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.