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Cal 81 Princeton 60.

Box Score

Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson:

Postgame audio - Patrick Saunders & Ian Hummer:

Going 7:30 without a field goal makes it hard to win basketball games. Against the #23 team in the nation, in their home gym, it becomes next to impossible.

Princeton struggled to start Sunday afternoon’s tilt versus Cal and found themselves in an early 20-5 hole, recording just one basket before the 10:25 mark of the opening frame. The Tigers never recovered, falling 81-60 at Haas Pavilion.

The Bears’ leading scorer, point guard Jerome "Bulldog" Randle, proved extremely difficult to guard, as he tore up the Tiger defense for 22 points on 6-10 shooting while handing out nine assists. Forward Jamal Boykin also had 22 for Cal on a variety of midrange jump shots, matching his career high.

"[It was] a pretty straight-forward game," said Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson. "We knew what we were getting ourselves into and knew that we had to be very good in terms of execution and we weren't and I think that's as much as anything, the deficit."

Three Princeton players hit double figures. Freshman forward Ian Hummer made his first five shots and scored a career best 13 off the bench. Douglas Davis had a dozen. Patrick Saunders added 14, 11 over a three minute stretch of the second half.

Cal controlled the glass, out-rebounding Princeton 37-20. The Tigers’ first offensive rebound came with four minutes left to play.

Rebounding was an issue from the game's opening possession, where Boykin grabbed the ball from behind Saunders after Patrick Christopher could not connect on a step back jumper. Cal snatched eight of the first nine boards as Princeton made just one of seven shots.

That one make came via Saunders, who set up in the left corner for three, found by Dan Mavraides as he drove to his left.

It would be Princeton's sole basket until a soft jumper by Hummer midway through the opening half, set up by Davis on the break. For the fourth straight game the Tigers struggled to find an offensive rhythm at the outset of the action, and when Princeton began to exhibit fluidity with the ball, they were already down double figures.

"We keep coming out flat," said Hummer of his team's difficulties to open strong. "We're having a hard time getting our offense started in the beginning of a game."

We need to hold ourselves accountable and admit that we're not playing as hard as we need to," Saunders said quietly.

Davis had trouble dribbling past Randle on offense and checking the explosive Cal guard on defense. When Randle wasn't driving to the tin he was spotting up from deep outside the arc. On an inbounds play to Randle, he pulled up a good three steps behind the line and was on the mark to give the Bears an early six point lead.

Randle scored 13 points in the game's first 13 minutes, matching Princeton's total as the Tigers trailed 27-13.

Down by 16, Princeton ran off six straight. This spurt coincided with the entrance of Tiger freshman center Brendan Connolly, seeing his first collegiate action.

"Pawel [Buczak] and [Zach] Finley, they've struggled a bit the last few games and so getting Brendan out there and getting him some game experience...that's really good," explained Johnson when asked why he sent Connolly in.

Hummer scored from Marcus Schroeder to take the lead down two. A lefty hook by Hummer in the post made it 33-19 and after Davis controlled a loose ball intended for Boykin and Hummer scored with his off hand at the other end, the lead was a more manageable 12 with 3:31 to go before halftime.

Boykin hit from the right elbow in the final minute to give Cal a 39-25 edge going into the locker room.

The Bears scored six straight to start the second half and Princeton was never closer than 15 in the final 20 minutes. Two long jumpers by Boykins and a pair of Randle free throws, fouled trying to burst between Saunders and Schroeder, completed the run.

Saunders provided most of the Tiger scoring as Princeton began to trade baskets with Cal. A right handed push shot over Boykin made it 45-29 and his quick catch and release three matched a deep Randle triple with Davis' hand in his face.

Will Barrett spotted Saunders down the lane who scooped it in with his left hand while being fouled from behind by Christopher. Saunders scored 11 of Princeton's 13 points and assisted on the other two, finding Hummer posting for a righty jump hook.

Midway through the second half, Hummer was too hasty on a attempt from the post and Cal got out on the break. Hummer fouled Omondi Amoki from behind on the layup. A soft triple by Davis over Randle was answered by D.J. Seeley, leaping back to create space versus Buczak. Seeley poked the ball away from Schroeder from behind, which led to Christopher's only three point basket of the game and the lead had finally surpassed the 20 point barrier, 66-45.

Over the final eight minutes, Princeton could only carve Cal's lead down to 16 on two Barrett free throws with 2:43 to go and the 21 point edge was the game's final margin.

It was the Tigers' third straight loss, coming against arguably the best opponent they will face in 2009-10.

Princeton will conclude their three game road trip at Rutgers on Thursday night.


-After a woeful start, the Tigers finished the game 21-50 from the field (42.0%), 7-15 from three (46.7%) and 11-13 at the line (84.6%). Cal was 32-57 on the day (56.1%), 5-15 from deep (33.3%) and 12-16 on free throws (75.0%).

-For the first time this season, Princeton had a positive assist (14) to turnover (13) ratio. The Tigers turned the ball over just three times in the second half.

-It was another outing where Princeton centers Pawel Buczak and Zach Finley both labored. Buczak was 0-6 on the day and Finley went 0-1 off the bench. Finley made two free throws in the first half after being fouled attempting a lefty hook for the pair's only points. He committed three turnovers in five minutes of play. "Maybe they're [both] a little slow out of the gate or maybe they're over-analyzing," said Johnson. "Maybe it's just getting back to basics and simplifying things for them. They'll get out of that rut. That's what we expect." While 7'3" Cal center Max Zhang did loom large under the basket, Princeton was unable to take advantage when he was drawn to the perimeter.

-Marcus Schroeder struggled in his homecoming game, scoreless on California soil with 0-5 shooting over 34 minutes.

-It was a nice return to his home state for Kareem Maddox, who made the most of his playing time during the game's final 5:39 with a three point shot on the wing after an entry pass to Connolly and an emphatic one-handed throwdown after picking off a Brandon Smith pass at center court and racing ahead to the rim.

-Will Barrett scored a personal best nine points off the bench, 2-4 from the field and 5-6 at the free throw line.

-San Diego Padres outfielder Will Venable, who makes his off-season home in the Bay Area, was at the game to cheer on his alma mater. Venable is resting up after a long, productive season in the big leagues.

David Lewis said,

November 29, 2009 @ 11:02 pm

Did Princeton try to slow the game down at all? Did they have any backdoor baskets? The only way Princeton can compete against Cal is by limiting the other team's possessions and making their shots. Although I love Sydney as a coach, I sense he is moving away from the style of play that has allowed Princeton to compete against the nation's top competition. If you notice, you don't see our centers in the high post. They mostly catch the ball, back in and try a shot from in close. I have not heard or seen all the games this year but have only seen a handful of backdoors attempted. This may be because Princeton does not have a passing center, I don't know. People have speculated for some time that Princeton has gone away from the system somewhat because other teams now know what to expect. However, if you look at the Notre Dame-Northwestern highlights, you see Northwestern in a more traditional Princeton set, with the center in the high post and the others spreading the floor, and making numerous backdoor baskets. From those of you who have seen more games this year than I have, what are your thoughts?

james schenk said,

November 30, 2009 @ 10:23 am

I attended the GW game and the Colonials trapped most of the game which prevented the Princeton Offense sets one usually see's. But I agree, Coach Johnson has Princeton in mostly low post play which suits Buczak and Finley's style of play. Northwestern has a low post center but he is in constant foul trouble and the backups are more skillful in the elbow and high post area's most people recognize as the Princeton offense. Until Princeton starts to shoot better from 3 point range, most teams will just pack it in with zones or soft man and this is the reason for the lack of back door cuts IMO. I was very impressed with the skill's of Will Barrett and feel he could be the future center for Princeton. His ability in handling the ball, passing and shooting the 3 would allow Princeton to return to more high post play and open up more back door opportunites.

Jon Solomon said,

November 30, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

While he is tall, I do not think Will Barrett is expected to play center at Princeton. His skills are better suited to the wing. Ian Hummer, on the other hand...

Robert Enoch, Jr. said,

November 30, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

I was at the Cal game, watched the GW game online, and have listened to all the other ones on the radio. I agree that it seems like the team is veering away from a traditional "Princeton offense," but more significantly, I get the strong impression that Coach J is taking the non-conference part of the season as an opportunity to do a lot of experimenting with different styles of play so that Princeton can be as good and prepared as possible going into the much-more-important Ivy League. Sometimes playing both Buczak and Finley, sometimes neither, etc. are all indicative to me of a team seeking their rhythm. By the end of the game yesterday, it really seemed like they had settled into something that was working pretty well against a much more athletic team. I really look forward to seeing how this team solidifies over the next few weeks heading into League play.

I'm consistently disappointed with the amount of time Kareem gets. He always impresses me when he gets the chance to play. I remember 2 years ago towards the end of one of Joe Scott's last games, he put Kareem in for the first time, just for the heck of it, and within 2 minutes he dunked the ball against an Ivy team we had been struggling against offensively. He did the exact same thing yesterday when they finally put him in 35 minutes into the game. Obviously dunking isn't everything, but my point is he always adds some spark and momentum to the game when he's on the court.

Robert Enoch, Jr. said,

November 30, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

Correction: "...towards the end of one of Sydney Johnson's last games in his first season..." I had Joe Scott on my mind, thinking about whether Kareem was recruited by Scott or Johnson.

Rodney Johnson said,

November 30, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

I think that Jon is hinting that Ian Hummer would make an excellent post player, with the passing skills that are required. Think of Walton, who I think was about the same size. Although Ian is a little shorter than the usual pivot player, Will Barrett at one forward, and Maddox or Saunders on the other side, would give us height enough for the Ivies I believe. Or even go with a one guard offense, with Barrett, Hummer, Maddox and Saunders all on the floor at the same time.

Brian Martin said,

November 30, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

Against GW, Princeton started many possessions by feeding the center in the high post. It didn't work. The center was immediately double-teamed, not able to find cutters, and had to pass back out to Schroeder or Davis to reset the offense. GW (and Armly and Cal) did not allow the center to hold the ball while the play developed.
The lineup of Schroeder, Davis, Hummer, Barrett, and Sauders or Mavraides was more effective running the offense without a traditional center. It was still the Princeton offense: spreading the floor, plenty of cutting, but more likely to beat the defense by finding/creating a mismatch for penetration for a short jumper or a pass to a baseline cutter or to a spot-up shooter if the defense collapsed on the ball. It is more like the version of the offense that Georgetown used to beat Duke in 2006 than the one Princeton used against UCLA.
The bigger issue against Cal was that the seniors were 0-12 from the field.

David Lewis said,

November 30, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

Look at the Nothwestern highlights that Jon has thankfully posted of both its Notre Dame and Iowa State games and tell me if this looks like the offense Princeton is now running. The highlights are a bit misleading since every shot goes in. It just looks different to me - more space under the basket and more passing by the center. It also looks like the players are much more spread out. I appreciate what Brian has said, that it's the defenses that prevent us from playing more of a Princeton style. If that was the case, why wouldn't Notre Dame, Iowa State or Butler for that matter, use the same defensive strategy against Norhtwestern. I might be mistaken, it's just my impression that Princeton is not running the same stuff. It may just be that Northwestern has more guys hitting three point shots right now. It just amazes me that Northwestern can beat teams like Notre Dame after losing their two best players. Is the talent level better at Northwestern than at Princeton? Is it the coaching that allows them to win these games against big opponents or the players? Is Carmody doing anything different than Sydney?

Brian Martin said,

November 30, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

Good for Carmody and Henderson and Northwestern but when they win a couple of games does it have to lead to criticism that Princeton lost to Cal because Johnson did not keep running the offense through the high post offense? The high post center is not the offense. It is one variation. If anything we stuck with it too long against GW. Our centers were ineffective. Princeton's best lineups in the past 2 games were 2 guards and 3 forwards or 3 guards and 2 forwards because they are better basketball players than the centers. We started scoring on Cal as soon as we went with that lineup. Unfortunately, we couldn't guard two of their guys and we couldn't rebound with or without centers. But we ran the offense and got 48 points from 2 sophs and 2 frosh so the future looks bright.

David Lewis said,

November 30, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

We lost by 21 points. The main point I was making is that Princeton has historically given more athletic teams fits by playing an unconvential style. It doesn't have to be playing the center up high, but it's pretty obvious that if we don't milk the shot clock and play tough defense, we will lose these games by 20+ points regularly. Northwestern seems to play to teams very tough with less talent than their opponents. This isn't a criticism of the coach. I am just wondering why Princeton isn't more competitive in these games. I don't buy Brian's suggestion that it's just because we don't have the right players on the floor. This is the deepest team Princeton has had in a long time.

Robert Enoch, Jr. said,

November 30, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

I don't know how much you've been able to listen to/watch the team this year, but they are definitely milking the shot clock (at least, as much as I've seen them in the past 5 years), and they're playing pretty stingy defense as well; Cal was a much bigger and more athletic team, yet once Princeton got its act together approximately 10 minutes into the game, we more-or-less prevented them from extending their lead (was ~15 pt, ended at ~20 pt 30 minutes later), which I think is fairly impressive, defensively speaking.

As far as the offense is concerned, the back-door cuts weren't working because Army, GW, and Cal were defending them too well, and the team hasn't been able to fall back on open-threes because, well, they can't really shoot them very well most of the time. Coach Johnson has ended up settling into this slightly watered down, forwards-and-guards-only variation of the Princeton offense to optimize shooting %age and points-per-minute for the talent he has right now. Unfortunately, against the past few teams, Princeton's optimal offensive performance still hasn't been enough. I wouldn't be surprised if you see a much more traditional and well executed version of the Princeton offense once we're done facing harder teams and are into conference play.

I also think they gave a big part of Cal's lead away by fouling a little too much, and I'm not talking about the fouling-to-catch-up-in-the-last-2-minutes stuff, rather a bunch of unintentional fouls throughout the game. Maybe I'm wrong about that part.

Jon Solomon said,

December 2, 2009 @ 12:33 am

I think I've said this after other Northwestern games, but with tonight's victory over NC State fresh in my mind, I'll say it again:

Coach Carmody's Wildcats run a lot more "chin" sets (the backscreen that frees a man under the basket, where he lays in a pass that meets him from the opposite wing) than Princeton/Georgetown.

You might see the Tigers try "chin" once or twice a game. Northwestern goes to it 10x or more.

That might be one of the main reasons why you think the orange and black do not look like they are "as Princeton" on offense.


David Lewis said,

December 2, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

Thanks for that explanation. Have you ever asked Coach Johnson why he does not use more "chin" sets? Is it a question of personnel or philosophy, or both?

Jon Solomon said,

December 2, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

I would guess that it is more philosophy than personnel.

When Princeton signals chin, well-prepared defenses usually yell "chin" and watch for the backscreen.

David Lewis said,

December 2, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

I know these Ivy League kids are smart, why don't they just use a word other than chin to signal the play? The Big Ten teams know that Northwestern is going to backscreen, why does it still work for them? This might be a question for Coach Johnson at your next interview.

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