Princeton's Jadwin Gymnasium has a colorful history. It was built in 1965 as a body shop for dented and dinged B-52s. It was named for Col. Gustavus 'Goose' Jadwin, a dutiful and charismatic midwesterner who, campus legend has it, was accurately portrayed by Slim Pickens in "Dr. Strangelove". Col. Jadwin served as the facility's popular commander until he was forced to retire in 1969 due to an incident involving his alleged receipt of corporal punishment from a superior officer's wife. Following the scandal, the Air Force moved its bomber operations in Guam and sold the facility to the university for a pittance. Princeton converted it to a gymnasium, but kept the name to spite the military.
I wish that were the story. At least then Princeton would have some excuse. Jadwin Gym is a spectacularly dismal place for basketball. You know how larger arenas sometimes scramble to take apart the basketball floor after a game to accommodate the circus the next day? This is opposite. It's like the circus rented out an empty corner of the big top for the winter and Princeton is scurrying to finish the games before the elephants come home. It's vast and dark. It feels transient. The crowd's energy is devoured by the emptiness beyond the bleachers. This is not how college basketball should be.
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When you watch your team, it's easy to focus on details and matchups even in the worst of early season games. You already know the story. This allows you to concentrate who's telling it and how it's told. When you're surrounded by familiarity, quirks, particularities, and memories come easy.
It's different with two unfamiliar teams in the nonconference schedule. I love the live game, but fighting boredom is often a challenge in these circumstances. I dislike walking out without any lingering sensations from the last two hours. Even if I can't have a lasting memory, I'd settle for an insight into the game itself. And yet, in prior seasons, too often I've left with nothing. This season calls for a new approach.
I'm not fan of Princeton or Buffalo. I have nothing against them; it's just that I've never followed either team regularly. To conjure some interest in this game, I read the recaps for both teams' games to date along with the "College Basketball Prospectus" previews for each team. From what I gathered, both squads had similar issues. Each team had two capable scorers, but struggled otherwise. Ball control was an issue and both needed work with defense. I decided I'd watch the first half and, if it wasn't absorbing, I'd find some stats to track in the second. Verdict? Despite the effort, this approach needs more work.
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Princeton beat Buffalo 61-53. Rarely has a final tally been so misleading. Buffalo didn't deserve a respectable score and Princeton didn't deserve to win. In a just world where all games end as they should, Princeton would've won by 20 or lost by ten.
Sometimes a game follows a script. This one had two. The first half was the Tale of the Unjustified Blowout. Some teams suffer shooting droughts; UB endured pestilence. Whatever deity or spirit controls their offensive output has a vengeful disposition. Buffalo shot 20 percent. Six of 30. It would've been worse, but they turned it over 12 times. Princeton's defense cannot claim credit. UB's primary scorers Javon McCrea and Mitchell Watt had good looks in the paint and others had open opportunities from outside. Buffalo simply couldn't convert.
Frustration on offense led to lapses on defense. Princeton moved the ball, created space, and picked UB apart. However, the weaknesses in Buffalo's man-to-man resulted in easy baskets that disguised Princeton's offensive anemia. Princeton was 13 of 30, but many of the misses were layups or uncontested threes. At the half, Princeton was up 37-16. They should've led by 30.
The second half was the Case of the Too-Late Adjustment. Buffalo switched to an aggressive zone and it was disruptive. Buffalo's defense deflected four passes on Princeton's first possession alone and created ten turnovers in the half. The zone also exposed Princeton's offense. Their two scorers, Ian Hummer and Douglas Davis, cruised to 13 and ten points in the first half. In the second, they were limited to five and six points. As a team in the second half, Princeton scored only 12 points from the field on five of 29 shooting. Had UB's coaching staff made the defensive change earlier, the game's outcome likely would have been different.
Buffalo's offense perked up and they chipped at the lead, but they never made the sustained run they needed to close the gap. Princeton played just enough defense to hold UB off. By the last minute, Buffalo's fouling wasn't futile, but the game was never closer than three possessions.* * *What makes a lumbering early season game painful instead of just a little dull? That Guy. You know him--he's persistently loud, emphatically dim, and sits right behind you. Turns out, That Guy has an uncle in New Jersey and he's a Princeton fan. New Jersey Uncle sounds like Archie Bunker, wears blue sweatpants, and plays all the classics for 40 minutes nonstop. "Siddown coach!," "Get with it stripes!," "C'mon Tigers!," and (with five minutes left) "Warm up the bus!". He managed to do the unthinkable--make the 90 minute ride home on the lurching Jersey Transit local seem appealing.
at PRINCETON 61, BUFFALO 53 11/19/2011
BUFFALO 2-1 (0-0) -- Z. Filzen 4-10 1-1 11; J. Oldham 2-9 0-2 4; J. McCrea 8-16 3-5 19; T. Robinson 2-5 1-2 5; D. Barnett 0-1 0-0 0; A. Nuiriankh 1-5 0-0 2; M. Watt 2-8 5-7 9; T. Watson II 0-3 0-0 0; X. Ford 1-3 1-2 3; C. Downing 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-60 11-19 53. PRINCETON 1-2 (0-0) -- D. Davis 4-13 5-6 16; I. Hummer 6-12 5-7 18; T. Bray 2-6 2-2 7; M. Darrow 4-8 2-4 11; P. Saunders 2-4 0-0 5; W. Barrett 0-4 0-0 0; B. Connolly 0-1 3-4 3; D. Koon 0-0 1-2 1; B. Hazel 0-1 0-0 0; J. Comfort 0-0 0-0 0; J. Sherburne 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 18-49 18-26 61.
Three-point goals: BUFF 2-11 (Z. Filzen 2-5; T. Robinson 0-1; T. Watson 0-2; J. Oldham 0-2; A. Nuiriankh 0-1), PRIN 7-24 (P. Saunders 1-3; D. Davis 3-8; W. Barrett 0-2; I. Hummer 1-2; M. Darrow 1-4; T. Bray 1-4; B. Hazel 0-1); Rebounds: BUFF 38 (X. Ford 7), PRIN 37 (I. Hummer 12); Assists: BUFF 5 (J. Oldham 4), PRIN 11 (T. Bray 4); Total Fouls -- BUFF 23, PRIN 18; Fouled Out: BUFF-M. Watt; PRIN-P. Saunders.