For 14 long minutes, sophomore forward Ian Hummer sat on the bench and watched as the men’s basketball team inched its way back into a much-anticipated home game against Harvard Feb. 4.
Hummer, Princeton’s top scorer, left the floor after picking up two early fouls, the latter on an ill-advised block attempt as Harvard’s Christian Webster launched a three-pointer. Webster hit all three free throws to put the Crimson ahead 15–4 and temporarily quiet the more than 4,000 fans at Jadwin Gym. But by halftime, the Tigers had closed the lead to one point.
With Hummer back on the court after the break, Princeton seized control, scoring nine straight points to open the second half. Each time Harvard cut into the lead, Princeton had an answer, often supplied by Hummer. When the Crimson crept to within seven, Hummer slipped under the basket for a reverse layup. When the lead dwindled to five, he split a double-team, banked in a layup while drawing a foul, and made the free throw.
Harvard kept coming, closing to within four, but Hummer calmly replied, crossing the lane to sink a baby hook shot. Finally, with four seconds remaining and Princeton clinging to a two-point advantage, Hummer — statistically the worst free-throw shooter among Tiger regulars — drained two foul shots to seal a 65–61 victory and finish with a game-high 17 points.
Afterward, head coach Sydney Johnson ’97 applauded his team’s composure but added that “there are some pretty big challenges coming up.”
Johnson’s words proved prophetic: The following night against Dartmouth, one of the Ivy League’s weaker teams, Princeton was tied at halftime before surging ahead for a 68–53 win. Against Penn Feb. 8, the Tigers led for nearly 38 minutes before Quaker forward Tyler Bernardini hit a game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds left. Princeton won in overtime, 62–59, aided by a technical foul against Penn in the final 17 seconds. (One of the Quakers called for a timeout when they had no timeouts remaining.)
With five straight wins to open the Ivy season, Princeton (17–4 overall) stood alone at the top of the league standings and looked like the type of balanced, experienced group that can endure the ups and downs of an Ivy season.
Defensively, Princeton ranked among the Ivy’s best, and on offense, the Tigers increased their tempo, averaging more than 70 points per game, 10 points better than last season’s output. Princeton’s top scorers are split between two complementary groups: perimeter sharpshooters who also can score off the dribble (Douglas Davis ’12 and Dan Mavraides ’11), and strong, agile interior threats (Hummer and Kareem Maddox ’11).
In the early part of the Ivy season, the interior duo seemed to provide the most problems for opposing defenses. Hummer, the son of former Princeton standout Ed Hummer ’67 and nephew of John Hummer ’70, averaged a team-high 13.8 points in league games. Maddox’s scoring tends to fluctuate more, but his explosive outings (a 15-point, 14-rebound game against Brown, for example) and contributions as a passer and shot-blocker arguably have made him the team’s most valuable player.If early leaders Princeton, Harvard, and Penn hold their positions, the season’s final week — when all three play each other — could decide the Ivy championship. Princeton travels to Harvard March 5 and plays Penn at the Palestra March 8.