Above, the Jadwin Jungle waits for the opening tip of the 2005-06 season.
This post was originally penned in 2009 as "A Decade of Season Openers." I've added last season's game against Rutgers as part of an annual revamp for each upcoming season.
Many of these pieces come from the listserv that predated this web site.
With a week until the 2011-12 season begins, read on for the stories of the past 12 Tiger tipoffs in sequential order...
November 12, 1999 - Syracuse 60 Princeton 43 - NABC Classic
Sophomore center Chris Young led three Princeton players in double figures, but the Tigers fell in an early 17 point hole at Syracuse and never closed within single digits. Here's what I wrote at the time:
Went to the usual sports bar to watch the game and was there 30 minutes before the dish guy told me the game was "blacked out" on their system [even though I called to confirm earlier in the day]. Jumped in the car and drove frantic across Chicago to another sports bar who had been phoned by the first sports bar to make sure they had the game. Listened to the five of the first seven minutes on WHWH over the car phone [thanks, dad!]. It was 5-2 Syracuse when I got in the car. What started as "first game of the season jitters" steamrolled into a 34-11 Syracuse halftime lead. For the record, I made it into the second sports bar at 23-6. Oy.
When I closed my eyes at the half, my nightmares were filled with an endless series of filled passing lanes and defenders with arms spread wide. Syracuse had played very good defense, Princeton had made some forced choices and missed any type of shot they had. It was not looking good. Then, as the second half started, you could see a bit of fire in this year's model of the Princeton Tigers.
Players cut harder.
Passes were smarter.
Defense was tighter.
By the middle of the second half, I was wondering how this game would have gone had Mason Rocca not had to sit out [with what I assume is a groin problem, even though I did not see him on the bench]. Sure, Etan Thomas missed the game for Syracuse as well, but I never thought any sort of "what ifs"would be close to crossing my mind at halftime. The Tigers dug a "Penn game hole" but could not climb all the way out of it.
This is what young teams do. They grow up. They make mistakes. Then they hit shots. They cut Syracuse leads to 49-36 with 6:15 left and don't get any closer, even with some good chances to do so. They throw the ball away and give up easy second chances at the other end. I think this team will grow up at a rate that pleases many. Sure, they will lose a good number of games, but by the time Ivy season rolls around, the schedule will have been worth it. I have been known to take a loss pretty hard in my day, but I feel better than I expected about a seventeen point opening night loss.
Watching Chris Young, who is now HUGE [esp. in his torso], be the stable force in the middle, kicking the ball out to players that will learn what to do with it in time, made me feel good about this coming season. Hell, Lafayette blew Princeton out to start last year, and if this season could mimic that one I'd be more than happy.
Some other thoughts:
Decent touch-passes on occasion from Young [drawing the double team] to Walton, including one pass that lead to a lay-up I'm pretty sure was goaltending. Nice play to create points working off of the attention Young draws. Young also hit two DEEP three-pointers. As predicted, it will take some outside shots and some hard cuts from the guards to keep Young from being double/triple teamed. By the time Princeton hit several three-pointers it was just too late.
Baah provided decent spark and a quick step to the basket, even if he still did look out-of-control from time to time. He caused several second chances and hit some nice shots however. Like the cornrows.
Chapman showed decent touch and great range. I hope his "practice shot" is back.
Tiger court spacing needs some work.
As does the speed in which they swing their passes around the arc.
Princeton will play Missouri @ 7:00 pm EST on Saturday night in Syracuse, NY.
I'll be back at this new sportsbar watching progress happen quickly.
November 14, 2000 - Duke 87 Princeton 50 - Preseason NIT
This was John Thompson III's first game as head coach. The Tigers hung with Duke for half a half, trailing 25-20, but the Blue Devils closed on a 21-3 run as Princeton committed 14 turnovers. Shane Battier hit nine of 12 three point shots and the rout was on. Mike Bechtold's 12 points paced Princeton. Here's what I wrote at the time:
Our seats were three rows behind the Tiger bench, surrounded by Duke students. Our seats had the word "guests" etched into the wood, and the row behind us had the word "buffer" etched into each bleacher seat, with stadium security asking students not to sit in these seats.
Princeton was warming up while we found our seats. Nate Walton was in uniform and moving fairly well for a guy last seen on crutches. It was only after Princeton had been taking layups for a few minutes that I noticed Chris Krug was missing. At halftime, when I called my dad looking for news on Krug, I learned Chris had missed the trip down with a virus.
Princeton started Walton at Center. CJ and Ed Persia at Guard and Baah & Bechtold at Forward. Persia picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and was replaced by Kyle Wente. The first thirteen minutes of the game were impressive. Princeton was well composed, found good shots and worked well against the press. Walton missed two backdoor layups, but the Tigers were moving without the ball, cutting hard and doing little things right. Princeton was down 25-20 with 7:37 in the first half. Thompson made some good decisions, including a length of the court "home run" pass to Kyle Wente off of an inbound pass that lead to an easy layup. El-Nokali, in street clothes, was acting as another assistant coach, advising CJ during timeouts.
Duke turned up their defense, and Princeton made some poor passes which led to easy Duke baskets. Duke outscored Princeton 21-3 to finish the half and it was 46-23 at the break. Rozier-Byrd played center with Walton moving to forward to finish the first half. Princeton shot 9-16 in the first half but turned the ball over 14
times. Duke shot 57%.
To start the second half, Duke hit five straight [!] three pointers. Walton came out to rest his ankle and Thompson went with five guards for a stretch, with Wente and Persia in at the same time. Logan, Wysocki and Hegseth all saw time in the second half. The final score may indicate "blowout" but Princeton kept fighting and played forty hard minutes. For a team playing the cards they have left in the deck, they do some nice things and I think this team can only get better.
Ed Persia has a good deal of Mitch Henderson in him. Threw his body all over the court hustling. Played tough and emotional but not out- of-control.
Either everyone has gotten shorter or Mike Bechtold has grown an inch or two in the last year. Bechtold had a few nice blocked shots and I thought he played the best defense of any Tiger tonight.
Name a better college player than Shane Battier. Wow.
Duke has so many assistant coaches in suits they look like a legal defense team when they walk into the gym.
Heard JTIII on Duke radio while leaving the parking lot. Thompson talked about how Princeton was a better team than they showed tonight and how they have to get better. I know I look forward to the Monmouth game and how the team can develop in the next eleven days.
November 15, 2001 - Cal 70 Princeton 58 - BCA Classic
Princeton started the year in the Bay Area, playing two games in the BCA Classic. 24 turnovers were the Tigers' undoing, as they only got off 36 field goal attempts (58.3% from the field). Konrad Wysocki led Princeton with 17 points on 6-8 shooting. Here's what I wrote at the time:
Princeton had been blown out in their last three season openers and tonight continued this trend. With Cal leading just 12-11 in the first half, the Bears went on a 27-10 run that put some distance between themselves and the Tigers. Mike Bechtold kept Princeton in the game early with a pair of three pointers but Cal's second chances combined with a number of Princeton traveling violations gave the Bears the ability to put the game out of reach. Princeton closed to a deficit of 41-28 before Cal banked in a three pointer from midcourt at the buzzer to build their lead back to sixteen.
In the second half Cal extended their lead to as many as 24 points before Princeton made a run towards the end of the game. It was too little, too late. Princeton's turnovers had already done them in.
Princeton's starting lineup was Logan, Bechtold, Wysocki, Wente and El-Nokali.
Martin, Robins, Krug, Persia and Venable saw time off the bench in the first half. Mike Stephens saw some minutes in the second half.
Konrad Wysocki led the Tigers with 17 points.
Will Venable's dunk closed out the scoring and ended Princeton's dunkless streak early in the season.
November 22, 2002 - Princeton 62 Western Michigan 59 - Sooner Invitational
The Tigers and Broncos met in Norman, OK with the winner facing Oklahoma the next night. Spencer Gloger, on his second tour at Princeton, had a game-high 18. Judson Wallace grabbed 14 rebounds and handed out six assists as the Tigers held off a decent Western Michigan squad despite 20 turnovers. As a team, Princeton shot 50% from three (8-16).
Two Gloger free throws put the Tigers up 12 with 9:05 left in regulation, but the Broncos widdled that lead down to a single point twice in the final minute. Gloger made two free throws and Western Michigan could not get off a shot to try and tie the score on their final possession before time expired.
November 21, 2003 - Princeton 74 Colgate 63
Judson Wallace was unstoppable - 28 points on 10-15 shooting and 11 boards as Princeton beat Colgate at Jadwin Gym. As a team, Princeton shot 62.8% for the game. Here's what I wrote at the time:
Judson Wallace made a promise to his younger brother Stuart. For Stuart's eighteenth birthday, which fell on the same day as the first Princeton basketball game of the season, Judson assured his brother that he would score eighteen points to celebrate the occasion. Stuart Wallace's gifts are now covered for the next decade, as the Tiger co-captain made good on his guarantee, scoring a career high 28 points to lead Princeton over Colgate 73-64 in the season opener for both teams.
Wallace's contributions on the offensive end came from all over the court, scoring on sweeping hook shots with either hand, reversing his field for layups, facing up his defender for a mid-range jump shot to keep the defense honest or pump faking and swooping towards the basket for two. Wallace, who spent the off-season refining both his body and his repertoire, also grabbed 11 rebounds. Will Venable added 12 points on 4-4 shooting and Konrad Wysocki contributed 11 for Princeton. Colgate was paced by Howard Blue, who matched Wallace's performance with a 23 point 14 rebound effort, dominating the offensive glass.
Straight from the opening tip, Princeton executed with surprising efficiency for a season opener. The Tigers' starting five of Wallace, co-captain Ed Persia, Scott Greenman, Venable and Wysocki dissected the Red Raiders' man-to-man defense in the early minutes. Princeton converted multiple backdoor layups off nifty bounce passes through the paint. Konrad Wysocki was the recipient of the initial two,cutting hard and scoring the Tigers' first four points of the campaign. Venable's basket from a Wallace assist made the score 6-2 for the home team and Venable connected with Wysocki soon thereafter for a third layup to extend the lead to 10-4. Colgate kept the deficit at one or two possessions for the majority of the opening frame, switching to a zone defence to clog the middle and controlling the boards behind the wide frame of Blue.
Ed Persia found a hole in the zone for Princeton's first three pointer of the season at the 13:25 mark to make the score 15-11. Scott Greenman's high-arcing shot from behind the line put the Tigers up five. Judson Wallace sized up a long jump shot from the top of the key for another three points to give Princeton an eight point advantage at 23-15. Colgate returned to man-to-man and the Tigers' interior offense picked right up where if left off. Mike Stephens, the only upperclassman to come off the bench in the game, spelled Wallace in the middle, using his hefty frame to create positional advantages. First Stephens scored on a right-handed hook off the glass. Then Stephens converted in the paint a minute later and was fouled.
At the break Princeton led 34-24, matching their largest advantage of the game. Twelve of the Tigers' fifteen baskets came off of assists. Seven times Princeton went to the backdoor, six times they came away with baskets. Both teams were plum lousy from the free throw line. Princeton was 1-6, with Wysocki missing four of the free throws, including two shots after scoring while being fouled. Colgate somehow found a way to be even worse from the line, shooting a putrid 1-8. Coach Thompson substituted liberally in the first half. Luke Owings was the first Freshman in, replacing Wysocki. The unheralded Patrick Ekeruo followed, later joined by New Jersey's own Max Schafer shortly after Ed Persia picked up his second foul with 12:39 to go. All three players looked comfortable on the court and created several different looks for the Tigers, as Coach Thompson was occasionally able to slide Venable into the back court depending on who else was in the lineup.
The Tigers slowly opened up their lead in the second half. Will Venable's bucket with 17:56 remaining gave Princeton a 40-28 advantage. Scott Greenman's second rainbow three scraped the top of Jadwin's dome and built the lead to 15. Another running Wallace layup extended the advantage to 17. Greenman's breakaway courtesy of Ed Persia's snazzy behind-the-back bounce pass that brought the crowd to their feet made the score 49-30. Princeton took their biggest lead of the night at 51-30 when Wallace scored yet another bucket in the paint.
On the brink of folding, Colgate began to chip away. Princeton let up slightly on the defensive end, and when the Red Raiders saw a ray of light through that window of hope, they got up off the canvas. Blue scored down low and was fouled. Mike Stephens then pushed the lead back to 20 with a lovely lefty hook shot. Blue's basket after an offensive rebound cut the score to 53-35. As the Tigers stayed stuck on 53 for the next three minutes, the Red Raiders ran off eight straight to close within 12. Two more Wallace hoops gave Princeton a cushion, but when Joe Simon tossed in a three pointer from the left corner, the score was 59-51 with 5:20 on the clock. Princeton's lead fluctuated between 5-8 points over the next four minutes, as Colgate
repeatedly sent the Tigers to the line. Princeton found their stroke, going 12-16 from the line down the stretch and the Red Raiders' final push could not catch the buzzer.
For the night, Princeton shot 62.8% from the field (27-43) and held Colgate to 42.6% despite the Red Raiders attempting eleven more field goals (23-54). After horrible starts from the charity stripe, both teams were acceptable from the line in the second frame. Princeton went 14-19, Colgate 14-16.
Despite what Coach Thompson referred to as a four or five minute "lull" in the second half, Princeton looked good tonight. Three Freshmen were able to each get more than ten minutes of court time without a serious drop-off in performance. While Howard Blue was going wild on the glass in the second half and the Princeton big men were mired in foul trouble, Patrick Ekeruo was able to front Blue and keep a hand in his face when he made his moves, forcing missed jump shots. None of the Freshmen entered the scoring column, but each contributed in different ways.
While Wallace's offensive numbers were impressive, both Coach Thompson and Wallace drove the point home that there was still more that Judson could do on the defensive end. After the game Wallace called himself the player on the Tigers who did the worst job of boxing out the Red Raiders, and Coach Thompson reminded the assembled members of the media to direct Wallace's attention to Blue's box score line to send the message that Colgate was able to stay in the game thanks to their domination of the glass, especially in the second half. Going up against a team next Friday in Holy Cross with a large size advantage in the front court, Princeton is going to have to work harder on beating their men to the proper spaces to get rebounds and secure the ball when it finally comes their way.
-The game's pace was interrupted by fifty-one foul calls. Despite that gaudy number, no players fouled out, but seven players finished the game with four fouls apiece.
-Perhaps it was the lack of side bleachers. Perhaps it was the $2.00 admission. Perhaps it was the promises of free pizza, but the student section at Jadwin Gym was the largest turnout for a non-TV early season games in a very long time. The crowd was vocal and excitable, even (gasp!) standing at times, giving the Tigers a genuine "home court" advantage.
-Twice during breaks in the action Michael Jackson songs started to play, but the person in charge of the PA system thought better of it, fading each song out a minute or so in. I'm not sure if Gary Glitter would have been given the same treatment.
-The game's scariest moment came with just over 12:00 to go in the second half, when medical personnel had to be rushed behind the Princeton bench, where a person sitting the bleachers had collapsed. Doctors treated this man for several minutes on the floor behind the team water cooler as the game continued on a few feet away. Eventually EMTs got this man in a state where he could sit up and he was removed from the gym on a stretcher while using an oxygen mask.
November 11, 2004 - Princeton 61 Bucknell 48 - Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic
Joe Scott's first game as Princeton's head coach was the first game of the entire 2004-05 Division I NCAA season. Princeton and Bucknell met inside the Carrier Dome to open the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic. Luke Owings hit four times from outside and scored 21 points on 8-11 shooting as the Tigers defeated a Bucknell team that would knock off Kansas in the NCAA tournament five months later. Mike Stephens added 11 off the bench in 22 minutes. Here's what I had to say at the time:
Luke Owings' shooting was as hot as his temperature, and the Princeton Tigers opened the 2004-2005 season with a 61-48 victory over Bucknell in the first round of the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.
Owings, nursing a sore throat and a fever, scored a career-high 21 points to pace the Tigers, adding six rebounds and a steal for good measure.
Wearing their home whites in front of primarily family and friends, Princeton won the opening tip in the first college basketball game of the season. While the scoreboard was in their favor, things started ominously for the Tigers. Judson Wallace picked up two early fouls in the game's first one hundred seconds, sending the senior captain to the bench for the rest of the half. The Tigers went up 8-1 heading into the night's first media time out on consecutive three point shots by Scott Greenman and Luke Owings.
The Bison switched to a zone defense that Princeton had trouble penetrating, as the score stayed stuck on 8-1 for four minutes, broken up by a John Griffin three point shot at the 12:11 mark, answered on the next possession by a second Owings trey for Princeton.
Owings' basket was Princeton's only field goal over a seven minute stretch, but Bucknell could only close the gap to 11-8 during this time. The Bison would tie the score for the first time at 13 after a Chris McNaughton free throw with 7:21 to go in the half. It was at this point in the game that Mike Stephens began to take over. First Stephens canned a three point shot with confidence from the top of the arc just before the shot clock expired. Stephens struck again from behind the arc minutes later to put Princeton up 24-20. Noah Savage converted two free throws for the Tigers with just over a minute left in the half, the first freshmen points of the year. Venable drove hard to the hoop for his first field goal to push the advantage to six and Mike Stephens sauntered across the trapezoid paint for a nifty left-handed finger roll to send the Tigers into the half with their largest lead of the game, 30-22.
Mike Stephens added four assists in the first half to go with his eight points. Luke Owings led Princeton at the break with 11.
Princeton began the second half with the same starting five of Wallace, Owings, Savage, Venable and Greenman. Wallace made a quick return to the bench after three turnovers in an extremely short stretch. Stephens bounced right up off the pine and promptly knocked down long distance jumper number three. Coach Scott has been saying since media day that Stephens needs to take the three point shot and
has been working with the Napa, CA center on his shooting. Tonight Stephens shot without hesitation, his deep conversions helping open up the paint later in the night.
Each time Bucknell crept back within one possession, the Tigers would find breathing room. Leading 35-32 with 16:28 remaining in regulation, Will Venable took a pass at the top of the arc, paused, gave every indication he was going to his right and then changed direction as he exploded into the paint, gliding in for a layup. After Greenman kissed a soft lefty floater up and in, Schafer turned the corner on his defender and scored while drawing the foul. Schafer missed the free throw and the Tigers led 39-32. Bucknell would get back within two at the 12:17 mark on a Chris McNaughon layup, but Princeton went on a decisive 14-4 run to put the game away.
Luke Owings hit one of two free throws. Judson Wallace ended his scoreless drought with two free throws of his own. Two beautiful high post passes by Wallace resulted in backdoor layups for Venable and Owings. Owings' fourth three point shot of the night made the score 49-39. A sweeping Wallace hook shot across the paint and Greenman's breakaway layup after a nifty steal gave Princeton a twelve point advantage with 5:55 to play.
The Bison would get no closer than eight the rest of the way. A Venable free throw in the game's closing moments gave the Tigers their largest lead of the night and the game's final score.
-Princeton's "amoeba" defense (best explained on paper as a 1-2-2 with hints of man and zone) confounded the Bison, as the Tigers were able to hold returning Patriot League scoring leader Kevin Bettencourt to just 2-13 from the field and 0-6 from behind the extended three point arc. The Tigers forced 11 steals. Coach Scott explained after the game that while his team is still learning the defense, he wants them to figure it out on their own, in turn creating something that belongs to them.
-Bucknell outrebounded Princeton 35-21. The Tigers rarely looked for offensive rebounds, rushing back on defense to get into their defensive set.
-Freshmen Matt Sargeant, Kyle Koncz and Noah Savage all saw time for the Tigers. While none of these three players contributed much statistically, each did not look as afraid to make a mistake as freshmen often do. Sargeant saw the most second half minutes of the three.
November 14, 2005 - Drexel 54 Princeton 41 - Preseason NIT
While the Tigers got off to a very fast start, their inability to score from inside the three point line did them in. 10 of Princeton's 15 field goals came from three point range. Drexel creamed the Tigers on the boards, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds and outrebounding Princeton 46-17. Noah Savage made five of the Tigers' 10 treys for a team best 15 points. Here's what I had to say at the time:
"I think everybody got hit in the face today." - Scott Greenman.
The Drexel Dragons came to Jadwin Gym on Monday night as the first opponent on Princeton's 2005-2006 schedule. In a first round NIT Season Tip-Off matchup the visitors manhandled the young orange and black squad, pulling away for a 54-41 victory.
By the end of the night, the Tigers had more personal fouls (18) than rebounds (17) and the Dragons had grabbed 46 of the 64 missed shots available. Princeton was unable to get any semblance of an inside game going, as the home team took thirty three point shots from twenty feet or further, making ten.
Dominick Mejia led all scorers with 18. Sophomore Noah Savage was high man for Princeton with 15 on five three point shots, becoming the first Tiger gunner since Judson Wallace in March of 2003 to knock down five threes in a game.
The night began better than anyone could have hoped. With the packed Jadwin Jungle hopping up and down as one the Tigers took the opening tip and scored the year's first basket on a long three point shot from senior captain Scott Greenman. The Tigers would bang three of their first five long distance chances, racing out to a 13-5 lead.
Foul trouble reared its ugly head. Luke Owings picked up two personal fouls in the span of :46 seconds, heading to the bench with 14:07 left in the half. After a Harrison Schaen three point shot ended a six minute field goal drought for Princeton, Scott Greenman picked up his second personal foul and headed to the bench. The Tigers led 16-9 with 9:14 on the clock. Less than a minute later it was Schaen drawing his second whistle and Princeton was forced to play with a lineup of Sargeant, Koncz, Kestler, Ekeruo and Okafor. Sargeant was the only man on the floor who had scored a collegiate basket prior to the game's opening tip.
Drexel started to press these green Tigers. The Dragons pounded the ball into the paint and drew the lion's share of their points from the charity stripe. The Princeton lead dipped to 16-15 after six consecutive Drexel free throws. Two more free throws coming directly off the first of four straight Princeton turnovers put the Dragons in front for the first time with 6:31 remaining. The Tigers would make just one field goal over the last nine minutes of the half, and Drexel pulled ahead 28-19 at the break.
The Dragons would never trail in the second half, but Princeton had a second stretch of decent play that brought them close. Down 32-19, the Tigers went on a 13-4 run. Schaen knocked down consecutive three point shots. Okafor muscled the ball up and in for his first basket as a Tiger. An ugly Owings runner rattled home, and was followed by a three point shot from Kyle Koncz. The Tigers trailed 36-32 with a manageable 12:11 remaining. Princeton got the ball back after an Owings steal and Princeton began to cut and pass with a bit more confidence in their offensive system. Savage was too strong on an open three point shot and Owings' hook shot could only find backboard. Drexel layups for Bashir Mason and Chaz Crawford doubled the Dragon advantage and there would be no final push this night.
In addition to Savage's 15, Harrison Schaen added nine points on three three point shots. Schaen was never able to get adequate positioning down low, and few of Princeton's open looks from the perimeter came because the ball traveled inside-out instead of side-to-side.
Both teams shot poorly, with rebounding the glaring difference. Drexel shot 37.2% from the field, 4-13 from the arc and 18-25 from the line. Princeton converted at a 32.6% clip, was 10-30 from the arc and 1-3 at the line. The Tigers' only free throw came with 9:11 left in regulation.
The win was Drexel's first versus Princeton in nine tries. The Dragons will next face Sam Houston State, who defeated Missouri 80-77.
-Freshman Alex Okafor was the first substitute off the bench, replacing Harrison Schaen at the 15:11 mark of the first half. With Schaen on the bench, Luke Owings moved over to center. Schaen spelled Owings after he picked up those two quick fouls.
-Max Schafer played two minutes for the Tigers, all in the first half.
November 10, 2006 - Loyola (Il) 68 Princeton 57 - BCA Classic
The first season for Princeton's current senior class began on a late Friday afternoon in a near-empty arena at Ohio State - the host site for the eight team BCA Classic. Michael Strittmatter scored a career high 17 points off the bench and Kyle Koncz added 13. Princeton missed a breakaway layup early in the second half that would have put them up two on Loyola and the Ramblers made the Tigers pay with a three point shot at the other end that started an 8-0 Loyola run. Here's what I had to say at the time:
The 2006-2007 Princeton basketball season began on Friday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio against the Loyola Ramblers. It was a game that several positives and a number of negatives could be taken away from. Loyola would win this first round game of the BCA Classic 68-57, pulling away from the Tigers on a 8-0 run early in the second half and putting the evening out of reach with an 16-7 stretch shortly thereafter. Michael Strittmatter lead the orange and black with a career-high 17 points and Kyle Koncz contributed 13 in his return to Ohio. While standout Blake Schilb was limited to six points for the Ramblers, a balanced attack that saw four players in double figures was too much for Princeton to overcome.
What was good?
Schroeder. The play of freshman Marcus Schroeder was promising. While Schroeder was just 1-6 from the field, he did not turn the ball over in his first forty minutes of collegiate action. Schroeder showed great poise in leading the team, looking to drive and create in a way that most freshmen are afraid to. Schroeder took the ball into the paint the very first time he had an opening and his debut also featured three assists and two steals. The second time Loyola had the ball, Schroeder took a charge from Tracy Robinson in the paint. Schroeder was also a vocal leader, constantly trying to inspire his teammates with his words, his gestures and his actions.
High school teammate and back court mate Lincoln Gunn was slightly tentative in pulling his trigger, but was able to put himself in scoring positions. While their seventy-two minutes played took away time from veterans like Noah Savage, I believe this move will pay off in the long haul of a twenty-eight game season, especially when the Friday/Saturday grind begins in February.
Princeton took very good care of the basketball, committing just six turnovers, none of which were the result of throwing the ball away. The Tigers traveled three times and had three offensive fouls for their six turnovers.
The Tigers has thirteen assists and six steals against these six turnovers. Their offense resulted in many open shots, shots that need to be made if Princeton is going to win. There was a crispness to the passing and cutting that was further ahead of where the team was a year ago at this time. By being able to get points in the paint and from the post, something that was a problem last year pre-Conway, things open up on the perimeter and spread the court for drives.
Guard drives. Both Schroeder and Gunn got to the free throw line on drives to the basket in the first half. By attacking the basket, more options open up and the defense has to keep that possibility in mind when guarding the perimeter.
Depth. Princeton was able to go nine deep and try out several different combinations. Coach Scott spoke after the game about how he liked the fact that each position has a capable backup. You saw that tonight with the play of Strittmatter and Savage off the bench.
Strittmatter. The Arizona native looked to drive with both hands and get into the paint. He also hit all three of his three point attempts. By being able to score in a variety of ways, he opened up opportunities for his teammates as well as himself. Strittmatter's only miss from the field was a nice sweeping hook shot that just came
Kyle Koncz. The man from Strongsville entertained a large contingent of friends and family by making his first four shots of the game, three from outside the arc and a fifteen foot pull-up jumper at the top of the key. Koncz also continues to be a subtly good defender, taking charges when he can and getting his hands in the face of jump shooters.
Camaraderie. Watching the team warm up, I saw what the players and coaches were talking about earlier this week. These players clearly like each other and want one another to succeed. This sort of healthy competition can only help make the team stronger.
New uniforms. The Tigers have returned to white numbers and white letters with orange trim on their black road jerseys, a greenbean-shaped slash of orange down each side from armpit to knee replacing last year's orange stripe.
What was bad?
The rebounding. Princeton was outrebounded 15-1 to start the second half and Loyola scored twelve of their points on second and third chances. Many times Princeton would be unable to get their hands on loose balls that could have ended Rambler possessions. For the game Loyola won the battle of the boards 33-14.
The free throw shooting. The Tigers got to the line fifteen times but could make just eight of their chances. Justin Conway, who missed two free throws all of last season, did not convert his first attempt of the young season. The Tigers missed consecutive one-and-one opportunities when trying to get back in the game in the second half.
Justin Conway missed a clear breakaway layup with 17:27 left to play that would have given Princeton the lead at 32-30. At the other end of the arena Tracy Robinson's three point shot boosted Loyola's lead up to four, the start of eight consecutive points for the Ramblers.
Lincoln Gunn's haircut. The bushy mop of sandy blonde had been cropped clean since Media Day earlier in the week.
Verdict still out.
Defense. Princeton's swarming zone kept the ball out of the paint in the first half and made the Ramblers work hard for their shots, but Loyola got too many second chances at point-blank range as the game wore on and key lapses led to critical three point shots for the Ramblers. As Coach Scott said, every time Princeton broke down defensively, Loyola made them pay.
-The starting lineup was Koncz, Owings, Conway, Schroeder and Gunn.
-Zach Finley replaced Conway at the 14:52 mark of the first half when Conway was called for his second straight moving screen. Strittmatter replaced Owings two minutes later and Noah Savage saw the floor for the first time with 10:49 left and quickly banged a three off a Schroeder drive. Edwin Buffmire spelled Gunn at the 7:15 mark.
Savage made the most of his time on the floor, playing like a man trying to win his starting job back with seven points in thirteen minutes and setting up Strittmatter outside with a pass from the post. I think you will see more of Noah Savage as this weekend plays out.
When Finley picked up his second foul Luke Owings moved over to center. Strittmatter also played a few possessions at center late in the first half.
Luke Owings jumped tip to start the game and won the tip. The Tigers' first possession of the season ended with an illegal screen by Conway, but after a Conway steal Princeton's first basket of the year was a Conway drive from the arc for two off the glass.
Princeton's first three pointer was made by Kyle Koncz. The Tigers were 9-21 outside on Friday.
Loyola led 29-24 at the half.
November 11, 2007 - Princeton 59 Central Connecticut State 57
Sophomore center Zach Finley scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and Princeton overcame horrendous first half shooting (19.2%) to start the Sydney Johnson era with a victory over the Blue Devils. Finley made his first 10 field goal attempts and was 2-2 at the free throw line as the smaller CCSU frontline had no answers for him. You can read my complete recap of this game here.
November 14, 2008 - Central Michigan 55 Princeton 53
Doug Davis scored 25 points, the most ever for a Princeton freshman in their debut and nearly pulled the game out for the Tigers in the final moments as Princeton tried to rally from 11 down. Chris Kellermann's 28 points - 19 in the second half - and 13 rebounds carried CMU. Princeton had 21 turnovers in defeat. You can read my complete recap of this game here.
November 14, 2009 - Princeton 71 Central Michigan 68
Douglas Davis scored an up-and-under banker with less than thirty seconds to play to put the Tigers back up one and then made two free throws after blocking the attempt to tie by Central Michigan's Robbie Harman to help Princeton to a season-opening 71-68 victory. Davis and junior Dan Mavraides each totaled 16 points for the Tigers and Zach Finley added 13. You can read my complete recap of this game here.
November 12, 2010 - Princeton 78 Rutgers 73 (OT)
If tonight’s opener for the 2010-11 Princeton basketball season is a microcosm of what is to come over the next 29 games, it is going to be a wild ride.
There were so many ups and downs, questions raised and questions answered alongside near-simultaneous thrills and frustrations that the game between Rutgers and Princeton at Jadwin Gym needed five extra minutes after regulation concluded to try and fit them all in.
The Tigers raced to a 14 point first half lead, matched last season’s point total against the Scarlet Knights by the break (44) but were eventually passed by Rutgers with less than seven minutes to go as the Scarlet Knights extended their defense on the wings before rallying to force overtime and holding on for the five point victory with 8-8 OT shooting at the free throw line.
It was as exhausting as the above run-on sentence implies.
“I thought that there was a lot of guts there,” said Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
Drama and pathos aside, the end result was the Tigers’ first victory over a “Big Six” school since 2004.
You can read my complete recap of this game here.