Men's Basketball: Tigers upset FSU in 3OT thriller
The men’s basketball team has saved its best play for its biggest opponents.
In November, coming off of a disappointing home loss in their season opener, the Tigers traveled to North Carolina State and battled the Wolfpack for 40 minutes, eventually losing on a tough jumper with four seconds remaining. In December, carrying a 2-5 record against Division I opponents, Princeton traveled north to Rutgers and beat the Scarlet Knights on junior forward Ian Hummer’s game-winning shot.
And last night, against their toughest opponent yet, the Tigers played their most thrilling game. Princeton (7-7) held a 27-10 lead at halftime against Florida State (8-5) but gave it all away in the second period, and both teams had chances to win the game in regulation and two extra frames. It wasn’t until a third overtime – when senior guard Doug Davis hit two huge three-pointers and the visitors made their free throws – that the Tigers finally pulled out a dramatic 75-73 victory.
After 50 minutes of play, each team had only 60 points in a game that was defined by strong defense and sloppy execution surrounding the occasional offensive flair. The hosts got on the board first in the third overtime, but Davis hit a deep three-pointer to snatch the lead. A triple by Seminoles guard Luke Loucks later knotted the game at 65-65, but Davis responded with a wide-open three from the top of the key, hitting the front rim but getting the shooter’s touch to put the Tigers ahead for good.
With less than a minute to play, Davis stole the ball and raced into a fast break; he missed the layup, but Hummer followed with a thunderous dunk, the exclamation point on an immensely captivating game. Michael Snaer made things interesting for the hosts with a long-range three-pointer, but junior forward Mack Darrow made three of four free throws to put the game away.
The Tigers could have won five minutes sooner, as an off-balance layup from Hummer on his go-to post move gave the Tigers a three-point advantage in the final minute. Even after two Florida State free throws, Princeton had the ball and a one-point lead. But sophomore point guard T.J. Bray, who had fed Darrow for the go-ahead basket moments earlier, lost the ball in the backcourt and committed his fifth foul while going after it, disqualifying himself and giving the hosts a chance to take the lead.
Ian Miller made only one of his two shots from the charity stripe, however, leaving the game tied at 60-60. Davis, who had sparked Princeton’s 7-0 run with a key three-pointer earlier in the period, missed an off-balance attempt at the horn, sending the game to a third overtime.
For the game, Florida State made only 11 of its 22 free throws, missing many critical attempts that could have given the team its ninth victory.
Princeton never trailed in regulation, jumping out to an early lead by playing its best defensive half of the season. The visitors held Florida State to just five points in the first 12 minutes and 10 for the entire period, a mark that was seemingly equal parts skill and luck. Swarming defenders forced 11 first-half turnovers and Princeton’s long frontcourt challenged every shot at the rim, but the Seminoles missed an inordinate amount of open jumpers, including 0-for-11 from beyond the three-point line.
Both teams struggled to find their way offensively early on, as the score was stalled at 6-5 eight minutes in, but Princeton took control with a 19-2 run. Bray and Darrow each hit triples in that span, but the run was fueled by Davis and Hummer, who finished the game with 25 points apiece in a combined 108 minutes of playing time. Davis was listed with a full 55 minutes of playing time, sitting for only one defensive possession late in regulation, and despite the extended game, just seven Tigers were on the court for more than one play.
Facing an Atlantic Coast Conference team on the road, the Tigers held their own on the boards, exactly matching their opponent’s 44 rebounds. Hummer led the way with a career-high 15 – the most for a Tiger since Zach Finley ’10 grabbed 15 against Penn in 2009 – while freshman forward Denton Koon added 10 off of the bench. Princeton took a 27-10 lead into halftime.
But the Seminoles, who made just four of 24 field-goal attempts in the first half, found their groove on the offensive end, not committing a single turnover in the final 11 minutes en route to a 37-point half. A series of close-range baskets brought the hosts within striking distance, and they quickly closed the lead to two points with a 12-0 run before Koon stemmed the tide with a layup and one.
Davis hit a jumper with three minutes to play, putting the Tigers up 47-43, but the visitors would not score again in regulation, and a put-back dunk from Florida State forward Xavier Gibson tied the game with 47 seconds to play. Senior forward Patrick Saunders missed a jumper on the next possession, but the rebound went out of bounds off of a Seminoles jersey. As in the second overtime, Davis was told to create the final shot and missed an off-balance leaner; Darrow grabbed the ball and put up a reverse tip shot before the buzzer, but it rolled off of the rim.
Davis repented by sinking a jumper to open the first overtime, which would see just six points for each side. Facing a one-point deficit with a minute and a half to play, Davis inbounded the ball from the baseline to Hummer and curled around him to receive a handoff; Hummer instead kept the ball himself for a wide-open drive to the basket, which he finished with a dunk plus a free throw.
Snaer responded with a layup, tying the game at 53-53. Trying to create a shot from the perimeter, Hummer turned the ball over, though he hustled back for an impressive chase-down block on Miller’s wild fast-break attempt. Florida State got the rebound, however, and called a timeout to set up the last shot.
That shot went to Snaer, who finished with a team-high 20 points despite battling leg cramps late in the game. Snaer missed a jumper, but junior center Brendan Connolly was called for a foul underneath the basket while fighting for the rebound, sending forward Bernard James to the free throw line with 2.6 seconds left in a tie game. James clanged the front end of a one-and-one, however, the most costly of his five misses in six attempts, and the game continued.
Hummer scored his 25 points on an efficient 10-for-19 shooting, making all five of his free throw attempts. Bray notched a game-high seven assists.
Princeton improves to 3-0 all-time against Florida State, which was ranked as high as No. 20 this season. The Tigers continued a pattern of strong play against major-conference opponents that dates back to last year, when they bookended the season with an overtime victory over Rutgers and a last-second loss in the NCAA Tournament to Kentucky, which eventually reached the Final Four.