Men's Basketball: Princeton suffers first Ivy defeat
Princeton kicked off its weekend with a 63-46 rout against a solid Brown team (8-12, 2-4) that came into the game with a .500 Ivy League record. After a slow start, senior forward Ian Hummer’s three-pointer with nine minutes remaining in the first half gave the Tigers a lead they would retain until the final whistle. A swarming Princeton defense bullied the undersized Bears early on, forcing eight first-half turnovers and a dismal shooting percentage of 33 to help secure a 29-17 halftime advantage.
The Tigers continued to dominate after the break, cracking open a 22-point lead despite improved play from the opposition. Brown improved its turnover count to three and shooting percentage to 42 in the second period, but Princeton pulled away with its highly efficient offensive play. Interior double teams on Hummer allowed sophomore forward Denton Koon to catch fire from the perimeter, as he hit all three of his three-point attempts. In his 15 minutes of second-half play, Koon went five of six from the field to produce 15 points. His team finished with a red-hot 57 percent from beyond the arc while holding the visitors to a miserable 12.5 percent.
The Tigers, and particularly Koon, continued to shoot well both inside and out when they returned to Jadwin Gymnasium less than 24 hours later. In the closest game of Princeton’s Ivy League schedule to date, the score was tied on five separate occasions and the lead changed seven times. An eight-point Yale advantage midway through the first half was the largest that either team enjoyed all night, but the Tigers failed to regain the lead after losing it with just over nine minutes remaining. A three-pointer from junior forward Will Barrett brought Princeton within two points in the final 40 seconds, but a turnover on the next home possession sealed the Tigers’ fate.
The heartbreaking defeat came in spite of another remarkable night for Koon, who led his team for the second game in a row with 16 points. Across the two contests, the forward shot 12 of 18 from the field and went five of seven from three-point land to rack up 33 points.
Koon’s action-packed weekend brings his points-per-game average up to 10.2, making him second on the team in scoring behind Hummer. Through 19 games, the sophomore is shooting 55.3 percent from the field and a jaw-dropping 52.6 percent from downtown. He leads the Tigers in both categories and is one of only two underclassmen to start a game this season. Koon, whose minutes per game have soared from 16.0 last season to 28.1 this year, attributes his recent success to his pseudo position change from forward to guard/forward.
“As the season has gone on, I have just become more comfortable in my role as more of a primary ball handler-slash-guard,” he said. “One of the advantages of that comfort is that I have been able to find more efficient ways to score at that position.”
Meanwhile, Princeton’s leading scorer quietly supplemented Koon’s weekend performances with 29 points of his own. With Hummer’s 15 points on Friday and 14 on Saturday, the senior’s career point total climbed to 1469 and bumped him from sixth to fourth place on Princeton’s all-time scoring list. He now needs 81 points to pass his former teammate Doug Davis ’12 and capture the rank of second on the list behind Bill Bradley ’65. In today’s Ivy League, Hummer’s 15.7 leaves him second only to Harvard sophomore forward Wesley Saunders.
The individual accomplishments of Koon and Hummer remain only a secondary component of the team’s success thus far, though, at least according to the humble sophomore.
“I think our team has a lot of guys who can score, and each game we need different guys to step up,” he said.
Koon and his teammates will have plenty of chances to prove that their weapons are varied throughout their pursuit of another Ivy League title this winter. The next one comes this Friday in New Hampshire against a struggling Dartmouth team (6-14, 2-4).