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Vol. LXII, No. 47
 
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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DEBUT PARTY: Princeton University men’s basketball freshman guard Doug Davis looks for room last Friday in Princeton’s 55-53 loss to Central Michigan in the season opener for both teams. Davis, a former Hun School star, fired in 25 points in his college debut. His total set a record for the most points a Tiger freshman has scored in his debut. He also scored the most points by a Princeton player in the first game of his first varsity season since Bill Bradley went for 28 against Lafayette in 1962.

Former Hun Star Davis Comes Out Firing but PU Mens’ Hoops Still Drops Opener

Bill Alden

As a star for the Hun School boys’ basketball team the past two winters, Doug Davis made time to go across town to take in some Princeton men’s hoops games at Jadwin Gym.

When Davis saw the Tigers in action, he couldn’t quite envision himself in orange and black.

“I came to a couple games last year and I really didn’t actually picture myself on the court,” said Davis, who helped lead Hun to the state prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep league titles in the 2006-07 season.

“I pictured myself going to the school and everything, but being on the court was a whole lot different from watching in the stands.

Last Friday, Davis looked very much at home at Jadwin as he made his debut for the Tigers.

The 5’11, 155-pound Davis was the big gun for Princeton from the opening tip, scoring a team-high 25 points as the Tigers hosted Central Michigan in the season opener for both teams.

In the end, Davis’ heroics weren’t enough as a late Princeton rally fell short in a 55-53 loss before an opening night crowd of 1,750.

The normally ebullient Davis frowned, though, as he reflected on the ultimate outcome of his coming out party.

“We lost the game; that’s all I’m thinking about right now,” said Davis, who hit on 10-of-21 shots, including 4-of-9 from the three-point range. “It’s a heartbreaker.”

A particularly heartbreaking moment for Davis came when he hit a jumper with 10 seconds left that looked like a three-pointer but was judged to be on the line leaving Princeton down 54-53 instead of tied at 54-54.

Davis scored 11 points over the last 12 minutes of the game as Princeton battled back from a 40-29 deficit.

The precocious freshman thought he had tied the game with his shot. “I felt it was a three,” said Davis, who was supported by a cheering section of family members and Hun friends on hand for his debut.

“I tried to set my feet up so that it would be a three, but I guess I didn’t get it. I wanted to tie the game up with that shot.”

Davis’ total set a record for the most points a Tiger freshman has scored in his debut. He also scored the most points by a Princeton player in the first game of his first varsity season since Bill Bradley went for 28 against Lafayette in 1962.

While Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson was proud of his freshman star’s game, he knows that he can’t rely on Davis to carry the scoring load for the Tigers.

“Obviously he helped us out tonight and that’s a trend that we hope continues,” said Johnson.

“People are going to watch the tape and say whoa. We don’t want to be a team that’s just riding on one guy. As well as Doug shot the ball, we probably want a better balance. We want some other guys chipping in so we’re harder to beat.”

An obviously frustrated Johnson acknowledged that his guys didn’t execute collectively at key moments in the contest. “There’s stuff that we worked on that they still scored on,” added Johnson, who got nine points from Zach Finley and seven from Kareem Maddox.

“That’s tough to take. In those moments, we just can’t have those mental breakdowns. We just kind of scrapped and decided maybe we were going to follow through on what we needed to do. That was a nice sign. It was, but it’s still a loss.”

One nice sign for the Tigers was the steady play off the bench by junior guard Marcus Schroeder who seemed to stabilize the Tigers during their comeback.

“Obviously, he needs to give us some leadership and you saw it,” said Johnson of Schroeder, who contributed an assist and three rebounds.

“Whether he’s coming from the bench or starting, he’s got to be ready. And tonight he was ready. There are things he can do better. Obviously there’s a bit of a boost there which he gave us and I’m happy for him.”

Johnson was also happy with the grit displayed by junior center Finley, who played with a heavily bandaged hand and pulled down eight rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench.

“There was an honest effort there; it was nice to see him mix it up a little bit and show a bit of physicality,” asserted Johnson.

“He’s a junior. It’s all going to start coming together. Tonight was a solid start, but keep in mind I thought he had a solid start last year too. Not that he had a bad season last year, but the end result wasn’t what we wanted in terms of our record and we don’t want any part of that this year.”

Princeton will look to get a better result when it returns to action by hosting Maine on November 19.

“We need to work on things that we can control; having our focus and being mentally prepared,” said Johnson, a former Princeton hoops star who endured a 6-23 season last winter in his debut season at the helm of the Tigers.

“Those are things I think we can control. Doug Davis isn’t going to outjump a 7-footer. Zach Finley is not going to blow by a 5’10 guy. But there are things we can control that we really need to start doing now and not let these type of games slip away.”

Davis, for his part, is looking to focus on those details that make a difference between victory and defeat.

“We lost by two points,” said Davis. “So any little thing we could have done — like a rebound, or a steal, or playing more aggressively — we could have pulled it out.”

But if Davis keeps playing like he did last Friday, the Tigers will pull out their share of games this winter.

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