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St. Louis 69 Princeton 59.

Box Score : HD Box Score

Postgame audio - Marcus Schroeder, Nick Lake, Zach Finley & Pawel Buczak:

Postgame audio - Coach Sydney Johnson:

The final buzzer sounded for the last time on Princeton’s class of 2010 and the Tigers lined up to shake hands with the victorious Saint Louis Billikens, 69-59 winners in the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational.

As the two teams dispersed to opposite sides of Chaifetz Arena, one by one Princeton players walked off the floor.

Eventually just a lone Tiger remained on the court.

Senior co-captain Marcus Schroeder, shuffling his feet with his head down while he fought of tears.

As Schroeder reached the edge of the hardwood, hesitant to step into the shadows, his coach stopped him for a second to rub his head and tell him how proud he was.

An instant later both Schroeder and Sydney Johnson were gone, and with them the last memory of a 2009-10 season that both will someday look back on fondly.

“It is tough for all of us losing our last game,” Schroeder said a few minutes after this moment. “I think I speak for all of us seniors that we’ve very proud of what we’ve gone through here. To have a season like this with 22 wins is pretty remarkable.”

The Billikens’ Kwamain Mitchell kept Princeton from adding to their victory total, scoring 17 of his game high 21 points in the first half.

“We tried to stop him in as many ways as we could and it seemed like he found ways to score or if he wasn’t scoring he was dishing it off to someone and they were knocking down a three,” Schroeder said of Mitchell’s effort.

Big man Willie Reed added 20 and 10 rebounds for Saint Louis.

Kareem Maddox’s 16 off the bench paced the Tigers, with Douglas Davis adding 14 - six of those late as Princeton tried to extend the game with fouls.

It was a game that few expected to exceed 100 combined points given the stellar defensive numbers of both teams, but the opening minutes were played at a swift pace with most shots falling on each side.

The Tigers made seven of their first eight field goals, building leads of 12-7 and 14-10.

Saint Louis caught and then passed Princeton by hitting eight of 10 to start the game.

A long two by Mitchell began his impressive evening, with Pawel Buczak answering inside off passes by Dan Mavraides and then Patrick Saunders.

Mitchell hit off the left wing for three, which Schroeder countered on the right side of the arc.

Tied at seven after Mitchell picked off a Buczak pass and was fouled by Davis trying to scoop the ball onto the rim, Princeton took their biggest lead of the game on a long right baseline jumper by Saunders and a Mavraides three from the left side.

Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus called a time out to refocus his team.

You couldn't ask for more balanced scoring - Five minutes in, a field goal for each Princeton starter.

Down four, Reed spun to the baseline on Buczak and dunked with two hands. Brian Conklin scored in deep over Saunders to even the ledger.

The blistering pace of points per possession kept up on both sides. Reed picked off a poor Kareem Maddox pass and raced ahead for an enormous two handed dunk.

A tip pass by Zach Finley found Davis in the right corner for three.

A layup by Mitchell made it a 20-19 game midway through the half.

Kareem Maddox got going inside, turning Cody Ellis to the glass for two.

Mitchell curled to the top of the key, caught the ball, got Mavraides to leap in the air on a fake and stepped in to a long two.

"He's crafty," Johnson said of Mitchell. "What he does a good job of is he creates space and, it is kind of unique, he tries to pull it back and shoot it. He's really a dedicated jump shooter and that's something that we had to adjust to."

With Princeton up 23-22 on two Saunders free throws, Maddox switched to Mitchell on defense. Maddox continued to rise above the interior defense when Princeton had the ball, driving at Cory Remekun and scoring for a three point Tiger lead.

Princeton's offensive performance could only mask their defensive issues for so long. Reed's follow after Maddox blocked his initial dunk attempt made it a one point Saint Louis advantage and after Maddox was called for a confusing offensive foul while throwing a pass out of the post, Mitchell launched another three to make it 29-25.

Mavraides answered from outside after Maddox found him with a skip pass across the circle.

Reed had an acrobatic one-handed tip of an Ellis outside try and Maddox split a pair at the line as he dove to the rim and Davis found him on the move.

Saint Louis closed the opening frame on a 7-0 run over the final four minutes to build a 38-29 advantage. A Reed dunk follow came before Mitchell drove into the lane and scooped the ball past Finley while being fouled.

After going even with the Billikens for 16 minutes, Princeton slipped as Saint Louis just kept on executing. The Billikens shot 15-26 in the first half (57.7%), were 2-4 from deep (50.0%) and 6-7 at the line (85.7%). Starting 7-8, the Tigers ended up 11-23 from the floor (47.8%), 4-8 outside (50.0%) and 3-4 from the stripe (75.0%). SLU turned eight Princeton turnovers into 16 points.

The run continued as play resumed. Saint Louis scored the next eight after the break to put the Tigers on their heels.

A pick-and-roll between Davis and Buczak went awry, with Davis leading Buczak too far for a turnover. Mitchell and Reed were better with a two man game, the former finding the latter inside for a bucket and Buczak's third foul.

Back-to-back threes by Ellis on the right side and Kyle Cassity up top as the shot clock expired took the lead up to a high water mark of 17.

Undaunted, Princeton responded with the game's next nine. Ian Hummer scored with a soft touch as Conklin fouled him, but Hummer missed the free throw.

Following an off-target Conklin baseline jumper, Hummer drove left on Conklin and was fouled, making both tries.

Maddox kept his pivot inside and scored as Ellis fouled him, completing a three point play.

When Mavraides went glass to his left it was 46-38 with a manageable 13:59 left as Saint Louis called time.

"This has been just an absolute terrific team to coach. They're just not scared, they're not phased," said Johnson of his team's resilience during this stretch. "That 9-0 run, that's just what they've been doing."

Maddox's assignment of Mitchell was working for the Tigers, but Reed remained a big problem. Reed ended this spurt with a nice move over Hummer and Hummer could not convert as he tried to score above Reed after Reed fell in the paint.

Finley and Maddox both missed the front end of one-and-one tries as Saint Louis moved into the bonus, and during this stretch baskets inside by Christian Salecich and Conklin took the lead back to 14.

Trailing 54-42 after Mitchell drove the lane and kicked to Reed setting up at the free throw line for a jumper, Buczak saw the lane open up and drove straight down the center for a one-handed righty slam, the last basket of his career.

Maddox had a huge block of Reed as he came over to help on a drive, the ball flying out to Ellis on the perimeter. Ellis drove and was fouled by Hummer on the reverse, splitting a pair. Maddox reacted with frustration as the foul was called, upset his block was for naught.

Davis used a handoff screen from Buczak to hit for three and Johnson called a time out with his team within eight. A posting Maddox found Finley under the hoop for a reverse and it was 55-49 with 4:36 left, Finley's only basket in his final game as a Tiger.

Princeton locked in, but could not control the ball as Saint Louis nearly threw it away early in the shot clock. With time running down Mitchell tried to drive on Maddox and was able to get the ball to Reed cutting behind Finley on the opposite side of the rim for a two handed dunk that took the lead back up to double figures.

"I thought we played very good defense for that possession," said Johnson. "That kind of hurt as we were trying to build momentum."

Hummer threw a pass intended for Davis stepping outside into the Princeton bench. Mitchell drove ahead of the pack for his only bucket of the second half and the lead was 10 again.

Putting Saint Louis at the foul line for the final 2:23 turned out to be a wise tactic. The Billikens were 10-16 from the line but Princeton could not close within less than eight as the Tigers missed their final five field goal tries.

Saint Louis put up the second highest total of any team against the Tigers this year and were just the third squad to surpass 50% from the floor in a game versus Princeton this season.

"They ran a lot of ball screens. We've seen ball screens before but they ran just a series of ball screens which maybe threw us off a little bit," Schroeder analyzed. "I thought we weren't great defensively tonight like we have been most of the season. Give credit to them."

Despite the loss and the end of another year, Johnson was able to take a slightly larger view of the direction Princeton was headed under his watch and the importance of the senior class in getting to this point.

"I'm going to miss them tremendously," Johnson said of Marcus Schroeder, Nick Lake, Zach Finley and Pawel Buczak. "I don't know where we go from here but we've got to figure it out."

"We don't like to lose. We thought we had more basketball left and we're still kind of dealing with that, but the big picture is what an amazing group of kids to be around," Johnson added.

"It's been a joy."


-Princeton finished the game 20-45 from the floor (44.4%), 5-16 from three (31.3%), 1-8 in the second half. The Tigers went 14-18 at the line (77.8%).

-Saint Louis shot 24-44 (54.5%), 4-8 outside the arc (50.0%) and 17-27 from the stripe (63.0%).

-Limited offensively with Maddox covering him, Mitchell had four of his five assists in the second half.

-The Billikens put up more than 1.1 points per possession against Princeton, the Tigers' worst showing since the Cal game. Marist was the only other team to exceed 1.0 ppp versus the Tigers this season, and much of that game was played with Princeton well in front.

-Davis ended the year with 74 three pointers, good for fifth most by a Princeton player in a season. His 124 career threes place him 12th all-time behind Scott Greenman (139).

-Saint Louis will play VCU in the CBI best of three finals, starting Monday in Richmond.

larry said,

March 26, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

Great year. Some low points. Lost to Brown being one of them. And we are better than Army. Some very nice road wins. In St. Louis we ran into a team that played (plays) better than us. Next seasons questions appear to be who plays Center; who handles to point. Schroeder was far more valuable to this team than the numbers indicate.

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