Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 11
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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>MR. BIG SHOT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Douglas Davis brings the ball up the court last Saturday as Princeton faced Harvard at Yale in a one-game playoff for the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Junior guard Davis, a former Hun School star, hit a jump shot at the buzzer to give Princeton a dramatic 63-62 victory.

PU Men’s Hoops Wins Playoff on Davis’ Buzzer-Beater; 13th-Seeded Tigers to Face No. 4 Kentucky in NCAAs

Bill Alden

It didn’t take much more time than the blink of an eye but Douglas Davis was able to make the most of it.

With 2.8 seconds remaining in regulation and the Princeton University men’s basketball team trailing Harvard 62-61 in the playoff game for the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, junior guard Davis gathered in a pass from senior teammate Dan Mavraides.

Davis made a pump fake to elude Harvard’s Oliver McNally and then launched a jumper that seemed to take forever to come down.

“I look at it now and I did a lot in about three seconds,” said Davis. “I didn’t look up; I had a mental clock in my head. I didn’t follow through all the way because that would put more time where your fingers are on the ball. I knew it was going to come down to me getting a quick shot off.”

The shot ended up swishing through the net, giving Princeton a 63-62 win and setting off a delirious celebration as Davis’ teammates and student fans mobbed him in the corner of Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater, the neutral site of the playoff clash.

In the process, Davis, a former Hun School standout, did a lot for Princeton, clinching the program’s first NCAA trip since 2004 and leaving an indelible memory by what some, including Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters, are calling one of the five greatest shots in Princeton history.

It also prompted a party at the Frist Campus Center on Sunday for the NCAA Selection Show as Princeton learned of its assignment in March Madness. Early in the broadcast, the Tigers came up on the board as they were sent to Tampa, Fla. where 13th-seeded Princeton (25-6) will duel No. 4 Kentucky (25-8) in the second round of the NCAA East Regional on March 17.

The winner of the contest will play on March 19 against the victor of the matchup between No. 5 West Virginia and UAB/Clemson first round winner.

For Davis, punching the ticket to the NCAA tourney has been an arduous yet satisfying journey.

“It means a whole lot; this whole process has been so long,” said Davis, reflecting on the program’s 24th NCAA appearance.

“Where we are now, I never imagined it. I came here my freshman year and I was just hoping to be part of a college basketball team and to just see how far we have come together as a group is amazing.”

It was an amazing feeling for Davis to make the shot that marked the final step of the process.

“Once it left my hands and the horn went off, it felt really good,” said Davis, who estimated that he had received around 200 text, facebook, and phone messages in the 24 hours after the game which saw the Tigers rally from a 50-44 second half deficit.

“I think I blacked out and it was coming through the net and I put my hands up and that was it. Then the crowd came on me.”

Tiger senior star and co-captain Maddox, for his part, saw his basketball life flash in front of his eyes as Davis’ jumper flew through the air.

“I was wondering how he managed to shoot it hanging in the air for 45 seconds,” said a laughing Maddox, who contributed 10 points and 13 rebounds in the win with Davis getting a team-high 15 points.

“My whole career came down to that one shot and as it was in the air I was thinking about all the work we have put it and what it would mean to win. It falls through the net and I get crushed in the pile. My wrist still hurts but we’ll be good by Thursday.”

Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson knows that his team will have to be good to hang in there against powerful Kentucky.

“They have some great freshman players and some great coaching with coach Cal [John Calipari]; they play very fast,” said Johnson.

“I think Brandon Knight is fantastic. I really like how he plays the game; he’s only a freshman but he controls the game, He can shoot; he can get in there. Terrence Jones is obviously an NBA talent. He looks like a man out there among boys. Those are the guys that stick out. I don’t want to offend anyone else and get them ticked off at me; I just know those two kids well.”

In Johnson’s view, the selection committee knew what it was doing when it matched up the storied programs.

“The tournament folks have a feel for history,” said Johnson, reflecting on the clash with Kentucky, which has won seven national titles.

“I think it was Cornell-Kentucky last year. I just thought the seedings might have us paired with a big opponent so I am not shocked by that. What I love is that it is two historically great programs, that’s kind of neat. Kentucky-Princeton, that’s pretty fun.”

The underdog role that Princeton finds itself in conjured up memories of one of the most fun moments in program history, the Tigers’ titanic 43-41 upset of defending champion UCLA in the opening round of the 1996 NCAA tourney.

“I have been reminded of that and it is great; a lot of my teammates from that game were with us yesterday,” said Johnson, a former Tiger star who played a key role in that stunner.

“I think of the moment that we had against UCLA and feel that in some sense, Doug Davis had that moment yesterday. It’s kind of neat seeing history repeat itself.”

Now this year’s group of Tigers is poised to create another historic moment.

“We have got to make our own history,” said Johnson.

“I try to challenge our guys; we have had some great history here obviously. We have done some nice things in the tournament but I think those teams did that by stepping up to their challenge so that’s what we have to do. I am not predicting any great upset. I am just saying that we have to step up to the challenge of playing Kentucky and playing them pretty well.”

Maddox believes that Johnson and his staff will have the Tigers ready for that challenge.

“Those are tough guys and tough coaches,” said Maddox, referring to Johnson and assistant coach Brian Earl, another member of the 1996 squad.

“I think they know what it is going to take, first of all, to prepare for this game and then, secondly, get into the game and not be rattled.”

For Davis, the key to playing Kentucky tough will be sticking to what got the Tigers to this point.

“It really doesn’t matter to me where we play or who we play,” said Davis. “We are going to bring our offense and our Princeton style of basketball to wherever we go and whoever we play. We are going to play them and play to win.”

And you can be sure that Davis will make every second matter.

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