Dunks in traffic, a paucity of high screens and backdoor layups, and even a brick from the charity stripe. This year's Princeton basketball team isn't your father's Princeton team.
The 2010 Princeton Tigers brought athleticism and grit into Jadwin Gym last night to earn the 78-73 overtime victory in its interstate tilt with Rutgers. The Tigers were led by a career-high 26 points from senior Dan Mavraides and 11 rebounds from sophomore Brendan Connolly.
"They're (Princeton) a lot better," Rutgers sophomore Dane Miller said. "They're athletic, big, strong. I guess they're picked to win the conference. I don't know about the other teams in the division, but I know Princeton is good."
Despite getting down early thanks to a 10-2 Princeton run to open the contest, Rutgers showed tremendous character and toughness to make it a game in the second half. James Beatty led the Scarlet Knights with 15 points going 4-6 from beyond the three-point arc. Miller and freshman Mike Poole added 14 points apiece.
"I compare a lot of things to a boxing match. We got smacked a couple times," Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said. "We got punched right in the jaw and we looked a little glassy-eyed, but they had a fight that I liked. We pressured better in the second half. We had more aggressiveness on the ball and I thought that helped our offense. We made some mistakes, but (Princeton) is a very good, talented team. Whenever we did make a defensive mistake, it ended up in Mavraides' hands. He certainly was wonderful tonight."
In the post-game press conference, Rice even suggested some of the late game mistakes were his own and admitted that he's still learning about the personnel he inherited after coming to Rutgers after three successful seasons at Robert Morris.
Discussing the three-ball Mavraides sank from the right side of the key with just under 2:00 to go in overtime, Rice admitted the defensive play calling was his blunder. At the time of the shot, Rutgers trailed Princeton 69-68. The Scarlet Knights never got closer than a deuce the rest of the way.
"We were in man at that point when Mavraides hit the shot...But we didn’t adjust perfectly and that’s my fault," Rice said. "That should have never been called. We should have stayed man because our man was good. I wanted to switch it up. Our zone was effective in getting us back in the game. We kept them off balance a little bit. That was one thing I’d like to have back."
As was evident last night, this year's team is very much a work in progress. For those RU fans in attendance, and there was a decent amount of red to counteract the black and orange, the fight Rice's players put on display had to be a pleasant sight and one often missing last season.
"Coach Rice knows exactly what he's doing," Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson said. "He's a terrific coach and those guys played very, very hard. I think it's a pretty good win for us."
GRAINS FROM RICE:
"To be honest, I'm still learning here. I could have went to Dane here, to J-Mitch here, I could have went to Austin Johnson. I'm still figuring out as the close games happen, who we should go to. I take a little fault in this and maybe my play-calling at the end should have been better."
"We're going to be in these games. We're going to be in tight, close games and we'll have to learn from these mistakes and learn from this game."
"Mike Poole was unbelievable tonight (6-8 from the floor, 2-2 from the fould line, 14 points, two assists, two turnovers, 24 minutes)."
"We have a lot to work on, certainly, but I love some of the fight that we have. We looked dazed a couple times and (we) regrouped and huddled. A couple of voices in our huddle weren't just the seniors, they were some of the freshmen, some of the sophomores. I like that."