Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 52
Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
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50 AND COUNTING: Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Sydney Johnson calls out instructions in a game earlier this season. Last Wednesday, Johnson guided the Tigers to a 75-65 win at Towson University. The victory improved Princeton to 9-3 and extended its current winning streak to seven. It was also the 50th win of the Johnson’s Princeton tenure as he went over .500 at 50-49, giving him a winning career record for the first time since he started at 2-1 in 2007-08. The Tigers will aim to keep up their winning ways when they take part in the University of Central Florida Holiday Classic in Orlando on December 29 and 30.

PU Men’s Hoops Tops Towson in Milestone Win; Aims to Shine at Central Florida Holiday Tourney

Bill Alden

When Sydney Johnson started his tenure as head coach of the Princeton University men’s basketball team in 2007 with two straight wins, there was cause for optimism.

Harsh reality, though, quickly set in as Princeton lost 12 straight on the way to a dismal 6-23 season.

After a loss to Lafayette in late December 2008, the Tigers fell to 2-8 and Johnson’s record stood at 8-31.

It looked like it was going to be a long time before Johnson got over the .500 mark again, if ever.

But the Tigers went 11-6 the rest of the 2008-09 season and optimism returned to Jadwin Gym.

Things were even more positive last winter as Johnson guided the Tigers to a 22-9 record and nice postseason run which saw Princeton advance to the semifinals of the College Basketball Invitational.

Last Wednesday, the Tigers posted a 75-65 win at Towson University that was significant on several levels.

In the short term, the victory improved Princeton to 9-3 and extended its current winning streak to seven. In the long term, it was the 50th win of the Johnson era and it put the coach back over .500 as his record is now 50-49.

Fittingly, the win came in Johnson’s stomping grounds as he is a 1992 alum of Towson Catholic High.

More importantly, the win exemplified Johnson’s emphasis on team as five Tigers hit double figures in scoring, led by Patrick Saunders with 15 followed by Kareem Maddox (14), Douglas Davis (14), Ian Hummer (12), and Dan Mavraides (10).

“It takes some time to kind of figure out who we are,” said Johnson, as quoted on the Princeton sports website.

“Obviously, with Doug and Dan, coming into the season, we have to know that they’re going to be key parts of any kind of competitive team that we can field. But then you have to see what the contributions are from other guys. At different times it has been Brendan (Connolly), Mack (Darrow), Patrick, Kareem, Ian, T.J. (Bray), Jimmy (Sherburne), and quite frankly, we’re trying to extend that list of names.”

The Tigers needed that balance to hold off a determined challenge from Towson. Princeton jumped ahead 23-13 midway through the first half but only led 38-35 at intermission.

Towson cut the Tiger advantage to 46-44 before Princeton reeled off a 10-2 run to break the contest open.

“I thought we were a lot more aggressive and just kind of focused (in the second half),” added Johnson, whose team out-rebounded Towson 23-8 in the second half to end up with a 40-23 overall edge on the boards.

“It took us some time to ease into the game. We talked about how we might not be that fortunate in league play where we can ease into the game. I thought that they responded well and they protected each other defensively and I was pretty pleased with that effort.”

The Tigers will have to produce a good effort to keep up their winning ways as they will be competing in the University of Central Florida Holiday Classic in Orlando on December 29 and 30. Princeton will face Northeastern (4-6) in the opening round and either Furman (8-2) or No. 24 UCF (11-0) the next day.

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