Postgame audio - Coach Mitch Henderson:
Postgame audio - Patrick Saunders & T.J. Bray:
Trailing by six points with 8:30 to go in regulation and in legitimate danger of falling to 0-2 in Ivy League play, Princeton scored 11 straight behind contributions from unexpected sources and held off a late Columbia frenzy for the 62-58 win.
It was reserves Jimmy Sherburne and Ben Hazel off the bench that sparked the spurt at both ends. Sherburne started things with a slap layup down the baseline for a 41-37 score and Sherburne’s pass to T.J. Bray in front of his team’s bench for three as he fell down cutting into the lane gave the Tigers a five point edge at the 4:55 mark. In between a streaking Hazel provided the orange and black their first lead since the opening half.
“We haven’t been influencing the game and turning people over,” said head coach Mitch Henderson. “I thought the key to the game was [those two], their defensive presence getting into guys and creating some opportunities for us.”
Princeton came back despite serious foul trouble for leading scorer Ian Hummer, who picked up his fourth personal with 9:12 remaining, and a limited Douglas Davis who had to visit the locker room in the first half and could not sit on the bench due to a cramped lower back.
A late Davis drive all the way to the rim and a pair of Hummer free throws made it 54-46 Princeton but 2-6 shooting at the free throw line allowed the Lions to close within one in the last :15 before Bray and Davis each made a pair to keep Columbia at bay.
Bray scored 12, one of four Tigers in double digits joined by Hummer with 11 and 10 each from Mack Darrow and Davis. Bray also had a career best six steals.
Brian Barbour totaled 25 for Columbia, including 9-11 at the free throw line but it felt like Bray and Sherburne did a very good job limiting his touches the last 10 minutes of the game. Nine of Barbour’s points came in the chaotic final 2:08.
A baseline kickout by John Daniels to freshman Alex Rosenberg for three got Columbia on the scoreboard first. Hummer could not answer outside but Bray controlled an offensive board and found Saunders at the top for a rainbow that the senior desperately needed after 0-4 shooting the previous evening at Cornell.
Saunders’ help defense in the post disrupted Mark Cisco trying to turn to the baseline and knocked the ball free to Bray. Saunders found Davis on the far wing for three.
Rosenberg used his long stride to the left for two, but his time on the floor didn’t last long. Darrow stepped in front of Rosenberg on a second drive and got the offensive foul, Rosenberg’s second personal.
Hummer likely deflected replacement Steve Egee’s three point attempt and in transition Davis popped at the right elbow for an 8-5 Tiger lead.
A posting Cisco set up Daniels for a long two inside/out style.
Bray intercepted Egee trying to wrap a pass in the post and continued with the ball to his right to the rim, fouled on the drive. When play resumed Bray made one of two chances and the Tigers had a two point advantage.
While more shots were falling for both teams and there were decidedly fewer lead changes, the first half flowed in eerily similar fashion to the one played in Ithaca yesterday. The game was between four points throughout and each squad could only wrestle control away from the other for short stretches.
Barbour went off glass over the just-inserted Brendan Connolly for the night’s second tie. Connolly did not have much success scoring the ball but he did frequently look for his own shot isolated in the post.
With 11:13 showing Bray replaced Davis on the floor, which did not seem out of the ordinary until one noticed Davis was not on the bench and Princeton’s trainer had also mysteriously vanished.
Hummer’s drive was waved off for an offensive foul initiating contact by leaning in as he attacked. Hazel spelled Hummer and it was unclear if Hummer was done until intermission.
Barbour used a high screen and launched a deep three. Princeton’s two leading scorers were indisposed for different reasons and the Tigers now trailed 12-9.
Having seen seven scoreless possessions, three of which with Hummer on the sidelines, Henderson gambled by bringing Hummer in sparingly. Shortly after his return Sherburne drove strong to the basket for his first points of the game.
Davis was spotted coming out of the locker room around this time and popping a pill behind his team’s bench. He stood in back of the Princeton seats, trying to get loose.
Darrow slapped Cisco on an offensive board and Cisco made both of his attempts from the line.
On Princeton’s next possession Darrow popped to what we’ll call “the Rider spot” until he graduates and converted for three and a 14-14 score, the assist to Bray.
Bray stole the ball from Chris Crockett and found Darrow at the free throw line who waited patiently for Bray to trail and set him up in the exact same location for three more. Columbia called time down by three. When play resumed Davis was back on the floor.
Hummer faced up Cisco on the far baseline but his jumper came up short. Cisco had greater success with a right baseline jumper of his own.
Connolly used a drop step to the glass and in.
Saturday night’s game was called very closely by the officiating crew. Saunders got a small piece of Barbour driving with three on the shot clock and Barbour made one of two from the stripe.
Henderson conducted marvelously, getting Hummer offensive possessions when he could, pulling Davis as needed for Hazel and Sherburne and switching between Connolly and Darrow for different looks with the ball.
Hummer strong to his left off the glass was both his first field goal and also the cause of the first four point lead for either team.
From a Saunders steal Davis’ long two caught the rim and the other way Barbour got into the lane and scored as his arms were swiped. It looked for an instant like the foul was on Hummer but Darrow actually was the culprit. Barbour drew his team within 21-20.
Connolly’s touch foul of Barbour sent the Lions’ leading scorer to the line for a one and one. He converted both ends and Columbia had the lead again.
Bray stripped Barbour and Princeton called time with :34.8 on the game clock and :27 to shoot. Bray was isolated against the rarely mentioned Meiko Lyles and passed off to Darrow who faked a hand off screen for Saunders and drove to the rim. However, Darrow was fouled by Cisco before he could break free so the attempts from the line were the one and one variety. Darrow’s first look eventually rolled in and the second was pure.
Lyles got into the lane with time about to expire and looked like he traveled but his lone field goal of the game counted as the clock reached zero.
Princeton shot 8-25 in the half (32.0%), 4-6 from three (66.7%) and 3-4 at the line (75.0%). Davis was the only Tiger with more than one field goal, one of two Princeton players with five points.
Columbia made 8-20 attempts (40.0%), 2-7 from deep (28.6%) and 6-7 on free throws (85.7%). Barbour had 11 to lead all scorers.
The Lions held a 19-13 edge on the glass during a frame with five ties and six lead changes.
Daniels could not convert when play resumed but Cisco grabbed an offensive board over Saunders and placed it home.
Darrow realized he was not defended on the wing and canned a three like it was practice.
Rosenberg, who could develop into a very nice player for the Lions the next three+ years, got credit for a basket as Hummer’s blocked shot came with the try on the way down to the rim.
Lyles drove to his left and Bray fouled him under the hoop, resulting in one of two free throws.
Hummer’s pull up three on the left was off target and Lyles’ deep jumper on the left baseline sailed plum over the rim and right to an eager Cisco who handed it home.
A posting Bray found Hummer to his right for two. Daniels’ deep two sailed long before Bray hesitated into the lane and scored while jostled, his free throw evening the scoreboard at 31.
Barbour got Sherburne up in the air and converted a short jumper after the Princeton junior had sailed out of the frame. In a freshman vs. freshman battle, Rosenberg used a drop step on Denton Koon and scored as he was fouled. A free throw sent the Lions up five.
Connolly spinning baseline was fouled at point blank range and made both free throws.
Whether due to bad bounces, extra effort or better positioning, every offensive board felt like it was going Columbia’s way. Barbour drove with the shot clock dwindling and Princeton could not control the rebound, which came to Blaise Staab on the arc. A Barbour drive dishing to Cisco for a midrange jumper didn’t succeed.
Hummer had another tying try waived off when his layup turned into an offensive foul with Rosenberg drawing the whistle.
Egee’s wild drive was tipped up in the air and back into Egee’s hands. This time Cisco converted his jumper off a Rosenberg assist.
Darrow hooked one home with his right, then Barbour nailed a three with Bray’s hands in his face for a 41-35 Columbia advantage.
Things looked bleak as untested outside shooters Sherburne and Hazel both came up short from the arc, then Hummer bumped a Lion with four on the shot clock which resulted in his fourth personal.
The comeback began with Sherburne down the left baseline for two.
Sherburne blew up a pass and Saunders tracked the ball down. Davis found Saunders on the opposite wing for a big three to draw Princeton within one.
“I just set a screen for Doug, he came off and I was open so I shot it,” was all the analysis of this moment Saunders could provide.
Bray stole the ball from Rosenberg and Sherburne fired a long pass to the just-returned Hummer slashing as Barbour fouled him low. At the line Hummer made one of two and with 6:03 to go the score was tied for an eighth time. Columbia used a time out.
Another Bray steal was thrown ahead of the pack to Hazel who caught and went up in one motion for a 43-41 Princeton advantage.
Rosenberg missed everything with a jumper early in the shot clock and Sherburne slipping on a drive had the presence of mind to muscle the ball to Bray on the opposite side of the floor for a three. Another time out was used by the Lions.
Cisco was pushed by Darrow on the floor before a shot and made both sides of the one and one to end this 11-0 run. A surprisingly poor bounce pass by Bray caught the baseline before it could go anywhere useful and Miles slipped to the rim on an inbounds, fouled hard by Darrow. Lyles made one of two.
Hummer to the tin teased and rolled off as he was fouled but Hummer still made both of his free throws.
Hazel blocked a Cisco reverse try and out of a Princeton time out Hummer went to his left by Staab for a 50-44 game.
An awful reach in call on Bray sent Barbour to the line for two free throws and he made them both.
I’ve been frustrated with Davis’ reluctance to drive hard to the basket instead of trying to hang in the air and draw contact while converting a high difficulty attempt. There was none of that on this possession as Davis used a crossover and darted to the glass for a confident layup.
Lyles’ three try t the top came off to Hummer as Staab fouled him and Hummer walked the other way to convert both free throws. Egee airballed a triple and Princeton had possession up eight with 1:16 to go.
While Bray’s stolen pass in the backcourt resulting in a Barbour layup was a poor decision, Sherburne offset it with a pair of free throws for a 56-48 game in the final minute.
“It was kind of a bonehead play on my part,” Bray admitted. “I was getting doubled and I saw Jimmy wide open. I tried to go high and should have just waited for [the defender] to jump and then give him a bounce pass.”
Koon fouled a hesitating three point shooter for what his coach estimated was the 42nd time during his freshman season and Egee made all three free throws. Staab fouled out sending Davis to the line and one of Princeton’s two 80%+ shooters missed his first but made the second.
Egee went quickly to the Columbia basket for a 57-53 score. Again Davis was fouled, this time with :31.1 on the clock and this time the senior co-captain missed both of his chances, perhaps affected by his back issue as he stood still from the line.
Sherburne fouled Barbour on a drive, who converted twice. It was a two point game suddenly.
Princeton crossed half court and Rosenberg fouled Saunders from behind. Princeton’s other senior co-captain, also an 80%+ free throw shooter who had missed twice all season came up well short on his first try but made the second.
Barbour to his left rolled a shot in to close Columbia within 58-57. The Tigers ran some time off the clock and Bray was fouled by Egee. Bray walked to the line like someone who wanted to be in this position at this moment and never grazed the rim on either attempt.
For the first time as a head coach Henderson was faced with a classic dilemma: Foul or play defense with your team up three and the game clock in the final 10 seconds. There was no hesitation in what Henderson was going to do.
“I watch a lot of college basketball games when a three pointer is made to send the game into overtime,” Henderson said. “I liked the way we handled it.”
The decision was to foul Barbour even though he was a 90.1% free throw shooter coming in. With :06.1 left Barbour was grabbed by Sherburne in the backcourt. Barbour missed his first try and made the second.
With Bray inbounding Davis got free and this time Davis converted both his shots to secure victory as Columbia could not score twice in :04.9 of action.
In winning their first Ivy game of the season, Henderson may have found the formula for continued conference success once the exam break concludes. With every Ivy contest appearing destined to be close and decided in the waning moments, a few key defensive possessions could make all the difference.
“I was really proud of our guys tonight,” Henderson said one day after using the word timid to describe his team. “I thought that we may have found a little bit of a way to play.”
Forced to use hands out of his control due to Hummer’s fouls and Davis’ pain, Henderson was able to construct defensive lineups that resulted in Princeton’s push to victory.
Before he got loose in a hectic final minute that did not include much offensive shape, Sherburne stayed in Barbour’s shorts. He couldn’t score if he didn’t have possession to begin with.
“I thought Jimmy did a very nice job keeping the ball away from the kid,” Henderson said.
It wasn’t how anyone expected, but with the pressure resulting from a conference loss to Cornell weighing down, a piecemeal Tiger five provided a huge lift as their teammates were slipping.
“I didn’t have to do much piecing,” stated Henderson. “I just put them in and they made plays.”
-Shooting 10-18 in the second half (55.6%), Princeton was 18-43 overall (41.9%), 7-14 from three (50.0%) and even with some late misses a quality 19-25 at the line (76.0%).
-All 11 Tigers who saw action played at least 11 minutes with Koon the low man and Bray high with 34.
-Columbia went 18-46 as a team (39.1%), 3-11 from three (27.3%) and 19-23 on free throws (82.6%). The Lions had seven assists and 15 turnovers,
-The rebounds bounced Columbia’s way 36-22 with the Lions grabbing 14 offensive boards. 45.2% of all offensive rebound chances went to Columbia. Cisco had 10 boards in defeat.
-Bray’s six steals were the most by a Princeton player since Marcus Schroeder grabbed seven in a 2009 game versus Wagner.
-Hummer’s 11 points were a season low.
-Sherburne’s six were a career high for the junior.
-Princeton had 34 substitutions in the game’s final 4:24.