Princeton fans stood up and clapped as junior guard Chris Clement dribbled the clock to zero, clinching the game for the Tigers in an anticlimactic end to Penn’s season.
It was a true battle on the court in the Quakers’ (9-22, 6-8 Ivy) season finale against rival Princeton, but it all fell apart in the final minutes as the Tigers (17-11, 10-4) came away with the victory, 71-58.
In what was the most meaningful game for Penn in some time, even though it had no postseason implications, the two teams fought toward the finish, constantly going back and forth to grab the lead in front of the biggest Penn student crowd this season. But the Tigers took off in the final minutes to secure the win.
“Today was an important game for a number of reasons. You can pick and choose,” coach Jerome Allen said. “I try to get these guys to understand that it’s an important game because it’s the last game of the year, you want to end on a high note. Two, we’re trying to improve. Three, it’s Princeton.”
The Tigers began to pull away in the final five minutes under the driving force of senior forward Ian Hummer, who was aggressive late in the second half after being quiet early on.
In the final game of his collegiate career, Hummer led the charge to complete Penn’s collapse, bringing in 18 points for the Tigers — eight of which came from the free throw line — after scoring only two points in the first half.
“[Hummer] got really aggressive, he drew a lot of fouls, he went to the line,” freshman guard Tony Hicks said. “That’s just what it is about — getting to our spots early, staying focused so he can’t get the ball, and we’re just in a better position where we don’t have to foul.”
But in the final minutes, the Quakers were unable to handle the force of Hummer, junior guard T.J. Bray and the rest of the Princeton squad, which was eliminated from title contention last weekend.
“I’ve shed more tears in the last few days that I’d care to admit,” Hummer said.
For the Tigers, winning this game was about ending the season on a high note.
“We just had to go out the right way. Do it for the seniors, do it for the program. Princeton-Penn is huge,” Bray said. “It’s been an awesome ride and I wouldn’t want to go out any other way.”
Penn was looking to avenge a loss at the hands of the Tigers from earlier this year, but also last year’s season-ending crusher that ended any Ivy title hopes for the Red and Blue.
And though the battle went on well into the second frame, the Quakers could not stick it out to win the final game of the season in front of the large student crowd.
The contest looked promising for the Red and Blue early on.
Freshman guard Tony Hicks stole the show for the Red and Blue, notching 22 points — 17 of which came in the first half.
In the first ten minutes of the game, the rookie led the way for the Quakers, bringing in 11 of the team’s first 12 points.
But Hicks’ began to fade in the second half, reflecting the overall shift in play late in the game for Penn.
“I feel like that’s kind of been my M.O.,” Hicks said. “I die down in the second half. I think mentally I just have to stay locked into the game, stay focused and stay aggressive.”
Missing from the spotlight was junior captain Miles Cartwright, who notched only six points on the night on a 2-for-8 performance from the field. But for Allen, this was not the cause of the loss.
“Miles’ six points wasn’t the reason we lost the basketball game — it was a summation of misfortunes over the course of 40 minutes, one possession at a time,” Allen said. “I think that’s how teams lose basketball games.”
As the final buzzer went off, the Quakers exited the court with the game in the Tigers’ favor in this disappointing end to the season.
“It’s not good, it’s not good,” Hicks said. “I’m ready for next year.”
Though Allen firmly stated that next season “is not a promise for anyone,” he echoed Hicks’ remarks with the lessons learned from this season and this loss.
“Failure motivates me,” Allen said. “In terms of building this program, we understand that it’s a process and it’s a journey, but you have to have some type of connection to disappointment.
“Hopefully this stings and they’ll use it in their off-season workouts and in the summertime and just stay connected to all the details we did not cover that resulted in losses and the growth and the maturity, and the experience will allow them to become better basketball players.”Comments powered by Disqus
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