Men's Basketball: Tigers fall in final seconds after leading by 18
The men’s basketball team dropped a nail-biter in its first home game of the season Tuesday night, falling 67-66 to Northeastern at Jadwin Gymnasium. The Tigers led for the entire game until the final 2.5 seconds, as they were unable to stave off a late rally by the Huskies, who overcame an 18-point deficit in the second half.
Backed by a boisterous Princeton student section, the Tigers (1-1) hit five of their first 10 three-point attempts and finished the first half with an impressive 59 percent from the field. The return home seemed to help the Tigers’ first-half energy levels following last week’s shaky start at Buffalo, where they missed their first 10 three-pointers and shot 30 percent in the opening half.
Sophomore guard Clay Wilson led the attack from the outside by sinking four of his first five three-point attempts, while senior forward Ian Hummer dominated the paint with 21 first-half points on 8-of-11 shooting. Sophomore forward Denton Koon added three buckets down low, and the Tigers raced to a 44-32 halftime lead.
Princeton’s outside shooting cooled off in the second half, as the Tigers connected on only two of their 11 attempts from downtown. Princeton continued to find ways to score, however, and a quick eight points from junior forward Will Barrett helped open up an 18-point lead with just over 13 minutes remaining.
The Huskies (2-0) answered with an 18-6 run that cut the deficit to six points with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Three minutes later, a three-pointer by Northeastern’s Quincy Ford made the score 66-63. Northeastern forced a turnover before hitting two more free throws to bring the game within a single point.
Two plays later, a backdoor pass from Ford and an easy layup by Reggie Spencer gave the visitors their first lead of the game with 2.5 seconds remaining. The Tigers’ desperation halfcourt heave came up short of the basket, leaving Princeton just short of its first home victory.
More than anything else, the blown deficit was caused by an offense that stagnated as the game wore on. Northeastern played a remarkably consistent game, shooting 12-for-21 in the first half and 11-for-19 in the second. Both teams cut down on turnovers in the second half, and the only striking change in play manifested itself in the Tigers’ shooting percentage, which dropped from 59 percent in the first half to 35 in the second.
The momentum swing left Princeton completely scoreless in the final three minutes of the game, in which the Tigers let a 66-59 lead slip away.
After the game, Barrett attributed Princeton’s second-half struggles to a lack of ball movement against the Huskies’ zone defense.
“We just weren’t moving as much in the second half,” he said. “In a zone like that you have to penetrate and kick. That’s what we were doing in the first half, and we were getting wide-open shots. When guys don’t move around in the zone ... it allows them to get their hands in your face.”
Barrett, who fouled out with less than a minute remaining in the game, also expressed frustration with his own defensive play down the stretch. “To put myself and my teammates in that position isn’t fair to me and it isn’t fair to my teammates. I just have to stay more focused the whole game,” he said.
Hummer, who matched his career high of 25 points, scored only four of them after halftime. Though disappointed in the game’s result, he pointed to the team’s first-half performance and overall talent as reasons to remain optimistic about Princeton’s 2012-13 season.
“We definitely should have won. I think the way we played in the first half really shows what we’re capable of,” he said. “I think we have a good group of guys that can really play and, I think, can really bounce back from this game.”
The Tigers will have a chance to prove him right on Friday night, when Princeton will host Rutgers at 7 p.m.