Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson, Mack Darrow, Ian Hummer & T.J. Bray:
It was nine years between meetings for Princeton and Rider. It was even longer between buzzer beaters for the Tigers’ Mack Darrow.
Darrow fired in a wide open three point shot from the right wing off a Douglas Davis hesitation drive as the horn sounded in overtime to give Princeton a one point win in Lawrenceville. It was Darrow’s only field goal of the game.
“I hit [a shot like that] in second grade Boys and Girls Club from the corner,” the coy Darrow said. “Since then? No.”
After trailing by as many as 16 in the first half, the Tigers closed the opening frame on a 13-2 run but were unable to overtake the Broncs until a T.J. Bray layup with 2:24 left in regulation.
Princeton built a four point lead in the final :30 before Brandon Penn hit a three point shot off a curl and added a single free throw after Davis’ backcourt turnover and foul with the shot clock off.
Daniel Stewart missed a pair of free throws with just over eight seconds left that could have in turn iced the game for Rider.
“Mack bailed us out,” said Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson. “I thought we were in pretty good shape at the end of regulation.”
“It was a crazy game,” he added. “We were very fortunate tonight.”
Ian Hummer’s 21 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists led four Tigers in double figures. Bray’s career high 11 playing all 45 minutes, the same number of tallies from Davis and 10 for freshman Denton Koon aided the cause.
Jonathon Thompson was the Broncs’ high man with 17. Anthony Miles scored 12 of his 15 in the first half.
Attacking from the top of the arc and running constant hand offs to trailing teammates on drives, Rider asserted its will early. The Broncs were 1-9 coming into Wednesday’s meeting but their offense wasn’t the problem. Brandon Penn in the lane dropped a pass to Stewart to open the scoring. A rainbow three by Penn in transition made it 5-0.
Darrow’s feed to Hummer inside got Princeton on the scoreboard. The Rider lead extended to seven on a pair of Stewart free throws and Thompson’s jumper over Bray.
When Koon and Brendan Connolly entered the game, they helped sure up some of the Tigers’ defensive issues but they weren’t much aid versus Rider’s 1-2-2 press when Princeton had the ball.
A no look zip pass by Bray to Koon at the rim drew the Tigers back within three.
Pick and roll action for Rider ended with Stewart scoring inside as Hummer fouled him going for a block.
Koon’s shot in the paint was rejected by the recently cleared for action Junior Fortunat and Eddie Mitchell’s extended drive gave the Broncs a 14-6 advantage.
Davis started a short Princeton spurt with a three off the right wing and Connolly found Hummer cutting who could not score but Koon was there to clean up.
Down by four, Connolly lost the ball on a quick spin move but regained possession and was fouled as he was surrounded. Connolly, shooting 68.8% from the line this season, came up short on both his chances. The rebound of his second attempt fell to the floor where Hummer picked it up and laid it back home to draw Princeton within two.
Myles used a screen and pulled up to his right for a long two as Davis got caught underneath. A Hummer layup attempt was blocked by Jeff Jones prior to Myles snapping a three in front of the Princeton bench that loudly ripped the twine for a 20-13 count.
Princeton got sloppy and a desperate Rider squad took advantage. A Hummer pass from wing sailed well over John Comfort’s head for the Tigers’ second back court violation of the half. Jones stopped at the free throw line and canned a jumper. Next a Koon pass under pressure was stolen with an audible slap and Jones had an unobstructed layup. Henderson burned a time out with his team now down 24-13 and 8:50 still to come.
A diagonal press break pass from Darrow once the ball got over half court to Saunders alone behind the zone got two back but Rider kept rolling.
Princeton dropped into a zone of their own that worked well enough, a Myles jumper sailing long. Davis hit the side of the backboard attempting a three from the far corner, then Thompson pushed a shot up and in going down the lane.
A lot of movement on offense resulted in Bray setting up Davis on the left side with the shot clock at eight for three. 26-18 Broncs. Bray picked off a Stewart pass but Stewart didn’t quit the play, blocking Bray clean from behind at the rim and bringing Riders’ fans to their feet. The ball staying with Princeton, Saunders overloaded the zone and found Darrow behind. When Darrow went up to score, Myles blocked the shot. Myles drove left and was fouled by Darrow for a three point play.
Jimmy Sherburne, who played 14 minutes on Wednesday as he was used more than just as a defensive replacement, slipped with the ball and Myles drove the other way. Myles left his layup long but Fortunat was fortunate and scored the follow. Koon under pressure tried to find Hummer but threw the ball nowhere near him. Fortunat was happy to accept this errant effort and in transition Thompson connected from behind the arc. Koon broke the press to get two back but Thompson hooked a pass into Myles for a two hand slam and Princeton was down 36-20 to a lousy defensive team that was flying all over the floor at both ends.
Davis doubled over midcourt threw the ball away and Fortunat was fouled posting up Connolly deep. Fortunat missed both his attempts to improve Rider’s lead above 16 and to the surprise of all the remainder of the first half belonged to the visiting Tigers.
“Once we started helping each other [on defense] that when things started clicking on offense and we were able to make a run,” Bray said.
First Hummer exploded to his right and flipped a shot in over his head. Off a Thompson miss Bray tried a home run pass to Hummer but Hummer left his try short. Connolly trailing scored a follow. Rider called time out.
When play resumed Koon got caught unaware in front of a Fortunat screen as Eddie Mitchell tossed up an alley oop pass to Myles that Koon was powerless to stop.
Hummer to Sherburne to Bray resulted in a three from the left corner. A long time with Fortunat holding the ball in the post bogged down Rider’s offense and resulted in a shot clock violation.
Hummer on the right block found Koon on the left block and his shot was goaltended to draw the Tigers within 38-29.
A crossover jumper for Thompson landed short and Hummer bulled the other way and was fouled, making one of two tries.
Hummer’s next drive to his left set up Bray spotting on the right side for his second three of the half.
Hummer was unable to score a difficult shot in the lane as time ran out but Princeton was somehow within five.
The first half possibly was summed up in five simple words: That. Could. Have. Been. Worse.
“I thought a huge key to the game for us was down 36-20 with five minutes left and then going into half 38-33, we were very happy with that,” Henderson recalled. “They were blowing our doors off.”
“They didn’t score and we started playing the way we wanted to play. We can’t come out the way we did tonight and win many games,” Henderson continued. “It time for us to start moving forward here.”
The Tigers shot 14-29 from the floor (48.3%), an efficient 4-8 from three point range (50.0%) and 1-4 on free throws (25.0%). Davis and Koon each scored eight. Hummer was 3-10 from the floor.
Rider was a quality 15-26 overall (57.7%), a perfect 3-3 from deep and 5-8 on free throws (62.5%). Myles had 12 to lead all scorers.
Hummer jumped the first passing lane the Broncs provided when play resumed and was fouled hard by Mitchell in the air as Hummer tried to dunk the ball with his left hand. Hummer made both his attempts from the line.
Mitchell couldn’t convert a right elbow jumper but Darrow tipped the ball up in the air to Dera Nd-Ezuma for his only basket of the night.
A quick inbounds by Hummer to Saunders camped out in the far corner for three made it a 40-38 game.
Rider consistently kept Princeton at bay throughout almost the entire half. In this case, Thompson’s deep three over Bray made it a two possession game. Bray’s first miss from outside was controlled by a battling Darrow under the rim and Darrow was fouled leaping back up from behind the backboard. Darrow made both his attempts.
Thompson lost the ball and Hummer threw a pass ahead to Sherburne who couldn’t finish as Mitchell blocked his layup try.
Princeton’s next time down the floor Connolly isolated one on one took a good looking righty hook shot that was blocked by Nd-Ezuma after it reached its apex. No goaltending violation was called and Henderson became as animated and (justifiably) irate on the sidelines as he’s been this season.
To add further frustration Sherburne fouled Mitchell in transition and both free throws were good.
It was 47-40 Rider with 15:31 to go and play was getting ragged. Hummer overloaded the zone and found Connolly alone in the center of the lane for a two hand slam. Bray in the paint spotted Saunders outside and his high arcing three popped in and out. At the other side of Alumni Gym, Thompson stopped in the rectangle and found Stewart for a dunk.
Hummer flashed to the free throw line and his soft jumper dropped. With the ball back, Hummer saw his hook try blocked by Fortunat but Hummer regained control and tossed a mini lob to Connolly in the air who scored off glass.
Not only was Connolly’s footwork on defense a benefit for Princeton but Connolly looked the most comfortable he’s looked all season on offense.
An inbounds lob to Hummer from Bray under his own basket went over Hummer’s reach and gave Rider numbers. Mitchell was off and dunked ahead of the pack.
Trailing by five, Koon down the left baseline was short using his right hand. Fortunat’s righty hook found the mark.
This time a Hummer hook was called a goaltend when blocked on the way down. Koon stole a Stewart pass and lost the ball trying to go up but kept his poise as he came down and laid the ball home. Myles’ jumper went in, then out before Hummer found Darrow underneath and Darrow drew contact from Stewart. Darrow was long on his first attempt, pure on the second. Princeton had closed to 53-51.
Stewart’s reverse rolled off the front of the rim into Fortunat’s hands and the freshman returned the ball home.
Sherburne out of the near corner fired a three that Hummer grabbed off the rim and laid in for a 55-53 count.
It seemed anything but Princeton’s night when the Tigers played great defense for 35 seconds only to see Thompson’s double clutch three point try over Hummer as the shot clock expired go down.
“If they’re going to beat us with shots like that, we’ll take it,” Hummer said with a touch of disbelief.
Hummer was fouled scooping to his right and made one of two. Princeton went back to their zone and Stewart stepped on the right baseline trying to drive.
Moving to his left, Hummer found Davis camped on the right for a three, his first bucket of the second half and Princeton was within 58-57.
Thompson’s shot sailed long and Hummer was called for a foul trying to block Thompson’s follow from behind. A disbelieving Henderson put his hands on his head watching Thompson make both his free throws.
Davis’ shot to tie out of the corner was rebounded by Hummer, who finished the possession with a right hand hook.
A deep three by Myles hit the rim three times before landing in Bray’s hands. Out of the post Connolly found a cutting Hummer on the bounce. With a secondary defender standing well inside the circle, Hummer scored and was fouled. There was jubilation on and behind the Princeton bench as the Tigers had surely taken their first lead of the game with 3:50 to go with a free throw to follow because of the whistle.
Joy turned to disbelief when Hummer’s basket was waved off and an offensive foul was ruled. Henderson said following the game that all three officials said they had made the right call but a review of the game tape is likely to show otherwise.
Up one with the ball, Thompson’s pass hit Fortunat in the back and Bray picked it up. Hummer flashed to the free throw line but his open jumper was off the mark.
It took 37:36, but when a Rider inbounds pass cross the court was grabbed out of the air with two hands by Sherburne and the junior ran a two on one with fellow Wisconsinite Bray, dropping a bounce pass at the right moment to his left for a layup, Princeton had their first lead of the game at 61-60.
Bray fouled Thompson driving to his right but Thompson only made one of two at the line. Davis on the far wing passed up a contested jumper in place of Bray on the opposite side of the circle for a huge three with 1:45 to go.
Penn’s tying attempt missed the rim and Saunders got wide to box out Stewart and draw a foul. Saunders was 6-7 on free throws this season but left his front end well short.
Sherburne’s light bump of Mitchell resulted in another one and one that ended in another miss during crunch time.
Saunders with the ball and Princeton up three in the final minute left a pass for Hummer coming straight down the lane. Hummer bounced off two Rider players and the whistle sounded. Hummer made his first and missed his second setting the stage at 65-61 Tigers with :29.2 to go.
Running more curls on the perimeter, Penn caught a Mitchell pass and launched a three over Bray that went down for a one point game. Taking Hummer off the floor during a time out and inbounding from the sideline in front of the Rider bench, Bray found Davis in the backcourt. Before Davis could get fouled he lost the ball plum out of his hands and into Penn’s. Penn turned right back into Davis trying to go up with this gift and was fouled, making his first and missing the second with :15.1 showing.
As Rider pressured a Davis pass to the wing was batted high in the air but right back to an alert Davis running forward who got into the lane with time to spare and left his crazy drive short. Stewart rebounded and Rider still had enough time to push with numbers the other way. Myles’ look to win on the right side at the buzzer sailed long.
When going to overtime, usually one team feels fortunate to be there. Both Princeton, who had trailed for 38 minutes, and Rider, who had come back from down four in the waning seconds, were lucky to be playing an extra five minutes.
A drive and dish by Thompson to Fortunat opened overtime. Davis picked up his dribble from a spot not dissimilar from where he connected to knock out Harvard but his leaning bank shot wasn’t nearly as memorable.
Penn missed and Saunders did not, flicking up with his right hand inside as soon as Davis found him down low.
Penn’s quick release triple at the top of the arc was well short. Bray was open by the Princeton bench for three but could not convert. Hummer grabbed an offensive board and was tied up, the possession staying with Princeton.
A second Bray look from outside did not go down and a tip follow was short.
Myles drove to his left and scored for the first time since the first half, bumped by Connolly. A free throw later and it was 70-67 Rider with 2:03 left.
Davis drifted behind a diagonal screen for a clean look to tie that sailed a touch long. Hummer rebounded on the weakside and was fouled going up. As Hummer fell to the floor his teammate Koon accidentally stepped on his face. Ouch.
Hummer hadn’t missed more than two straight free throws all season but a pair of long attempts at the line made it three in a row that didn’t go and kept Princeton off the scoreboard.
Stewart lost the ball on a drive off his knee and Hummer was spot on from the left elbow with a jumper.
With a three second difference between the shot clock and the game clock, Princeton could not afford to just play defense and see what happened. Bray fouled Thompson in the backcourt with :20.6 showing.
Thompson was short on his first try, good on the second. Down two, Princeton did what they should have done in a similar situation on Saturday at Drexel. They went inside to Hummer and let him choose between making a move or finding an open man. Hummer’s shot in the lane was one he likes but on this occasion it went long.
Stewart rebounded and was immediately fouled by Connolly, making him disqualified. Time stopped with :08.3 and Princeton still down two, Darrow replacing Connolly.
With all four of his teammates back on the other half of the court, Stewart missed both his chances. Hummer and Darrow converged on the ball with Hummer rebounding. He passed to Davis who took his time surveying his options and hesitated a touch before going left into the lane. Instead of forcing the issue, Davis found Darrow alone on the left wing and the recommencement of a series between two neighboring schools finished on an extremely memorable jumper.
Darrow had expected to be a spectator to heroics but instead he was the man of the moment, embraced by Hummer and then surrounded by the rest of his team jumping in unison.
“Obviously, I was kind of expecting Doug to be the hero like always. I just stood still and let him rub off my screen and figured I’d let him do his thing,” Darrow deadpanned. “I walked in to get a better look at his buzzer beater and it turns out I found one – a little bit crazy.”
For Henderson, the final play of a wild night was the result of very specific preparation.
“We have really worked hard on late game situations. We are going to play a lot of close games,” he said. “I wish we didn’t. I might have more hair. It is Doug’s call. In a two point game like that we want to go to Ian or we have Doug going off of a high screen. He made a good decision. I thought at the end of regulation he didn’t make as good of a decision. We talked about this after the Drexel game too.”
Davis’ decision was Darrow’s reward. The shortest trip home of their seven consecutive travels away from Jadwin Gym would be a very happy one.
It had been 13 years since Darrow made a game winning jumper but for Princeton it couldn’t have come at a better time.
-Princeton shot 28-60 for the game (46.7%), 8-20 on three pointers (40.0%) and a rough 8-17 from the line (47.1%).
-After a hot start Rider was 9-30 in the second half (30.0%) and 26-60 for the game (43.3%). The Broncs made 6-11 threes (54.5%) and 13-21 free throws (61.9%).
-Hummer’s seven assists were a career high. He also had four steals.
-Daniel Stewart had one assist and seven turnovers for Rider but grabbed a game high 14 boards.
-Denton Koon is a ridiculous 17-20 from the field in his last four games.
-With a jumper from the free throw line early in the first half, Davis moved past Brian Taylor and into 10th on the Princeton all-time scoring list.
-It didn’t seem likely to come anytime soon after 28 giveaways to start the season versus Wagner but Princeton now possesses a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (155:151).
-The two different people I overheard say the game was “over” with eight seconds left in overtime? FOR SHAME.
-While I’m getting all Andy Rooney, perhaps adding the “Hey! You suck!” to “Rock & Roll Part 2” when your team is saddled with a 1-9 record isn’t the smartest decision.