Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson:
Postgame audio - Ian Hummer & T.J. Bray:
A pair of Cornell freshmen were an enormous part of the quick 8-0 run which separated the Big Red from Princeton with the two teams even at 40 nearing the midway point of the second half.
On a night where leading scorer Drew Ferry went scoreless, Galal Cancer (17) and Shonn Miller (12) led the way in their first game versus the orange and black as Cornell opened Ivy League play with a 67-59 win over the Tigers.
Once Princeton fell behind by eight they were unable to ever make it a one possession game again, though they squandered myriad chances with the ball in their hands due to offensive fouls, turnovers and the missed front ends of a couple of one-and-one chances.
The Tigers were also unable to establish their advantage in the post and missed more than their fair share of jump shots in a once-tight contest that had 18 lead changes across the first 20 minutes.
“We seemed timid and you’re not going to win games on the road in the league being timid,” said first year head coach Mitch Henderson.
Douglas Davis scored 16 points but needed 22 shots to do so and Ian Hummer added 14 with nine rebounds. T.J. Bray filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, eight boards and seven assists.
It took almost two minutes for either team to score out of the gate. For the Tigers it was a Bray pass to Davis on the wing that sailed through his hands into those of Ferry, plus three consecutive misses. Cornell countered with Chris Wroblewski’s pull up three going long and two more errant attempts from Cancer.
Finally, a driving Hummer found Patrick Saunders cutting on the baseline and Saunders made a pair of free throws after being fouled by Eitan Chemerinski – his only points of the game.
Wroblewski popped from the top of the arc for three, starting a back and forth ballet where the lead was traded endlessly.
Davis backcut on Wroblewski and stopped with a jumper after Hummer found him. Cancer answered on the left elbow.
While Princeton was not getting much post production, they were using the block to set up shots outside. Unfortunately, they did not connect on any of them. Saunders was the recipient of many of these passes but his open attempts on the wing all did not drop.
Cancer found Miller alone for a layin and a 7-4 Cornell lead.
Brendan Connolly entered the game with 14:39 left in the half and immediately built on his productive outing versus TCNJ with a dropstep to his left for two.
Down three following a pair of Johnathan Gray free throws, Hummer faked a move into the lane and spun the other way left off glass. At the other end of Newman arena a helping Hummer on defense swatted Dave LaMore’s drive into the Princeton bench.
Connolly snatched a Wroblewski inbounds pass away with two hands and Bray returned the lead to Princeton with a runner off the glass.
It was 13-11 Tigers when a driving Hummer noticed Bray spotting up on the right side for three. Chemerinski tied the score with an offensive putback over Bray.
In a half that saw little distance between the two teams, Princeton opened up a lone two possession lead when Bray found Davis with a no look pass left alone on the left block and all Davis had to do was turn for a very short jumper and Davis followed this play with a feed to Bray up top for three. Cornell called time with 6:55 to go in the half.
From this point until intermission there were few defensive stops and a flurry of exchanged one point leads. A Miller hook made it 19-17 and after Saunders missed for a third time on the perimeter Miller somehow got left unchecked outside to put Cornell up a single.
Miller flopped on the block and Connolly was unphased, scoring off the glass.
As time ran down these trades on the scoreboard came faster and faster. Davis undercut Josh Figini sliding over on defense and Figini made both free throws. +1 Big Red.
Princeton beat the Cornell press with Hummer throwing a bounce pass to Darrow who was fouled at the rim and made both attempts. +1 Tigers.
Hummer blocked a Figini try into his team’s bench, his third swat of the half. The ball stayed with the Big Red and Wroblewski spun a layup off glass between a pair of Tigers in off the glass with the shot clock at one. +1 Cornell.
With Princeton’s shot clock running low Hummer got one to go inside. +1 Tigers.
Gray scored to his left over another Hummer block try. +1 Big Red.
Darrow lobbed a pass to Hummer who was fouled as he tried to score in one motion while airborne. Hummer made both free throws. +1 Princeton.
LaMore missed inside but Princeton could not control the rebound which deflected to Tarwater for a short jumper. +1 Cornell.
Hummer in the lane with the shot clock off gave his team the edge once more. +1 Tigers.
Eight scores in eight possessions and nine lead changes.
The lone stop of the half’s final three minutes came when Ferry’s curl, catch and shoot three attempt at the horn went wildly afar of its destination.
Princeton held a 29-28 lead at the end of this see saw 20 minutes. The Tigers shot 10-26 from the floor (38.5%), 2-11 from three (18.2%) and 7-8 on free throws (87.5%). Bray had eight points, five rebounds and four assists at the midway point.
Cornell shot 11-36 (30.6%), 2-8 from the arc (25.0%) and a perfect 4-4 on free throws.
Like they did to open the game, Princeton began the second half with a turnover. Saunders’ post feed to Darrow was grabbed out of the air by Chemerinski. A Wroblewski inbounds from under Cornell’s hoop went to a drifting Miller for two.
Darrow committed a charge driving into the lane trying to find Hummer on the baseline and Wroblewski moving to his left set up Tarwater for a long deuce. Davis swiftly wiped this three point Cornell lead with a left wing three in motion.
Cancer hesitating off glass spinning away made it 34-32 before Bray forced another tie with a pair of free throws after Wroblewski fouled him going to his right.
One more help block from Hummer, this time on a Miller dunk attempt, led to Davis firing from deep at the top of the arc, his shot off the mark. Tarwarter drove from the wing and Cornell was back up a pair.
Bray, who played great in 39 minutes on Friday, had an unfortunate sequence where he missed a three, followed his shot to the free throw line for an offensive rebound and a two which also was off target. Hummer controlled and set up Davis for a trey that was open but off. Cornell could not capitalize as a Wroblewski flip shot nearly went in. Connolly’s right handed push shot made it 36-36.
Another offensive board went to the Big Red as LaMore missed and Tarwater cleaned up.
Denton Koon’s superb baseline spin was a fluid escape from two Cornell players and also a layup. Koon also created the night’s ninth tie when he was in the right position to lay in a freebie as Wroblewski’s save attempt of a loose ball under the Princeton basket came right to him.
To this point, it seemed like the game was destined to stay taught for the duration. Neither team seemed able to create any distance from the other. With 12:01 left, everything changed.
Actually, let’s back up two shots. Hummer’s potential baseline dunk explosion was blocked by Gray. A confused Hummer took a split second to recover and realize he still had the ball but when he went back up he could not finish. Gray controlled.
Back to the action. Bray fouled Wroblewski going to his right and the 86% free throw shooter going into the game made both chances. With the ball and looking for either tie number 10 or lead change number 20, Hummer was correctly called for an offensive foul under pressure near midcourt as Devin Cherry stepped into his path. An acrobatic drive by Cancer over Bray gave Cornell their first two possession lead.
Davis was open in the far corner for three but stayed cold from outside. The long rebound came to midcourt as Bray approached it but before he could grab the ball the approaching Cornell rush caused it to deflect off his body instead of his hands and out of bounds.
When Connolly plucked a Cancer drive off the rim it looked like Princeton ball again but was ruled goaltending a split second later. A poor Hummer pass out directly to Cherry resulted in a Cancer feed to Miller and Princeton called time down by eight.
“We turned the ball over a couple times there and that will get any offense going,” Bray said of this fatal 90 second stretch.
“That was a significant run,” added Henderson. “I didn’t think it would be but it was. That seemed to be the difference in the game.”
Running a designed play for Davis out of the far elbow, Davis did everything right to get open springing to the wing but again his outside shot was errant. Koon stole the ball from Cherry and Bray slipped a pass to Hummer cutting for a two hand slam.
Every time Princeton had the chance to reverse fortune, it slipped out of its grasp. Literally take for example their next possession where Hummer lost his handle trying to spin to the baseline, which gave the ball right back to the Big Red with the score 48-42.
Gray’s left elbow jumper made the lead eight again. Davis shaved two points off with a long two point jump shot and when Cancer ran through Bray on a drive the charge was recognized and Princeton had the ball.
Koon came up to help on the press but did not reestablish position on the sideline and was ruled out of bounds. A freshman mistake at a time where Koon couldn’t afford to be a freshman.
Hummer pushed Miller under the basket, who made one of two free throws. Davis finally got a second three to go as he stepped to his left when Ferry slipped. Princeton was down 51-47.
The agony instead of rally continued. Hummer’s elbow away from the ball trying to establish position returned the ball to Cornell and when the Tigers regained control still in back by four Davis was wild in the lane but the rebound went Princeton’s way. Koon tried a jumper in the lane over Cancer which was blocked back in his face.
A runner by Cancer made it a six point game. Bray spotted Koon on a nice look but Koon could not finish the play as he was fouled by Cancer. Koon also missed both free throws and the Tigers trailed still 53-47 but Gray quickly exploded to the rim and expanded Cornell’s lead up to eight once more.
“It felt like we left so much out there,” Bray said of the many failed opportunities as time wound down. “I think we kind of expected them to lay down.”
There are additional moments to make your skin crawl. Chemerinski picked up a loose ball and tossed in a runner with one on the shot clock. Hummer drew the Tigers within five from outside set up by a Darrow drive and Princeton got the ball back after Tarwater was bodied on a drive and could not score.
There between the circles, the exceptionally sure-handed Bray was picked clean one-on-one by Chemerinski who somehow got low enough to poke the ball away and then slid behind Bray to head the other direction for an extremely unexpected layup.
Darrow and Bray both missed from outside and on the second of these shots Hummer in the lane did not know the possible offensive board was directly behind him.
With under two minutes showing, Henderson had his team foul as often as possible to extend the game. Ben Hazel’s lone bucket out of the far corner made it 60-55. Bray fouled Cancer, who made both tries. Bray answered with two free throws of his own and Davis fouled Wroblewski 70 feet from the basket. It seemed a poor decision but the money Wroblewski split a pair at the line. Davis was able to convert a tough drive with his left hand and the Tigers were again within four and had 84 seconds to make up the difference.
Cancer stepped to the line next and he made one of two for a 64-59 count. Davis went to the rim once again and was bodied but didn’t get either the call or the bucket.
Ferry was fouled but missed both his attempts and Princeton still clung to life in the last minute. Bray’s spin rolled out and Darrow rebounded and was fouled on the floor. Darrow missed the front end of his one-and-one.
Cancer and Gray added free throws in the final seconds as Princeton’s last three possession included a pair of well-off-the-mark Ian Hummer three tries and Jimmy Sherburne missing another one-and-one at the line. A lengthy finish to what once was a quickly paced game had finally arrived at zero.
“This brought us down to earth,” said Hummer, who felt his team underestimated Cornell and didn’t come out to play as they began the night. “We won a good amount of games this last month and I think we were riding a high streak. This put us down on our level.”
Now the best the Tigers can do before heading into exams is hope to level their conference record at 1-1.
-Princeton ended the night 21-58 from the field (36.2%), 6-27 from three point range (22.2%) and 11-16 on free throws (68.8%) including 4-8 in the second half (50.0%). The Tigers recorded nine blocks.
-Cornell used 13-25 second half shooting (52.0%) to improve to 24-61 overall (39.3%). The Big Red did not make a second half three pointer (0-3) and were 2-11 outside (18.2%). After a perfect mark at the line in the opening 20 minutes Cornell shot 13-23 in the vesper half (56.5%) and 17-27 for the game (63.0%).
-While Davis did reach 50 three pointers for the fourth straight season, he was 2-11 from outside the arc.
-Entering Friday’s action the Big Red had a -8.2 rebounding margin per game this season, yet they actually grabbed one more rebound than Princeton (42-41) and had 12 offensive boards.
-Ben Hazel played 20 minutes for the Tigers, more floor time than he saw in his previous nine games combined.
-Princeton visits Columbia on Saturday night at 7:00 pm ET.