In a game that broke each team's way during a wild end-of-regulation and overtime sequence Tuesday night at Jadwin Gym, the Princeton men's basketball team got the last break.
It added up to a 62-59 extra-period win over rival Penn and a retention of the Tigers' undefeated Ivy League record at 5-0.
"It is what the rivalry is," Sydney Johnson, the Franklin C. Cappon-Edward G. Green '40 head coach of men's basketball, said following his 13th Penn-Princeton game between his stints as a player and as head coach. "It is what the tradition is."
It also gave Princeton its 17th win in 21 games this season, the program's most through 21 games since the 1997-98 team that counted only a loss to North Carolina during the regular season.
Down by a point with less than a minute to go in overtime, Princeton benefited from a Penn (9-10, 3-2) technical foul when the Quakers' Jack Eggleston, trying to hold on to a loose ball, called a time out his team did not have, sending Douglas Davis to the line.
Davis, who entered the night with the possibility that his 1,000th point would be his most noteworthy event of the evening, split the free throws to tie the game. But by rule, the Quakers retained the ball with the same six seconds on the shot clock - and 16 seconds on the game clock - that were there when Eggleston called time.
Ian Hummer became the next hero for the Tigers, stealing Miles Cartwright's inbounds pass on the restart and getting fouled, hitting both attempts to make it 61-59 with 13 seconds left.
Penn's Fran Dougherty couldn't convert on the other end for the Quakers, and Dan Mavraides put the Tigers up by three with only four ticks of the clock for Penn's Zack Rosen to try and stun Princeton again. Five minutes earlier, his teammates' 3-point tries fell. Rosen's did not.
Only moments before, it looked like overtime was but a faint possibility and that the Tigers would excuse Penn from Jadwin Gym with a loss for the second straight year. With Princeton up by five and 31 seconds to go, Penn worked the clock until Cartwright stuck a 3-pointer that made it 55-53 with 11 seconds left and still a chance for the Quakers.
Davis, a 76% free-throw shooter on the season, split his attempts from the line after the necessary foul, giving Penn the ball for one last chance. The Quakers' Zack Gordon found a wide-open Tyler Bernardini in the corner, and Bernardini buried the shot with three seconds left to send the game to overtime.
"It's hard to understand, but mistakes happen," Johnson said of Bernardini's shot. "Clearly a defensive breakdown on our part and a well-executed play on their part."
Penn got out to a 59-56 overtime lead that could have been more. Cartwright was fouled trying a 3-pointer with less than three minutes to go in the extra period but made just one, putting his team ahead 57-56. Dougherty converted with a bucket on Penn's next trip down the floor, and the Quakers were ahead 59-56.
Finally, a Princeton offense that hadn't scored for the first four minutes of overtime broke through, when Hummer put in a second-chance layup to bring Princeton within a point.
Then came Penn's timeout miscue, the final break for a Princeton team that saw everything go its way in the final minute of overtime.
"I really was very very pleased with how we responded emotionally," Johnson said. "I just think it was just a tremendous response considering everything that was on the line."
While Davis reached the 1,000-point mark to become the third straight Tiger to claim the milestone against Penn, the Quakers' Rosen fell just short, standing on 999 for his career. Davis became the 27th Tiger to reach 1,000 and first junior in 21 years to do so, since Kit Mueller '91 joined the club in 1990. Davis is the 16th-fastest Tiger to 1,000, getting there in his 79th game. He is the first Tiger to 1,000 since Will Venable '05 in the 2005 season finale in Jadwin Gym against Penn and Judson Wallace '05 a month earlier at The Palestra.
Neither Venable nor Wallace had the opportunity to celebrate the milestone as well as a win over the Quakers, however. That's the way Davis wanted it.
"It would have been terrible if we had lost," Davis said. "I'm glad we got the win."
Davis, who now has 1,005 points, was one of four players who co-led Princeton with 11 points along with Patrick Saunders, Mack Darrow and Mavraides. The Tigers led by as much as 11 late in the first half and saw Penn go on an 8-0 run to start the second half that whittled Princeton's lead to one at 28-27 with 18:02 to play.
Princeton had as much as a 13-point lead after the break and led by 11 with 4:42 to play, but the Quakers, who were down by 18 to Harvard Saturday before pushing the Crimson to double overtime, came back to tie. The Quakers never led until the overtime period.
The victory was Princeton's fourth OT win of the season, a program record. It is also just the fifth time in program history, and first since the 1998-99 season, that the Tigers have had four overtime games. Another would tie the record set by the 1980-81 team.
In addition to keeping Princeton a half-game ahead of Harvard (5-1), one and a half in front of Yale (4-2) and two in front of Penn (3-2), the win extended Princeton's home-undefeated record to 10 games, making this Tiger team just the fifth in the 42 full seasons at Jadwin Gym to reach 10-0 at home. The 1975 (10-0), 1977 (11-0), 1990 (12-0) and 1998 (12-0) teams are the others.
The win also marks Princeton's first back-to-back victories over Penn at Jadwin Gym since the 1997 and 1998 seasons, and extend the Tigers' winning streak over the Quakers to four, the longest since a six-game run between 1996 and 1999.
Princeton's victory was its 101st in one of the few, if any, rivalries in the eastern half of the country that has seen both teams win 100 games. Though the Quakers lost tonight, Princeton would have to win every game in the series for the next 11 years just to tie Penn's win total of 123 in the third-oldest continually played series in Division I college basketball, dating back 109 seasons.
While this Tiger team has done some impressive things, including extending its streak of scoring 60-plus points to a 21st game this season, all Princeton can do in the near term is prepare for a quick turnaround.
The Tigers will travel to Columbia and Cornell this weekend.