NEW YORK — In the end, nobody was able to step up for the Princeton Tigers when they needed it most.
Despite giving up significant size at almost every position in the starting lineup, the Wagner Seahawks blitzed the Tigers with superior speed and tenacity Wednesday night on Staten Island. For Princeton, that added up to a 48-42 overtime loss.
“They put the heat on us, and we coughed it up,” coach Mitch Henderson said after the game.
On the Tigers last three possessions of overtime and with the game very much in the balance, senior forward Ian Hummer traveled, missed a spinning layup, then missed a three. He led the Tigers with 11 points and seven rebounds, but shot just 25 percent from the field.
For Wagner, Jonathan Williams and Orlando Parker were both able to hit big free throws down the stretch. Williams was extremely effective all night against Hummer, and finished with a game-high 20-points.
“He’s strong,” Henderson said. “When you stop him, he still has a way of getting an edge. He’s a very difficult matchup.”
Much like against its win against Lafayette last Saturday, Princeton was able to overwhelm Wagner with its size early in the game. The Tigers were able to jump out to a 9-0 lead after senior reserve forward Mack Darrow drained a straightaway three just after the 15 minute mark of the first half.
After that quick run, however, the Tigers offense stalled badly. It soon became clear that what Wagner lacked in height, it made up for in quickness and tenacity. After a few emphatic blocks by Seahawks center Naofall Folahan, Princeton began to miss some makeable shots around the rim and turned the ball over with sloppy passing in the half court.
In the first half, however, the Princeton defense didn’t let the Seahawks generate any sort of offense at the other end of the court. The Tigers went into the half up 23-14.
“There were a lot of moments where a free throw or a made three could have put us over the top, because the defense was good enough,” Henderson said.
In the second half, the quicker, smaller Wagner began to pressure the ball in the full court, creating havoc in the Princeton backcourt. By forcing the Tigers to turn the ball over—Princeton had 17 on the game—the Seahawks were also able to get some easy points on the fast break.
“It really bothered us,” Henderson said. “I thought we were handling everything they were throwing at us in the first half well, but we lost our heads.”
As the Seahawks began to creep back into the game, the home fans became increasingly vocal. By halfway through the second half, the midweek crowd was in March form.
With 2:38 left in the game, Wagner’s Eric Fanning rose up from the left wing and drained a three, cutting the Princeton lead to just two at 40-38. The next score came at 2:17, when Williams hit a bank shot down low, tying the game at 40.
The Seahawks had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Ortiz couldn’t convert.
Princeton will try to rebound this Friday as they travel to Kent State.
Unfortunately we have to react a little bit to a difficult loss, but we’ll be ready,” Henderson said