clock running low had the ball poked away and by the time it came out to Darrow the horn sounded.
Carter’s three point try was well short of the rim and everyone watched the ball’s trajectory save for Seagers, who raced in unchecked and laid the accidental pass home.
Things got frantic. A crossing pass by Hummer was intercepted at midcourt. Mack tried to try inside but came up short. Davis the other way got into the lane and tried to step back on the left baseline, hitting the side of the rim.
Carter switched to his left down the lane and tied the score at 52. It was the culmination of a 20-3 Rutgers run.
Davis was fouled at half court trying to maneuver around Seagers and Davis made his first free throw but then missed for just the second time all season.
Carter’s left elbow jumper went long but Bray was called for holding Miller down on the floor so he could not grab the rebound. Miller went to the line and two free throws gave Rutgers their first lead after 38:22 of basketball had transpired.
Possessing the best player on the floor, Princeton used him every time down. Hummer tried to muscle the ball up in traffic stuck in the paint but came up short. There was Koon again, cleaning up to make it 55-54 Tigers.
Miller scored inside over Jimmy Sherburne, in for defensive purposes in place of Davis. 56-55 Rutgers.
A zip pass by Darrow to Hummer cutting down the lane drew a whistle. So much has been made here about Hummer’s free throw shooting struggles and how they are directly tied to Princeton’s success his junior year. With two chances and the game in the balance, Hummer never hit the rim on either attempt. Both sailed through the circle perfectly.
Down one, Carter used a Biruta screen and drove to his right, bumped by Sherburne with :18.8 showing. Carter was short on his first and tied the game for a fifth and final time on the second.
Rutgers pressed full court and Princeton was able to get the ball onto their side of the floor and call their final time out with :14.0 to go. Bray inbounded to Hummer in the backcourt, who brought the ball over. Hummer set up on the far block with Davis on the same side outside the arc. It took a while for Hummer to get posted with limited obstruction but eventually the feed came and Hummer hesitated to assess his options before curling around Johnson for the game winner.
“We kind of messed up the play,” Hummer admitted afterwards. “The goal of it was to get it to me in the post. We somehow managed to do that even thought we kind of deviated from that.”
“I practice that shot a lot and it went in.”
Seagears was surrounded by Tigers halfway up the floor and it was clear as the ball left his hand it did not have the distance or the accuracy to change the outcome.
“I am very happy for the guys that we had success on what was really 30 minutes played well and then 10 minutes not so well,’ Henderson assessed.
For Hummer, his final shot was a relief, ending a stretch of time he did not think would ever conclude. “The pressure [Rutgers was] putting on the final five minutes of the game was like the longest five minutes of my life,” he said. Still, how Princeton responded their final three times with the ball showed the junior forward something that might have been missing in earlier games. “We had a lot of turnovers but I think we stayed in there and I think that really showed the character of our team – no matter what happens we’re going to keep doing our thing and keep running our offense. We got a good win out of it.”
For the first time since 1999, Princeton was heading home from Rutgers victorious.
-Making 50% of their shots in the second half (11-22), Princeton finished the game 20-49 from the field (40.8%), 7-23 from three point range as they did not look to launch as often from behind the arc after intermission (30.4%) and a season-best 12-17 on free throws (70.6%). The Tigers had 17 assists and 15 turnovers.
-Rutgers was 20-53 shooting the ball (37.7%), 4-16 outside (25.0%) and 13-18 at the line (72.2%). The Scarlet Knights had eight assists compared to 18 turnovers.
-Both of Mitch Henderson’s collegiate coaches were seated behind the Princeton bench on Wednesday night. “I won two games here with both those guys as head coaches. It was great to see both Bill and Coach Carril in the stands, Henderson said adding “I think Bill was wearing some orange. That’s a good sign.”
-Will Barrett did not suit up for Princeton. Barrett was relegated to the sidelines on crutches with a boot covering his right foot. “We’ll know more tomorrow,” Henderson said of Barrett’s status. “We’re waiting for one final scan and a talk with the doctors. He’s game-to-game right now.”
-Clay Wilson and Bobby Garbade were also out of the lineup. Wilson was seen before the game doing some strength exercises on his right shoulder with Princeton’s trainer.
-Davis now has 215 three pointers and 1,223 points for his career. Next up in Davis’ ascent: Sean Jackson (235 threes, second place) and Brian Taylor (1,239 points, tenth place).
-Denton Koon is 11-12 from the floor the last two games.
-Two of Princeton’s starters did not record a field goal. Patrick Saunders (0-3) and T.J. Bray (0-7) both had difficulty converting open outside opportunities.