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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Princeton 70 Davidson 68, 2OT

The day after New Year's day can typically be a lazy day for many Americans, as they are wont to hang low, watch hopefully meaningful NFL games, eat leftovers and get psyched to return to work after what for some is an extended vacation from Christmas through New Year's. Lethargy can tend to take over, or, putting it more charitably, a mellow mood.

Well, the same could be said for the Princeton Tigers men's basketball team, which came out of the locker room sluggish, remained undisciplined on offense, was unable to bust a tough Davidson zone defense and staggered to a 23-22 lead at intermission. Senior swingman Will Venable is the best athlete on the Princeton team, and his athletic prowess and tenacity kept the Tigers in the game. The outside shooting of the Tigers did not. Scott Greenman kept on getting open looks from behind the arc, but he kept misfiring, hitting the back of the rim on several occasions. The 5'9" lefty just was not in rhythm, and the Tigers were unable to get the ball inside routinely to Judson Wallace. Credit Davidson coach Bob McKillop and Davidson big man Logan Kosmalski, a 6'8" senior who plays within himself, contributes on offense and guarded Wallace tightly. The Tigers were left with having the 6'3" swingman Venable trying to penetrate against the zone and kick the ball to an open man, and, well, that's a hard way to beat a zone repeatedly.

Before the season, this game looked to be a very promising matchup, pitting the Ivies' favorite against the favorite in the Southern Division of the Southern Conference, a school that competes against the Ivies for players because of its excellent academics and the fact that it gives hoops scholarships (for the uninitiated, the Ivies don't), and a school that sometimes gets players the Ivies miss. As it turned out, the fans were in for a barn-burner, and Davidson's 5-6 record coming into the game belied the fact that they lost to Charlotte by 6 and Wake Forest by 3 and also played Duke. Their star player, Brendan Winters, is the son of former NBA player (and former Princeton assistant coach) Brian Winters, and their PG, Matt McKillop, is the son of Davidson's head coach, Bob McKillop, so Princeton was facing two coaches sons on the floor against them. Both played as they knew exactly what to do at all times, and the Davidson backcourt outmatched the Tigers' for most of the game.

The second half proved to be more of the same, a wrestling match that didn't enable either team to take more than a 6-point lead on the other, and the Wildcats did lead the Tigers by about 6 with 7 minutes to go. But Princeton rallied, and a telltale sign for the Tigers was a sequence late in the game. Venable stole the ball, drove the length of the court, but missed the layup. The layup would have tied the game, and Venable ran down the court with a fervor, jumped in front of a Davidson pass, drove the length of the court and converted the layup. The crowd went wild, as it should have, but right then and there Will Venable willed the Tigers back to a tie.

It came down to the last possession in regulation, and the ball made its way to Scott Greenman, who lofted a jumper from behind the arc. It went in, the crowd went wild, as it appeared that the Tigers won the game. But the officials waved off the shot, to the utter disbelief of the Tiger bench, and overtime ensued. Venable, meanwhile, had fouled out near the end of regulation, and the first overtime saw more players foul out. Neither team was able to garner the edge in the first OT, but the Tigers were able to convert on several three pointers in the second OT, fouled wisely near the end to prevent Davidson from being able to set up a three, and held on for a 70-68 win, upping their record to 8-4 in a game between two very well-matched opponents. Click here for the box score.


1. Opponents will zone Princeton all night long until the Tigers can consistenly establish the three-point shot. At certain points in the second half, Princeton Coach Joe Scott had both Luke Owings and Noah Savage in the game at the same time, along with Greenman, trying to take advantage of his best three-point shooters. Look for Owings to come up big in the second half of the Tigers' season; he played very well today.

2. It's not just the Tigers' shooting on offense, it's their passing that is not that disciplined or that crisp. In contrast, watch the Penn offense from time to time and see the Quakers zip the ball around the three-point line. It helps Penn that their senior captain Tim Begley is a very unselfish player who is always thinking about where the ball should go once he gets it. That extra sense has Begley release his pass the moment he gets the ball, thereby keeping the defense off-balance and giving a teammate that extra split-second necessary to launch a good shot. In contrast, Tiger players aren't all that confident with the ball, and they hesitate before they pass it. It also doesn't help that frosh F Noah Savage thus far is a shoot-first small forward who has to learn more about seeing the floor. He'll get it, and he has potential to be a very good one.

3. The Tigers continued to play soft on the baseline and inside. Their help defense wasn't that good, and Davidson also did a nice job crashing the offensive boards.

4. As for the numbers, Davidson outrebounded Princeton 38-23, but had more turnovers (18 to Princeton's 14) and fewer assists (9 to Princeton's 13). That said, sometimes Davidson's guards had open lanes to the basket and were able to drive without the need of an assist. When they missed, an occasional Davidson forward was there to tip in a miss. At times, Princeton had to work much harder for its shots than Davidson (for example, there were a few occasions where Princeton ran a good set and got a two or even a three, taking 30 seconds, and then Davidson would push the ball downcourt and immediately convert).

5. Fitting, now reserve Princeton F Andre Logan, who was ineffective in the first half (and is less effective generally against a zone than a man-to-man defense), played in the second overtime after Savage and Venable fouled out. It wasn't a play of the caliber of Johnny Most's "Havlicek Stole the Ball" call in playoffs between the 76ers and Celtics in the mid-1960's, but with 7 seconds to go in the second OT, Davidson had the ball with a chance to tie the game or win it. After a time out, they inbounded the ball, and then Logan intercepted the pass as time expired. A heady play from a hard-luck veteran.

6. The officiating was absolutely horrendous and kept Davidson in the game. Early in the first half, Princeton mentor Scott lectured one of the officials in that they had called 6 post fouls against the Tigers and none on Davidson. The wave-off of the Greenman three at the end of regulation looked to be a terrible call (I'd love to see the replay and stand corrected), and the refs didn't start to call the mugging that Davidson was committing on Wallace until late in the second half and in the OT. Two Davidson inside players, Ian Johnson and Tom Sander, fouled out trying to guard Wallace, and Kosmalski finished the game with four fouls. Wallace, as it was, shot 17 foul shots (making 15), but he could have been at the line 28 times had the officials been consistent on their inside calls. At one point in the second half, the oldest official of the crew turned to Scott and said audibly, "That's it, I've had enough", which prompted some Princeton partisans to yell back, "We've had enough too, go home." You probably had to be there, but these guys would have given the crew that coached John Chaney's gift-wrapped win in his 1,000th game a run for their money. Judson Wallace had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and he was held for most of the game.

7. Princeton shot a fair 10-28 from behind the arc (.358). Matt Sargeant, who played great on Friday against Loyola, was a virtual no-show against Davidson, scoring 1 point in 33 minutes. In contrast, SF Luke Owings played his best game of the season, scoring 10 points in 15 minutes. Backup center Mike Stephens looked slow out there on defense against the Wildcats.

8. Penn update: Penn's third guard (that is, if you consider Tim Begley a SF, Eric Osmundsen the PG and Ibby Jaaber the 2G), frosh Michael Kach, left the Quakers squad because seemingly he's tired of basketball. The Quakers, who came into the season thin at guard, are even thinner, as Kach was playing meaningful minutes and playing reasonably well. The result is that frosh G David Whitehurst, an excellent athlete whose game needs polish, and once very highly touted prospect, now senior, swingman Frederich Ebede, will get Kach's minutes. With Ebede on the floor (he's about 6'6"), the Quakers will field a big lineup, but the question remains about how well they'll be able to handle and protect the basketball. Still, expect the Quakers to be a most formidable opponent for the Tigers when the Ivy season starts.

9. Next for Princeton: At Duke, Wednesday, January 5.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One other problem, according to the box score, is that Davidson was granted the opportunity to play overtime when Princeton was ahead 42-41 in regulation! Then Davidson apparently outscored Princeton 15-14 in the first OT!

I assume what really happened is that someone at fudged the box score.


9:17 AM  
Blogger Jon said...


I view your site using osX/Safari and the blue text is impossible to read on the brown background without highlighting everything. I can make do like this, but wanted to let you know that some readers might be having issues.



10:21 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks TIGOBLUE and Jon for your comments. TIGOBLUE, you're right, ESPN did mess up the boxscore, and it was pretty funny. Jon, I'll see what I can do. Basically, when I launched this blog, I picked one of Blogger's set-ups, which gave me this background. I'll talk with someone who knows more about Blogger templates to see if I can change the background to make it more readable. It's not that easy to fiddle with the template, but I'll see if there's anything I can do.

8:36 PM  

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