Princeton Frontcourt Too Much To Handle
PRINCETON, N.J.—Princeton came up big against the Harvard men’s basketball team Friday night, quite literally. The play of forwards Kareem Maddox and Ian Hummer was the difference in a highly competitive 65-61 Tigers win.
“Hummer and Maddox [are] two very tough matchups for most people, let alone for us,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought those two kids in particular were just tremendous in how they played.”
In the first half, with the Princeton offense struggling to find a rhythm, Maddox picked up his team right before the break. The senior reeled off six straight points in the paint for the Tigers to keep them within striking distance of Harvard. He had 10 of Princeton’s 29 points at halftime and finished with 14 on the night.
But Maddox’s presence was felt equally on the defensive end, where he tallied five blocks and one steal and pressured the Crimson big men into numerous turnovers.
“He’s a nightmare of a matchup,” Amaker said. “He’s 6’8”, he handles the ball very well, he’s dynamite driving it, [and] he’s a tremendous passer. Then you talk about his ability to post up whatever matchup you put on him—it’s very difficult.”
Hummer was just as instrumental to the Princeton victory. Picking up two fouls in the first six minutes, the sophomore was relegated to the bench for much of the opening frame, but he made a big impression when he returned to the court in the second half.
“Sitting out of a big game like that in the first half was pretty frustrating,” Hummer said. “I just wanted to get in there, get my hands dirty, and help my team win.”
Getting loose on a number of backdoor cuts and posting up in the paint, Hummer exploded for 15 second-half points after scoring just two in the first period. He finished 7-of-11 from the field and led all scorers with 17 points in only 23 minutes of action.
On the night, the two Tiger big men combined for 31 points on 13 of 21 shooting.
Part of the Princeton frontcourt’s success was a direct result of the Harvard’s post woes. After picking up two fouls apiece in the first half, forwards Keith Wright and Kyle Casey got in serious jeopardy of fouling out early in the second half. Casey bit on a pump fake by Tiger forward Patrick Saunders with 11:19 remaining to pick up his fourth foul, and exactly one minute later, Hummer drew an offensive foul as Wright backed down in the post, giving the Crimson junior co-captain his fourth as well.
Because Princeton’s lead swelled to 11 points, Amaker was forced to play both Casey and Wright, and the Tigers went after the two big men.
“That was certainly a tough moment for us to try to work ourselves through,” Amaker said. “[We tried] playing zone, [going] offense-defense. I think sometimes when you have those kind of fouls, you’re playing obviously a little more tentative, and I thought that was the case with both of our guys.”
Although both Wright and Casey managed to stay in the game without fouling out, their limited effectiveness, especially on defense, hindered the Crimson’s comeback chances.
“Those guys had to play a little tentatively because you want to stay in the game,” Maddox said. “[Their foul trouble] was a critical part of the run we went on.”