Ian Hummer '13's 23-point, 14-rebound performance propelled Princeton to victory against Harvard. The Crimson also lost to Penn, giving the Tigers sole possession of first place in the Ivy League. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

Ian Hummer '13's 23-point, 14-rebound performance propelled Princeton to victory against Harvard. The Crimson also lost to Penn, giving the Tigers sole possession of first place in the Ivy League. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

In basketball, perhaps more than in any other sport, there is an expectation that star players will decide close games. Like most sports clichés, this one contains as much falsehood as it does truth; for every game-winning highlight from Michael Jordan or Christian Laettner, there is another by a player like Robert Horry or Keith Smart, sidekicks who made critical shots.

When the men’s basketball team faced Harvard on Friday night, however, there was no question who the biggest star was — and nobody left Jadwin Gym doubting his influence on the game. In what was effectively a must-win game for the Tigers — a loss would have put Harvard two games ahead with three remaining — Ian Hummer ’13 made the three biggest plays of Princeton’s season, willing the hosts to a 58-53 victory that kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

A second-generation Princeton basketball standout — his father Ed ’67 and uncle John ’70 each wore the orange and black — Hummer added to his already robust legacy in Friday’s game. With an old-fashioned three-point play early in the second half, he passed Doug Davis ’12 for second place on Princeton’s all-time scoring list, trailing only Bill Bradley ’65; he also ranks among the program’s top 10 in rebounds, assists and blocked shots, and he’s one good game from adding steals to that list.

But Hummer’s play down the stretch was even more memorable than his milestone. With the Tigers trailing by one point and two minutes remaining, point guard T.J. Bray missed a medium-range shot, but Hummer crossed the lane from the weak side, rose through traffic, controlled the ball with one hand and laid it in softly off the glass, coming down with a 52-51 lead.

Thirty seconds later, with Princeton down by one point once again, there was no doubt where the ball was going. Coming out of a timeout, Hummer outmuscled Steve Mondou-Missi to get extremely deep post position; the Harvard forward had no choice but to foul Hummer, who made both free throws and gave Princeton another one-point lead.

That margin held until the final seconds, when Mack Darrow ’13 missed the front end of a one-and-one. Hummer rose above Mondou-Missi to tap the rebound back toward the Princeton backcourt; as it neared the sideline, Bray slapped it back in play with a full-extension drive, and Denton Koon ’15 collected it, drawing a clock-stopping foul and making both free throws.

Hummer intercepted Harvard’s last-ditch inbounds pass for good measure, sending a crowd of 4,413 home happy and keeping the Ivy League race alive. Hummer’s final line: 23 points, 14 rebounds, and one Ivy League Player of the Year trophy that can be all but engraved already. “He was a monster,” Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said in the postgame press conference.

Hummer has been among the league’s most feared players for a couple years now — he was one of only two unanimous All-Ivy selections last season — but as a senior, he has patched up many of his remaining weaknesses. For three-and-a-half seasons, Hummer struggled at the free throw line; he entered February as a 64 percent career foul shooter. “My free throw shooting has been pretty atrocious in my four years, but in practice I shoot quite well,” Hummer said then when I talked to him for a profile in the March 6 print issue. “I think my free throw shooting has improved, even though it hasn’t shown up yet. Hopefully in league play it will.” Sure enough, in 11 Ivy games, Hummer has shot 83 percent from the line, including a key 7-for-7 against Harvard.

Even for a player who is in the Ivy League’s top five in points, rebounds and steals, Hummer still makes contributions outside the box score. In charting a replay of Friday’s game, I found that Harvard never even attempted a shot in the second half when Hummer was the primary defender; his length and quickness on the perimeter helped limit a sharp-shooting Crimson team to only eight three-point attempts, all misses.

On Saturday, despite a relative off-night for Hummer (13 points, six rebounds), Princeton fought off Dartmouth for a 68-63 victory behind strong efforts from Bray and Will Barrett ’14. Meanwhile, Harvard was upset at Penn, leaving the Tigers alone in first place for the first time this season. Princeton can now win the Ivy championship outright with wins in its final three games — but the last one will be at Penn, where the Quakers will want revenge for last year’s season-ending defeat.

Quick takes

After getting smoked by Harvard a month ago, WOMEN’S SWIMMING returned the favor when it mattered more, winning the Ivy League Championships at DeNunzio Pool by 100 points. Lisa Boyce ’14 had an outstanding meet, winning three individual events — and setting Ivy records in two — while adding a fourth victory and third league record in the 200 free relay. Princeton’s championship is its 11th in the last 14 years.

WOMEN’S FENCING claimed its fourth straight Ivy title in dominant fashion, winning each of its six matches by scores of 18-9 or better. Eliza Stone ’13 was named the meet’s most outstanding fencer, while her sister, Gracie Stone ’16, earned top rookie honors. MEN’S FENCING went 3-2 to finish in a three-way tie for second behind champion Harvard.

After setting a record with its 33rd straight Ivy League win last Saturday, WOMEN’S BASKETBALL failed in its first attempt to extend that mark, falling 58-55 at Harvard on Friday by shooting 26 percent from the floor. The Tigers recovered to beat Dartmouth on Saturday, while second-place Penn fell at Harvard; Princeton can clinch its fourth straight outright Ivy title with home wins against Brown and Yale this weekend.

MEN’S HOCKEY earned home-ice advantage in the first round of the ECAC Tournament in dramatic fashion, as Andrew Calof ’14 scored with one minute left in overtime to break a 1-1 tie at Harvard on Saturday, giving Princeton the two points it needed for the No. 8 seed. Next weekend, the Tigers will host No. 9-seed Cornell, a preseason favorite which has struggled this season — especially against Princeton, which swept the Big Red 5-3 and 1-0.

Kevin Whitaker ’13 is an economics major and former Daily Princetonian sports editor.