Princeton University's Clay Wilson, left, is guarded by Drexel's Frantz Massenat Saturday Dec. 8, 2012 in Princeton. (Trentonian photo/Jackie Schear)
PRINCETON — Both Princeton and Drexel came into Saturday afternoon’s matchup needing a win, but it was the Dragons who played like it down the stretch.
Drexel topped the Tigers, 64-57, at Jadwin Gymnasium for just its third win of the year. Despite leading by as many as 13 points in the first half, Princeton gave up 39 points in the second — the most it’s allowed in a half this season.
With the loss, the Tigers fall to 3-5.
“You have to give credit to Drexel,” said coach Mitch Henderson. “(Dragons coach) Bruiser (Flint) said to me after the game,‘you don’t know how bad I needed that.’ I was like, ‘I know.’”
In the first half, the game belonged to Princeton’s Ian Hummer. The senior forward was a terror getting to the hoop against the Dragons’ defense, scoring 14 points on an efficient 7 of 10 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in the period.
After the half, however, Flint switched matchups, putting Derrick Thomas on Hummer instead of Damion Lee. Thomas was more physical, denying Hummer the ball, and held Princeton’s leading scorer to five points and a single rebound after intermission.
“That was a big key for us,” Flint said. “Not only did he stop him from posting up, but he didn’t let the kid get many rebounds.”
Thomas said that he tried to get inside Hummer’s head with his physical style of play.
“Basically I just wanted to play tough with him and see where his head was,” Thomas said. “He was calling for it, and I was like, ‘they aren’t going to give it to you.’ I was trying to play mind games with him a little bit, and just be physical and get in his space.”
Hummer didn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think they switched up anything in the second half,” he said. “Maybe one or two things, but nothing that should have forced such a big change.”
Drexel was also able to get Princeton out of its rhythm offensively by throwing full-court pressure at the Tigers. Though Flint said his team doesn’t usually press, he said he though that by forcing Princeton to use up clock to get the ball up the court, it would limit the amount of time the Tigers had to execute their half-court offense.
“It bothered us for sure,” Henderson said.
Another problem was on the glass, where the Tigers were out-rebounded, 19-4, after the break. The extra possessions took a visible toll on the Princeton defense.
“We didn’t have any sort of rebounding presence to finish the game, which ended up really hurting us,” Henderson said.
With 6:12 left in the game, Lee found big man Kazembe Abif for a layup, putting the Dragons ahead 51-50. At the 5:00 mark, another Abif score put Drexel up 55-50.
Princeton was able to tie the game at 57 on a pair of Will Barrett free throws, but on the next Drexel possession Lee knocked down an open 3 from the top of the arc. The Tigers had a few good looks in the game’s final minute, but weren’t able to knock them down.
Hummer led the Tigers with 19 points and seven boards, while guard Clay Wilson had 12 points off the bench. Lee had 21 points for the Dragons, and forward Dartaye Ruffin added eight points and five boards. TCA alum Frantz Massenat scored eight as well.
“Our strength is to get the ball inside, so its partly execution,” Henderson said about his team’s poor second half. “When you’re giving up long possessions on the defensive end, who is going to get rebounds for you? Who is going to make that one extra pass that makes that possession offensively that much more valuable?”
Those questions will remain rhetorical for at least another week. The Tigers next game will beSaturday, when they travel to Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center to take on the Fordham Rams.