For Ian Hummer, the cold front this weekend arrived early when he couldn’t buy a basket Friday night as the Princeton University men’s hoops team hosted Dartmouth.
The junior star went 0-for-11 from the floor with four points on free throws as the Tigers sleepwalked past the Big Green 59-47.
In the wake of his cold shooting, Hummer consulted two former Princeton hoops stars for some tips in order to get back on track.
“I talked to my dad and I talked to my uncle; they just gave me some advice,” said Hummer, whose father Ed was a three-year letterwinner from 1965-67 and ranks 10th all-time in Princeton history with 550 career rebounds while Uncle John was a two-time first-team All-Ivy Leaguer and scored more than 1,000 points in his Tiger career from 1968-70.
“Basically I was rushing all of my shots, not really looking at the basket when I was shooting. They said keep your head up and just take what comes to you.”
A night later, Hummer took it to No. 21/25 Harvard, scoring 20 points with nine rebounds and six assists as the Tigers topped the Crimson 70-62 before a delighted Jadwin Gym throng of 5,266.
“To get that first one to go down was quite a bit different from yesterday, said Hummer, who hit a 3-pointer from the corner 3:20 into the game to break his shooting drought.
“I was a little frustrated yesterday; I just knew that shots were going to come my way.”
Things weren’t quite going Princeton’s way in the early going as it trailed 27-22 at halftime. But with the Tigers down 42-38 with 11:04 left in regulation, they caught fire, reeling off a 21-7 run that broke open the game.
The win lifted Princeton 13-10 overall and 4-3 in Ivy League play while league frontrunner Harvard fell to 21-3 overall and 7-1 Ivy.
In addition, the triumph marked Princeton’s 24th straight win over Harvard at Jadwin Gym since 1989 and was the Tigers’ first home win against a nationally-ranked team since a victory over No. 2 Notre Dame in 1977.
For Hummer and his teammates, those streaks paled in significance to simply beating an arch rival.
“We don’t pay attention to the ranking overall,” maintained Hummer, who starred last year when Princeton edged Harvard in an Ivy title playoff game to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“Harvard has always been a big opponent of ours and we just wanted to come out and play them as hard as we can every time. It is just a great rivalry. We are just happy to come out with the win against a very good Harvard team.”
The Tigers were also happy with the raucous support they got from their fans, who stormed the court to mob the players when the buzzer sounded.
“It really lifts you, it gives you motivation to play well,” said the 6’7, 230-pound Hummer, who recently passed the 1,000-point milestone and is leading the Tigers with 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.
“We take energy from the crowd both on defense and offense. For them to come down to see us and have another great game with Harvard is special. We love when people come to our games and cheer for us. I think it was a great game for them to come to. Every time we have a packed house, we seem to play really well.”
Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson loved the performance he got from his players as they tightened up the Ivy title race.
“First of all, we are very happy with the win, this is a really good Harvard team,” said Henderson, who got 12 points and four assists from T.J. Bray in the win with Brendan Connolly scoring 11 points and Denton Koon and Mack Darrow chipping in 10 points apiece.
“We knew they have games where it is almost like a fight and they have been defending so well. Up until 12 minutes left in the game it was the same thing for us and then we hit a spurt. I thought it was really spurred by Ian’s play and T.J.”
Henderson acknowledged that his team had to pick things up after its lackluster effort a night earlier against Dartmouth.
“I just didn’t feel like there was much life on the team,” said Henderson, noting that the Tigers trailed the Big Green 11-1 at one point.
“I felt like the team that showed up in the last 12 minutes of this game is a group that is pretty tough to beat. We have played like that at times all year. Ian had six assists and one turnover, that is Princeton basketball. We just keep talking about sharing the ball and making each other better. When we are committed to that, we can be pretty good.”
Sharing the ball led to a balanced attack which saw five Princeton players score in double figures.
“We weren’t going to get much if we didn’t get balanced scoring,” said Henderson.
“We had a really nice contribution from everybody; it was hugely important because when you are playing a good team like that you have to have balance.”
In Henderson’s view, the 6’11, 255-pound junior center Connolly made a big contribution, getting the start instead of Mack Darrow.
“We got some quality minutes from Brendan Connolly; I thought Brendan established a little bit of a swagger for us early which we needed,” added Henderson of Connolly, who also contributed six rebounds.
“I think because Mack and Brendan support each other so much off the floor and on the floor, it is an easy thing to do. I thought it presented a nice matchup for us with Keith Wright.”
While the win Saturday was sweet, Henderson knows that it isn’t going to be easy for the fifth-place Tigers to catch the league-leading Crimson in the Ivy race.
“We have got to go up to their place in a little while; we are pretty focused on what we have got at hand and ahead of us,” said Henderson, whose team hosts Columbia (14-10 overall, 3-5 Ivy) on February 17 and Cornell (10-12 overall, 5-3 Ivy) a day later.
“They are doing a great job and I know they are going to finish the year strong. In terms of league play we have work to do and we need help. I want to build on what happened tonight and take it into next weekend.”
In Hummer’s view, the Tigers are working their way back into contention.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the beginning of Ivy League play,” said Hummer.
“We knew we had to come out as hard as we could tonight. We had a disappointing game against Dartmouth. Even though we won, we didn’t play as well as we should have. We are still in a hole a little bit but it is a little shallower now. We just hope other teams play as well and we can just keep on trucking.”