Down nine with four minutes, 37 seconds to play, the men's basketball team needed someone to step up and make a few clutch outside shots. Somebody. Just as it had been all game, however, the Tigers had no shooter capable of knocking down the crucial basket.
Princeton chose a bad time to be off in this most critical game of the year. Their 28.8 percent from the field was the worst of the year by almost six percent. In the meantime, the Quakers were as good as the Tigers were bad, shooting 50 percent from the field. It seemed as though Penn could not miss from between 12 and 16 feet.
Princeton could not look to the highest-percentage shots, those from the low post, over the last few minutes for two reasons. First, they needed points quickly, making the three-point shot a must. Second, the Quakers managed to slow the Tiger frontcourt down.
They began to adjust to senior forward Mason Rocca, who carried the Tigers for the majority of the second half. Similarly, sophomore center Chris Young was throttled all game by a mob of Quaker defenders.
"It's a little harder for [Young] to do things down there; they crowd around him a little bit," head coach Bill Carmody said. "If that's the case, we should be able to find guys on the perimeter a little bit and knock down some shots. If you gotta rely on a guy [Rocca] who hasn't practiced to win the game, you're in trouble."
With the inside covered, the burden on the offense in the last few minutes fell on the outside shooters, who could not convert.
The obvious solution this year for any outside shooting problems the Tigers might encounter has been freshman guard Spencer Gloger. Spencer Gloger had zero points last night.
"He was guarded," Carmody said. "And he was a little out of it. The last couple days in practice, he hasn't practiced very well. It might have something to do with his hand, but it shouldn't bother him."
While Gloger performed admirably in guarding Penn guard Michael Jordan on the defensive end, he was a non-factor on offense, putting up only three shots, all in the first half.
The Tigers' other outside shooters, including sophomore guard Ahmed El-Nokali, sophomore guard Mike Bechtold, and junior guard C.J. Chapman, were just as ineffective. Although Bechtold did hit his first three-pointer with 27 seconds to play, the game had already passed Princeton by at that point. Together, the trio combined to shoot 3 for 12 from three-point range.
The most telling sequence and possibly the Tigers' last real shot to catch up came with a minute and a half to play. Needing a quick bucket to bring them within four, Princeton instead worked the ball around until the shot clock had nearly run down. Chapman, Bechtold, Young and El-Nokali each touched the ball beyond the arc, but none was willing to pull the trigger.
The play ended with Bechtold driving to the basket, only to lose faith, spin and throw an errant pass that landed in the hands of Penn guard Matt Langel. The Quaker dribbled to the opposite end of the court, taking the Tigers' chances of winning with him.