Princeton can’t hang on at California

Princeton played its best half of the season at California Saturday evening, shooting a sizzling 62 percent from the field, including 8-for-14 from three-point range, to lead 37-28 at intermission.

The second half was far more typical of the Tigers’ season, however, as the Golden Bears stepped up the defensive pressure and unleashed NBA prospect Tyrone Wallace, who scored 20 of his game-high 23 points after the break. The game was closer than the final score (67-57) suggests.

Terrific ball movement gave the Tigers numerous open shots early in the game. Four different players accounted for the first seven shots, all good, giving the Tigers a lead that reached 11 points.

A scoreless drought over a 9:36 stretch in the second half enabled the Bears to mount a 13-0 run to seize the lead for the first time with just under nine minutes remaining. The Tigers hung tough, getting within two points at the 2:46 mark, but they would get no closer. Sixteen turnovers, including six by normally sure-handed freshman guard Amir Bell, resulted in 15 California points.

Junior forward Hans Brase turned in another impressive performance, scoring 14 and adding nine rebounds in 39 minutes. Princeton coach Mitch Henderson appears to have determined his rotation as four players had 30-plus minutes for the Tigers.

Cal has started 8-1 under first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, the best beginning in its history. While the Tigers dropped to 3-8, the all-out effort against a Pac 12 power is encouraging to Henderson and his staff. Princeton has two contests at home prior to the Christmas holiday, Friday against Lipscomb and next Monday against Liberty.

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