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Rutgers in the 2000s: A Decade of Dismay.

When Mason Rocca battered his way to 28 points inside and grabbed a team-best 13 rebounds, leading Princeton to a 66-60 overtime victory against Rutgers in December of 1999, the Tigers had a 71-34 all-time advantage over the Scarlet Knights through 105 meetings.

Since that afternoon however, Princeton has lost 10 out of 11 and the last five straight to Rutgers, many in agonizing fashion.

It is understatement to say the 2000s were not a good decade for the Tigers in this inter-state matchup that dates back to 1917, a trend Princeton hopes to reverse in the 2010-11 season opener on November 12th at Jadwin Gym.

Join me now as we look back at the two teams' past 11 meetings. It won't be pretty, but it should put next week's game in a greater context.

Many of these pieces originally appeared on the listserv that predated this web site.

December 14, 2000 - Rutgers 46 Princeton 44 - Jadwin Gym

This was John Thompson III's second home game as Princeton's head coach, coming five days after the Tigers surprised a Xavier squad that would be ranked in the Top 25 later that season. It was also the first game I covered as a member of the media. Here's what I wrote at the time:

Another late arriving crowd for this year's installment of Rutgers/Princeton. Student section certainly larger than the Xavier game. Students were given orange t-shirts with a giant letter "P" on them celebrating 100 years of Princeton basketball. Looked good to see a solid orange block of fans standing for much of the game.

Ed Persia has taken some bleach to his head since the Xavier game. He now has a small blonde tuft on his head. Eugene Baah has untied his cornrows and they are now short dreadlocks. But enough with the haircut report. On to the game...

Rutgers came out playing man-to-man defense. Princeton responded with a full-court-press. Princeton went up 8-2 on a strong drive Eugene Baah and three pointers by Mike Bechtold and C.J. Chapman. Rutgers was able to get far too many second and third chances with offensive rebounds in the first ten minutes of the game. Not all of these offensive rebounds were the result of men out of position. Some of these rebounds were the result of unlucky bounces or batted balls. Princeton's rebounding was much better in the second part of the first half and Rutgers' rebounding advantage was just five [16-11] at the half.

Princeton held on to the ball well in the first half, only turning it over three times. Good way to tell your team in executing: You can cite all the the turnovers they made in under thirty seconds without thinking twice. Princeton led at the half 25-18. No player on Princeton had more than five points at halftime. Ed Persia's quick hands led to two Tiger steals, and that deserves to be noted. Rutgers went zone against Princeton for a stretch in the first half, but it did not prove very effective.

Halftime. The Trenton High School marching band/drum corps were pretty great, but wouldn't leave the court, even when asked/told to do so by the public address announcer. This held up both team's warmups and Coach Thompson had to make "shoo!" motions to the drummers as the slowly plodded off the court once they were finished. Reminded me of far too many bands I used to book who would try and play longer than the club had slotted them for...

The first three minutes of the second half were, in my opinion, the most important sequence of this game. Princeton held Rutgers scoreless for the first 3:50 of the second half, but was only able to extend their lead to 27-18 on a Persia jumper off a well-sold pump-fake. Rutgers extended their defense and started to drive to the basket. The Scarlet Knights also did a good job taking away the Princeton perimeter game.

Rutgers came back and tied the game at 34-34 with 8:21 left and the game was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way. Andre Logan scored to put Princeton up two off an assist by Nate Walton. Todd Billet tied the game with two free throws. Logan scored on another layup off a pass from Walton. Rashod Kent scored to tie the game at 38 with 4:45 left. Ahmed El-Nokali scored on a layup off a third Walton assist to put Princeton up 40-38. Rutgers hit one of two free throws.Walton missed a three pointer and Rutgers took the lead, 41-40 on a tough basket by Mike Sherrod. Princeton took the lead back on two Logan free throws. Greer fed Kent for a dunk to put Rutgers up 43-42. El-Nokali's runner in the lane was blocked with 1:33 left. Rutgers ball.

Nate Walton fouled Kent, "hack-a-Shaq" style, when Kent got the ball down low. Kent missed the front end of his one-and-one and the Tigers had the ball with 1:20 left. Chapman threw the ball away looking for Nate Walton down low with 0:59 left. Jeff Greer scored after a tough jump-stop in the paint to put Rutgers up three, 45-42. Timeout Princeton. With 0:11 left, Andre Logan missed a three pointer, but Walton got the rebound and scored. El-Nokali fouled Jeff Greer with 0:04 on the clock. Greer missed his first free throw but made the second. Timeout Princeton.

Walton inbounded the ball under the Tigers' basket and fed a streaking Ed Persia who dribbled upcourt, spun towards the basket and fired an off-balance but open three pointer that hit the backboard too strong and Rutgers had a close two point victory, 46-44.

Rutgers continued the recent trend in this series, as the road team has now won four straight.

Logan was a spark off the bench for the second straight game, with some great blocks, good cuts to the basket and nice positioning to keep the ball in play off of Tiger misses. The jump shots will come in time.

El-Nokali hit several driving layups in the game but his final shot, which was blocked with less than two minutes left and Princeton down one, was ill-advised. El-Nokali got cut on his left wrist late in the second half and had to come out to be taped up. I imagine Ahmed got some blood on his jersey, as he had to switch both his jersey *and* his shorts, returning to the game not as #15 but as #31.

C.J. Chapman had another good defensive game, but he and Mike Bechtold disappeared offensively for stretches. One positive to take out of this game is that Princeton nearly won the game despite sub-par offensive games from Chapman and Bechtold.

Nate Walton passed the ball as well as usual and stayed out of foul trouble matched up against larger players all evening. Can't say enough about Nate's effort and heart this year. Nate Walton's father, who I hear was a basketball player of some import, was at the game, signing autographs.

Not much else to say. Sort of what you would expect from Rutgers/Princeton, especially with the players each team have this season. Reminded me of tight games these teams played in the 1980s. Close without many mistakes. Like Princeton's response to their effort against Lafayette, a win over Xavier, I expect Princeton to come out and play very well against TCU.

Princeton would lose by 31 at Texas Christian. Whoops.

December 27, 2000 - Rutgers 53 Princeton 39 - ECAC Holiday Festival

13 days after their first meeting, the Scarlet Knights and Tigers faced off a second time in the same month, this time in the consolation game of the annual post-Christmas tournament at Madison Square Garden. Princeton lost 65-52 to Penn State the prior evening while Rutgers fell to Hofstra by six.

The best things about tonight's game?

-It is over.

-It wasn't outside.

Besides that, not much positive to take away. Center Nate Walton didn't play due to injury. Leading scorer Mike Bechtold could only go for three minutes because of a chipped bone in his toe. Rutgers went on a 22-6 run to end the first half with the score tied 8-8 and it wasn't even THAT close.

Freshman Konrad Wysocki did stand out with 16 points and nine rebounds.

December 29, 2001 - Rutgers 70 Princeton 62 - The RAC

A game I have surprisingly little information on and no full recap for, but I was quoted as saying:

"A frustrating loss last night that leaves many questions just ten days away from the start of Ivy League play."

The two teams were tied at 24 come halftime, but 20 Tiger turnovers ultimately did Princeton in. Following a Tiger trey to open the second half Rutgers went on a 22-2 run and were up by 18 with 1:34 to play.

Unable to get anything going inside, Princeton fired 33 three point shots (connecting on 13) and fell to 3-7 with the loss.

December 14, 2002 - Rutgers 76 Princeton 70 - Jadwin Gym

The highest-scoring game of the decade, with both teams combining for 146 points.

Harve Lamizana scored 20 points to lead three Rutgers players in double figures as the Scarlet Knights fended off Princeton by a count of 76-70 tonight at Jadwin Gym. Spencer Gloger was Princeton's high scorer with 26 points while Judson Wallace added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

The Tigers' woes from behind the three point line hurt their chances for victory considerably. Princeton made just two of their first twenty attempts from long distance, yet the Tigers were still able to keep the score within one or two possessions for most of the night as they worked to find other ways to make points. Surprisingly, most rebounds this night belonged to the orange and black. Princeton won that battle 37-29.

Coach Gary Waters for Rutgers called the contest a game of runs, claiming that the Scarlet Knights just had a few more runs than the Tigers did. Waters' move to go to a zone defense for the last two minutes of each half was a surprising but effective decision. With the score tied at 30, the zone caught Princeton off-guard. Ed Persia even looked to the bench with confusion before inbounding the ball, mouthing "zone?" to anyone who could see his face. Rutgers was able to score the last four points of the half to go into the locker room up 34-30 on two buckets by Kareem Wright.

In the first half Will Venable was able to use his speed and vision to get to the basket, drawing several fouls on the Scarlet Knights and going to the free throw line, where he made all four of his attempts. Neither team led by more than four points until Ricky Shields hit a three pointer to put Rutgers up 26-20 with 6:30 to go. Princeton countered with a 10-4 run against Rutgers' variety of traps and presses, knotting the score on two Ed Persia free throws at the 2:44 mark.

The Tigers did a decent job against the vaunted Rutgers press in the first twenty minutes. Princeton had just two turnovers off the press, and both were from unforced errors. First Ed Persia's diagonal pass sailed over Ray Robins' head, then Judson Wallace's diagonal pass was behind a streaking Ray Robins on his way in for two. The Tigers next two possessions against the press worked perfectly, leading to a Persia layup and a one-handed Robins dunk.

After starting the second half with the ball and missing another open three pointer, Princeton watched as Rutgers scored the game's next five points to go up by nine. Princeton responded with four points of their own, but Rutgers made six free throws over the game's next :53 seconds, including two following an unexplained technical foul on Ray Robins after a missed follow by the Tiger forward.

The Tigers battled back as their outside shots continued to miss the mark. A Spencer Gloger three pointer with 9:37 to go made it a 47-44 Rutgers lead. Another Gloger three pointer made the score 51-49 Rutgers with 6:41 on the clock. With Will Venable on the bench, Jerome Coleman hit a long three pointer over his defender, an outsized and outstretched Ed Persia, to give Rutgers some breathing room. On Rutgers' next possession Mike Sherrod took the ball away from Ed Persia (or pushed Ed Persia out of the way to get the ball, depending on who you asked) and went in for a breakaway dunk to bring Rutgers back up by seven. Princeton called time.

The Tigers were able to get as close as four points three times in the game's last three minutes as their outside shots began to fall, but a big Mike Sherrod three pointer and 11-13 from the charity stripe took some luster off of this sudden barrage from the arc.

After the game Coach Thompson spoke about how, despite the loss, he feels Princeton is still making progress, although it is frustrating to make progress weekly while not having victories to show for it. Thompson said Princeton needed to "play better for longer know when to look for what" but took some solace in the fact that when the outside shots weren't falling (which they will most nights) this team has the ability to find other ways to score, either by cutting hard, posting up, or driving the lane.

December 13, 2003 - Rutgers 51 Princeton 49 - The RAC

Of all the games I've been reviewing, this one stands the most vivid in my mind. Can still see several plays clearly, especially the day's final shot.

Facing the in-state rival who makes Hub City home, the "hub" of Princeton's offense, Judson Wallace, was never able to get on track. Wallace, who entered the Saturday afternoon matinee against Rutgers averaging 22.8 points per game, was held to a season-low five points on 1-8 shooting. Although Princeton rallied several times in the second half to get within a basket, and had multiple opportunities to tie the score or take the lead down the stretch, the Tigers could never catch the Scarlet Knights, who held on for a 51-49 victory in front of 6,102 at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Princeton's final chance to even the score came just before the final buzzer, when Andre Logan's jump shot from the free throw line came up short as time ran out.

The Tigers raced to an 8-0 advantage off the opening tip. Coach John Thompson III said after the game that he felt Princeton caught Rutgers flat-footed at the outset. The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over on five of their first six possessions. At the other end of the court, Princeton's movement without the ball led to some easy opportunities. Will Venable drove the paint and kicked out to Konrad Wysocki on the wing who started the scoring with a three point shot. Ed Persia found a cutting Venable down low. Persia's diagonal pass to Wysocki was slammed home in one fluid motion to make the score 7-0. It took Rutgers four minutes to find the scoring column, when Ricky Shields' jumper made the score 8-2. After a Marquis Webb layup, Princeton responded with a deft backdoor pass by Wallace to Wysocki, who emphatically threw down his second dunk of the game.

Sean Axani fouled Judson Wallace to send the game into the first media time out with 14:11 to go in the half. The foul was Axani's second, and would prove to be an important turning point in the game. With Axani exiled to the bench, Rutgers went with 6-9 freshman Byron Joynes in his place. The 285 lb Joynes was able to keep Wallace from finding the positions he is comfortable with. The combination of Joynes, Adrian Hill and Herve Lamizana did not allow Wallace to score a field goal in the first half. As the Tigers went cold from the outside, Rutgers began to heat up, going on a 13-2 run to take a 17-12 lead on a Lamizana layup. The Scarlet Knights extended their lead to 23-15 when Lamizana found Adrian Hill for a two-handed dunk. Lamizana was able to read Princeton's defense well on the play, hitting Hill just as two Tigers sagged to defend him.

After a foul was called on Lamizana on the next Princeton possession, Rutgers coach Gary Waters said one word too many to the officials about the job they were doing, resulting in a technical foul. Judson Wallace took the two technical free throws and made one of two. It was surprising that Ed Persia did not attempt these shots, as he has historically been a better free throw shooter than the sometimes inconsistent Wallace. The Tigers went into the break down 27-19 after Wallace split another pair of free throws. Princeton was a wretched 3-8 from the free throw line in the first half.

Princeton scored a season-low 19 points on 7-19 shooting (36.8%) and were 2-9 from the arc (22.2%) in the game's first twenty minutes. Konrad Wysocki led the Tigers with seven points, all coming in the early-going. The Tigers also had 11 turnovers, several on backdoor passes that never found their intended target. Ricky Shields scored eight in the first half for Rutgers, who was 11-21 (52.4%) from the floor and a perfect 4-4 from the line.

The first half was a physical one. Both teams felt there were several shoves, bumps and holds that were not called fouls. Players often careened off one another on both offense and defense, looking up at the officials for a whistle that never came.

To start the second half Sean Axani matched up again with Wallace. Princeton went right at the 6-8 senior from Red Bank, NJ. Wallace scored the half's first two points on a drive to the hole. Rutgers responded with a three point field goal by Webb to go back up nine. Axani's third foul came with 18:41 remaining, sending him back to the bench. Again, Wallace was stymied by Axani's replacement.

Led by Will Venable, Princeton answered the call and got back into the game off of a 9-2 run. Ed Persia hit Venable in transition for a layup. Venable scored again on the break, reversing for two off a Scott Greenman feed. After a Wallace steal, Venable's third layup in as many chances pulled Princeton within five. A Greenman steal, diving to the parquet to come up with a loose ball, gave the Tigers the ball again and Ed Persia's second three pointer of the game made the score 32-30. Princeton got the ball back trailing by two, but Will Venable's shot from point blank range wouldn't fall and a Lamizana layup at the other end boosted Rutgers' advantage back to four.

Venable was fouled on his next drive to the basket, but could only make one of two free throws. At the other end of the court Judson Wallace was whistled for his second foul of the game. Protesting the call, Wallace found himself the recipient of Princeton's first technical foul of the season, sending him to the bench with three personal fouls and 14:01 on the clock. Wallace said after the game that what the official claimed he had said to earn the technical was not what he had actually uttered. Quincy Douby made one of two free throws for Rutgers. On the ensuing possession Ricky Shields connected from downtown to put Rutgers ahead 38-31.

Again, Princeton bounced back, this time on a 7-2 spurt. Mike Stephens, in for Wallace, tossed in a right-handed hook shot. Andre Logan's three point shot from the top of the arc made the score 40-36. Mike Stephens jumped as high as he is capable to grab an offensive rebound after a Persia miss from the arc that he put back for two. Princeton got the ball back after Douby missed from three. Ed Persia grabbed the rebound and pushed the ball up court. Max Schafer was all alone in the far corner, where he lined up a three point shot that would have given the Tigers the lead. Schafer's attempt went strong, over the rim and into the waiting hands of Marquis Webb.

Princeton would have a third chance to get even at the 3:57 mark. Trailing 45-43 Ed Persia drove the lane, but his left-handed layup attempt rolled off the rim. Herve Lamizana again read the Tigers defense perfectly on the Rutgers possession, finding Sean Axani under the basket for his only field goal of the afternoon to put Rutgers back up four.

With 2:25 remaining Princeton could have pulled within two but Will Venable, who shot 10-10 from the line against Rutgers the previous year, made just one of two to bring the score to 47-44. Off a Rutgers turnover Greenman was fouled driving to the basket with 1:33 to go. The foul was on Axani, his fifth and disqualifying foul.

Greenman, Princeton's most consistent free throw shooter on the season, made the first and missed the second. The rebound bounced off the hands of two Scarlet Knights and out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Tigers as the crowd moaned in disbelief at the unforced error. On the ensuing possession Princeton got the ball down low to Wallace, who missed, rebounded his own shot and was called for traveling trying to pivot for position near the basket.

Ed Persia was called for a foul on Ricky Shields, lightly grazing the Rutgers guard as he attempted a mid-range jump shot. Shields made both free throws. Princeton pulled within two yet again out of a time out when Wallace found Persia for a basket with :27 showing on the clock. Venable fouled Juel Wiggan with sixteen seconds remaining after Rutgers beat Princeton's press. Wiggan made both free throws to put Rutgers ahead 51-47. After a Tiger time out, Logan scored off a Persia feed to bring Princeton back within two. Logan quickly fouled Freshman Quincy Douby in the backcourt with six seconds showing. Douby came up long on the front end of the one-and-one, but Logan's game-tying attempt came up just short.

It was fitting that the game should end on a shot near the free throw line. The Tigers finished the afternoon 6-14 from the charity stripe. Every Tiger who attempted a free throw missed at least one of their attempts. In both of Princeton's losses, misses from the free throw line have been costly. Against UC-Irvine Princeton was nearly as miserable at the stripe, going 6-13.

Princeton was a season-low 42.2% from the field (19-45) against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights cooled off in the second half (7-21) to finish 18-42 (42.9%). In what was a grinding, physical game, Princeton was able to grab a season-high thirteen offensive rebounds, often finding themselves in position for long caroms off missed three pointers, of which there were plenty. The Tigers were 5-21 from the arc (23.8%). For the afternoon Princeton out-rebounded Rutgers 30-26.

Ricky Shields led all scorers with 13 points. Herve Lamizana had seven points and 11 rebounds. Princeton was paced by Ed Persia and Andre Logan, each with 11 points. Persia also dished out a season-high seven assists. Will Venable added 10 on a variety of athletic drives.


-Harrison Schaen played four minutes against Rutgers, but did an excellent job of actively fronting his man on defense during his time on the court. With Wallace sitting on four fouls in the last two minutes, Coach Thompson put Schaen in for defensive purposes when Rutgers had the ball.

-Scott Greenman missed all four of his field goal attempts, each coming from behind the arc. Coach Thompson said after the game that despite not connecting, Greenman is the first Princeton player he can remember since Brian Earl where every shot he takes looks like one the coach thinks is going in.

-Princeton had 16 assists on their 19 baskets.

-Rutgers has now won five in a row against Princeton for the first time since 1973-1976.

December 8, 2004 - Princeton 53 Rutgers 40 - Jadwin Gym

The Tigers' only win against Rutgers in the decade came in the first home game of Joe Scott's first season as head coach. Princeton could not get much going inside but just kept firing from behind the arc over the Scarlet Knights' zone until their shots started to fall. The victory moved the Tigers to 4-2 overall. Here's what I had to say at the time:

Coach Scott asks. They respond.

After defeating Holy Cross a week ago, Coach Scott told his team that they needed to put their opponents away down the stretch when they had the chance, instead of letting the opposition back into the game. Princeton's response Wednesday night was a 26-7 run to finish off Rutgers, concluding a 53-40 Tigers victory.

Judson Wallace had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers. Freshman Noah Savage contributed a career-high 16 points including four three point shots. Rutgers was paced by Ricky Shields, Quincy Douby and Ollie Bailey who each tallied 11. The Scarlet Knights had but one field goal in the game's last thirteen minutes.

Rutgers, traditionally a man-to-man team, stuck with zone defense the entire evening, packing the paint and keeping the Tigers outside the three point arc. Princeton attempted 17 three point shots (making five) and just four two point shots (converting two) in the first half, one coming on an offensive rebound and putback by Will Venable.

The Scarlet Knights are not a team who like being guarded, and the Tigers were able to frustrate Rutgers by keeping in front of their driving guards, flashing defenders over to slap the ball away.

Trailing 23-20 at the half, Princeton scored the first seven points of the second stanza. Three point shots by Scott Greenman and Savage made for the majority of the run, capped off by a Wallace free throw.

Rutgers would respond with ten straight of their own, going up 33-27 after Ollie Bailey's short jumper. It was now Princeton's turn to run off the game's next nine points.

Princeton kept the ball alive on the offensive glass all night, continuing possessions with 14 offensive rebounds. For the first time all season the Tigers outrebounded their opponent, grabbing 33 rebounds to the Scarlet Knights' 30. Every Princeton player but Max Schafer had an offensive rebound.

Midway through the second half with the Tigers down 33-31, Scott Greenman missed a three point shot which was rebounded by Will Venable. Wallace missed from three, but the ball was picked up by Greenman. Mike Stephens' only field goal attempt of the night was off target from behind the arc but there was Venable to keep the ball in Princeton's hands. When Wallace knocked down his third three point shot of the night to conclude a 9-0 run Princeton had a lead they would never relinquish and 108 seconds had come off the clock.

Marquis Webb's offensive rebound after a errant Jimmie Inglis free throw gave Rutgers an additional possession that concluded with Ricky Shields' circus shot banking off the glass and in while drawing contact from Noah Savage. After Shields missed his free throw the Tigers led 41-38 with 3:29 remaining.

Venable found Wallace on the baseline for a fast layup. Consecutive three point shots by Greenman (after starting the night 1-8) built the lead to ten. Greenman's first shot was created by faking a perimeter pass that gave the 5'9" Tiger guard enough room to strike. The second shot was another Greenman creation, using a jab dribble to step back for three more. The Tigers led 49-39.

To cap the evening, Venable threw over the Rutgers press, finding his fellow senior captain Wallace for a breakaway layup while being fouled by Juel Wiggan. Wallace's backdoor delivery to Matt Sargeant in the last minute capped six consecutive field goals to send Rutgers back up Route 1 with their third straight loss.

Princeton finished the night 11-35 from three point range, 7-12 from inside the arc and 6-12 from the free throw line.

December 31, 2005 - Rutgers 54 Princeton 44 - The RAC

Princeton was 2-8 entering the final day of 2005. The Tigers' previous game was the loss to Carnegie Mellon, Princeton's fourth straight defeat. Scott Greenman returned to the starting lineup after being able to play just 12 total minutes in the prior six games due to a back injury.

"Give that effort every game and the score will be tied with four minutes to go." - Coach Joe Scott

It was the game Princeton wanted, just not the end result. Despite myriad turnovers and a long drought to start the second half, the Tigers found themselves even with Rutgers with five minutes to play. While the Scarlet Knights finished on a decisive 12-2 run to close out a 54-44 victory, there were many positives to take away for those not yet willing to give up on this season.

Noah Savage led Princeton with 17 points on 5-7 three point shooting. Quincy Douby was the game's high man with 23 for Rutgers.

Using their fifth different starting lineup in eleven games, the Tigers sent a returning Scott Greenman, Noah Savage, Kyle Koncz, Edwin Buffmire and first-time starter Michael Strittmatter out into battle. Rutgers, playing directly into the Tigers' hands showed nothing but man-to-man defense for all 40 minutes.

A drive by Quincy Douby opened the scoring, but it was quickly negated by a three point shot from Noah Savage. Back-to-back three point shots from Harrison Schaen, returning to the center position as Strittmatter's backup, put Princeton ahead 9-7. The Tigers actually might have led by more if they had not missed two backdoor opportunities - the first when Greenman traveled after receiving the ball right under the basket, the second when Geoff Kestler could not finish his layup.

The two teams would stay within two points of each other for the game's first 13 minutes. A three point shot from Marquis Webb gave Rutgers the first two possession lead for either team at 15-11. This basket came seconds after Rutgers intercepted a deep outlet pass for Strittmatter that should have resulted in a pass interference penalty, the Rutgers defender tugging on Strittmatter's jersey, preventing him from making the completion.

The Scarlet Knights went up by eight at 21-13 when Douby picked off a poor pass from Kestler and finished his steal with a pull-up jumper. 4:45 remained in the half.

After fiddling with the lock all half, the backdoor opened, and Michael Strittmatter had the key. The Arizona freshman hit Savage for the first layup, then found Greenman for a second bucket. Strittmatter's passing ability opened up other facets of Princeton's offense, and he was not afraid to try and drive to the rim. I like Strittmatter's frame. With some strength and conditioning, he could help this team both now and in the future. Rutgers went to the half up 24-18.

When the orange and black cherished their possessions over the first twenty minutes, the offense executed. When Princeton wasn't throwing the ball away, traveling or stepping out-of-bounds, the first half numbers were mostly positive. 13 Tiger turnovers were the difference. At the break, Princeton was 7-15 from the field (46.7%), 3-8 from three point range (37.5%) and 1-2 at the charity stripe (50.0%).

To start the second half Rutgers went on a 9-2 run that covered the first seven minutes of play. An alert drive by Strittmatter straight down the paint from the free throw line was Princeton's only basket in this stretch. Two free throws from JR Inman after coming up with an offensive rebound made the score 33-20 Rutgers.

This was the point where Princeton has crumbled under pressure all season long. Today would be different. The Tigers responded with a 17-4 run where they shared and valued the ball offensively and tightened up their containment defensively.

It began with Savage banging his second three at the top of the arc. Strittmatter found the one-armed man, Edwin Buffmire, for a backdoor layup. Savage connected a third time from up top and it was quickly 33-28. While a Luke Owings turnover gave the ball back to the home team when Princeton could have crept closer, leading to a Jimmie Inglis basket for Rutgers, Princeton kept pushing.

Strittmatter took advantage of being unguarded on the arc and hit his first career three point shot. After a missed free throw by Douby it was Greenman's turn to play marksman, using a drift screen and a pass from Buffmire to get free. Princeton trailed 35-34 and Rutgers called time.

Out of the break Marquis Webb got a well-guarded shot in the lane to drop over Buffmire. Noah Savage would tie the score for the second time since the opening tip with a deep three point shot from exactly the same spot on the court you would expect it to have come from if you've been paying attention so far.

The tie would be short-lived. A split-second letdown in intensity on the perimeter and a slight deviation from the defensive gameplan gave Quincy Douby an open look from twenty-five feet out, a Princeton defender sagging off ever-so-slightly. It would be Douby's only three point shot in six attempts and the Scarlet Knights led again by three.

Princeton would close within a single point when Strittmatter zipped a pass to a cutting Buffmire. Buffmire pump-faked and drew a foul, making both of his shots at the line. The Tigers were never able to get the ball back with a chance to take the lead. After rebounding well all game long, Princeton let Rutgers have four looks at the basket on a single possession, unable to secure the basketball. The Scarlet Knights possession ended with Quincy Douby driving to the basket and getting fouled by Buffmire. Some might say Douby traveled, but I'll go one further and say Douby did the electric slide and a moonwalk on his way down the lane. Douby would hit both free throws.

With Rutgers clinging to a 42-39 lead and 5:14 left to play, Noah Savage and Scott Greenman had one of those great two man interactions that only players used to sharing the court with one another can create. Greenman held the ball on the wing while Savage cut hard like he was going to the hoop, stopping sharp on the free throw line, dekeing out to the top of the arc where he caught the pass that was already meeting him there, flinging up his fifth three of the game. We were tied again.

Douby worked his way into the lane, coming to a jumpstop that got all four Princeton coaches off their chairs. Buffmire was called for another foul and Douby would put Rutgers in front to stay with one of two at the line. Princeton trailed 43-42 with 4:57 left to play.

Buffmire threw the ball away under the basket and Rutgers took advantage with a mid-range Douby jumper. Savage was whistled for a mysterious palming violation to turn the ball over again and the Scarlet Knights would double their advantage on a three point shot from Anthony Farmer. Savage had his backdoor layup blocked from behind and the Tigers would get no closer than six in the final two minutes. Five of Princeton's turnovers would come in the game's final five minutes.

Yes, it was a loss. Yes, there were 23 turnovers - a season high. But if you looked closer at the final game of 2005 for Princeton, there was enough to like that the future appears one step further from the ledge than it used to at the start of the day.

December 9, 2006 - Rutgers 53 Princeton 47 - Jadwin Gym

An unbelievable, unmatchable shooting performance by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights was the difference on Saturday afternoon against the Princeton Tigers. Rutgers was an incredible 88% from the field at Jadwin Gym (14-16) as they built a twelve point halftime advantage over the orange and black and held on in the final minutes for a 53-47 victory.

Princeton was able to close the lead down to five on two occasions with the basketball in their hands deep into the second frame but the deficit was too much to overcome.

Edwin Buffmire was high scorer for Princeton with a career-best 12 points off the bench. No other Princeton player had more than seven. Rutgers forward JR Inman recorded a double-double with twelve points and thirteen rebounds.

After Adrian Hill and Princeton's Zach Finley traded interior buckets to start the game, Rutgers began a 12-0 run that would span just over four minutes of game time. Hill scored against Finley to give the Scarlet Knights a lead they would never hand back. A quick release three pointer by Marquis Webb was followed by a second, equally accurate outside jumper to send the Tigers down eight. Sandwiched between two missed Kyle Koncz three point shots, JR Inman pulled up for a midrange basket to put the Tigers down ten.

Kyle Koncz struggled for the third consecutive game, going without a field goal (0-4), and is shooting 1-11 since starting the season 26-46.

A runner by Jaron Griffin as the shot clock was about to expire made the score 14-2 Rutgers. Noah Savage provided a spark off the bench as Princeton would close back within seven. Savage was fouled on a drive to the hole as the ball rolled off the rim and swished both free throws. Savage did one better next time he had the ball, completing a strong take while being fouled for a three point play.

The Scarlet Knights made their last seven shot attempts of the half, allowing Princeton no chance to cut into the advantage. Easy layins. Contested three pointers. Midrange action. Pull-up baseline jumpers. Rutgers converted them all. The Tigers were back within eight on two Edwin Buffmire free throws, but Anthony Farmer's riser in the lane took the lead back up to double figures. Finley could not get a lefty hook to drop and Farmer finished the first half scoring with his second basket. The visitors from New Brunswick were in front 31-19 going into the locker room.

While Rutgers was shooting out the sun, Princeton missed all eight of its three point attempts in the opening twenty minutes.

The second half started out as more of the same. While Luke Owings was able to launch Princeton's first three pointer of the night, Jaron Griffin quickly matched him at the other end of the floor. The Rutgers lead would stand at sixteen with 11:42 remaining on a layup from Jaron Griffin.

Out of the under-twelve media time out, Princeton made an impassioned move. Michael Strittmatter got free for a deep three, with Marcus Schroeder immediately stealing the Rutgers inbounds pass and driving in for two of his own. Strittmatter squeezed between two Princeton screeners at the free throw line as they stepped together like closing elevator doors, popping up top for his second triple to make the score 41-33 Scarlet Knights.

Princeton was within seven with the ball and under six minutes to go. Justin Conway left a driving layup short and saw a three point shot of his do the same the next time Princeton had the ball. Following a somewhat controversial three point play by Adrian Hill, Buffmire answered with a three point play of his own, getting free and laying in a feed from Schroeder. Next Schroeder got loose under the Princeton basket during a "chin" set and banked the ball home. The Tigers were behind 48-43 with just over two minutes to go. A level playing field was within reach.

Conway fouled Farmer in the paint and Farmer made one of two free throws to boost the lead up to six. Buffmire had his pocket picked clean as he brought the ball up the court, resulting in a second Rutgers free throw.

Savage would answer with two free throws in a one-and-one situation. As Princeton pressed full-court Buffmire slapped the ball loose into the hands of teammates. Princeton called time out with :41.7 on the clock. As play resumed Conway was held on a cut to the iron, returning to the free throw line where Princeton was a perfect 12-12 on the day. Conway's first attempt went in-and-out, giving Rutgers the ball back.

Rutgers would get six chances at the free throw line with twenty-two seconds to play.

Schoeder fouled Griffin, who missed both free throws but Rutgers snared the offensive board.

JR Inman missed both of his free throws, but Rutgers grabbed a second offensive rebound.

Anthony Farmer would miss his first free throw before finally coming through at the line.

For the game Rutgers was a woeful 11-24 standing at the charity stripe.

Princeton closed within four on a Luke Owings layup with five seconds to go, but Marquis Webb's two free throws would confirm the game in the win column for the Scarlet Knights.

With the loss Princeton fell to 6-3 on the season.


-Rutgers came back down from rarified air with 5-17 second half shooting.

-Coach Scott said after the game that Princeton's trainer considered Justin Conway at 85%-90% before tipoff. The Tiger captain played twenty minutes off the bench.

-Rutgers appeared to be even more eager than Princeton to "take the air out of the basketball." Many offensive possessions for the Scarlet Knights consisted of nothing more than holding the ball at the top of the frontcourt before driving one-on-one in isolation as the shot clock ticked down.

December 1, 2007 - Rutgers 54 Princeton 50 - The RAC

The Princeton coaches and players felt like one got away in Piscataway.

"We thought we were going to win the game all the way up until there were [a few seconds] left on the clock" said senior co-captain Noah Savage. "We planned to win this game."

Jaron Griffin's two free throws with a minute remaining in regulation broke a 48-48 tie between the visiting Tigers and Rutgers on Saturday afternoon, as the Scarlet Knights held off Princeton 54-50.

Lincoln Gunn had 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes for the Tigers. He was the only Princeton player in double figures.

When asked about his all-around performance following the Tigers' fifth straight loss, Gunn just shrugged his shoulders. "Coach Johnson has given me the freedom to do whatever I want" Gunn said softly. "[Today was] nothing more spectacular than any day out there or in practice."

Gunn's coach was a bit more emotional. "Lincoln is really having fun and it is fun as a coach to see your guys embrace getting after it and being in the moment" said first year head man Sydney Johnson.

The Scarlet Knights' JR Inman was the game's high scorer, tallying 16 along with eight rebounds. You can read my complete recap of this game here.

December 10, 2008 - Rutgers 49 Princeton 44 - Jadwin Gym

It was the perfect call. A play that Princeton hadn't run once in a game this season, one that caught Rutgers by surprise. A play they had been sitting on for a moment like this.

It was the perfect time. Trailing by one with :46.6 left to play and nine on the shot clock, the Tigers would get two possessions to the Scarlet Knights' one.

It was the perfect pass. A high inbounds diagonal lob from in front of the Princeton bench by Dan Mavraides to back-cutting center Pawel Buczak on the other side of the basket from the far end of a stack set.

It was perfect.


Buczak was alone behind the defense, their heads turned, trying to react to what was happening. Buczak soared into the air above the iron to receive Mavraides' expertly-placed pass with two hands and lay the ball off the glass. But Buczak put a touch too much on his layup and the ball sailed strong off the backboard.

Instead of retaking the lead and being one defensive stop away from a victory, Princeton was playing defense still behind by one.

Down at the other end of Jadwin Gym, Mike Coburn thrust up an errant bank off a drive for Rutgers but Hamady Ndiaye crashed the boards and threw home Coburn's miss to send Rutgers up three with 10 seconds to go.

Two plays.

One made. One unfinished.

The difference between victory and a fourth straight home loss for Princeton.

"They got more penetration that we would have liked [on their final possession] and I think that created the offensive rebound opportunity," said Princeton coach Sydney Johnson.

"Tough luck for us."

Doug Davis' three point shot on the left arc that would have tied the game came up short of the rim and Rutgers had scored the last five points to defeat Princeton 49-44. It was the Scarlet Knights' 10th victory over the Tigers in their last 12 meetings.

Freshman center Gregory Echenique bumped and bodied his way to 15 points and 11 rebounds for Rutgers.

Dan Mavraides scored 11 off the bench to lead the Tigers, seven in the first half. Buczak and Zach Finley combined for 15 points and eight rebounds out of the center position for Princeton. You can read my complete recap of this game here.

December 3, 2009 - Rutgers 58 Princeton 44 - The RAC

The last seven times Princeton and Rutgers have faced off, the losing team has failed to exceed 50 points.

These seven games have been laggard, leaden affairs with both squads struggling to find the bottom of the basket.

Thursday night's game at the RAC added another torpid installment to a 116 game rivalry, one that both head coaches called "beautiful" afterwards.

But it was Rutgers' Fred Hill who liked how the somnolent 54-44 decision played out more than Tigers head man Sydney Johnson.

Gregory Echenique had a career-high 21 points and 11 rebounds as he and and Hamady Ndiaye bullied Princeton inside, sending the Tigers to their fourth straight defeat.

Douglas Davis attacked the rim repeatedly and scored a season high 20 for Princeton, but no other Tiger tallied more than five. You can read my complete recap of this game here.


If you've made it this far, you know the 2000s were a decade of low-scoring, close losses for Princeton to Rutgers.

Average scores by head coach:

John Thompson III: 59.2 R to 50.8 P (0-5)
Joe Scott: 49.0 R to 48.0 P (1-2)
Sydney Johnson: 53.7 R to 46.0 P (0-3)


54.9 R to 48.7 P (1-10)

-In eight of the last 11 games Princeton has failed to exceed 50 points against Rutgers.

-In nine of these 11 games the two teams have failed to combine for more than 105 points, including the last seven meetings.

-Seven of these 11 games have been decided by single digits.

-In the last seven years the losing team has not exceeded 50 points.

-After not losing five in a row to Rutgers since 1973-76, Princeton was defeated in five straight by the Scarlet Knights twice in the '00s.

R.W. Enoch, Jr. said,

November 12, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

Pretty crazy that JT3 never beat Rutgers. It would be a pretty big accomplishment for Coach J to take the Scarlet Knights down, even in a down year for them.

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