Thursday, December 5, 2013

Knight Game

TigerBlog's lasting memory of his one trip to cover a basketball game at Fairleigh Dickinson was not of the game between FDU and Rider.

Nope. This was about the pregame media food, which in this case was a bunch of pizzas.

As TB remembers it - and this was 20-25 years ago or so - he got to the Rothman Center late, probably due to North Jersey traffic. As a result, he couldn't stop to get something to eat, and he was relatively hungry.

Shortly before tip-off, he went into the media room to find a bunch of pizza boxes, most of which were empty. There was one pizza left, so TB figured he'd grab a slice or two of that one.

Just before he could get to it, though, someone else opened the box, sneezed and then took some.

To this day, one quarter of a century later, TB is not over the horror. Needless to say, he didn't take any.

TigerBlog's experience of a game against FDU is one more than that of the Princeton men's basketball program, which has never played FDU. TB was actually shocked to see that.

There are eight Division I men's basketball programs in the state of New Jersey.

Princeton has played many, many games against Rutgers. Its also played Monmouth, Seton Hall, St. Peters. Even Rider.

It has never played New Jersey Institute of Technology, which has only been Division I for seven years.

And it has never played FDU.

The Knights come to Jadwin Gym Saturday night (7) for the first meeting between the teams. Princeton is 5-1 and the winner of four straight; FDU, from the Northeast Conference, is 3-7 overall.

The Knights have lost to the No. 1 team in Division II (Metro State, 87-76) and to the team that might be No. 1 in Division I next week (Arizona, 100-50). They've also lost to St. Peters.

And the three wins? The opener to Caldwell College (also Division II). And the other two? Rutgers and Seton Hall.

FDU is coached by Greg Herenda, who is in his first season after coming to the school from UMass-Lowell, where he was 95-54 in five years as head coach there.

Among the stops on his coaching resume was Yale, where he was an assistant coach for two years when Dick Kuchen was the head coach for the Bulldogs. Herenda's two years at Yale were 1997-98, Tigers head coach Mitch Henderson's senior year, and 1998-99, when he was part of one of the weirdest games TB has ever seen.

Princeton, as everyone knows, came from 27 points down with 15 minutes to play to beat Penn 50-49, moving a game ahead of the Quakers in the Ivy standings at that point.

That game was on a Tuesday. The next game for Princeton was Friday night in New Haven, and it's one that still haunts TB, though not as much as sneezed-on pizza.

Princeton, perhaps with an emotional hangover from the game three days earlier, lost that one 60-58 in two overtimes. There was probably some physical fatigue that set in as well, especially considering three players - Brian Earl, Gabe Lewullis and Chris Young - went all 50 minutes.

Those three, by the way, combined for 51 of Princeton's 58 points.

The ending is what TB remembers the most.

Princeton was down by three with maybe four or five seconds left in the second OT when Earl knocked down a long jump shot that one official called a three and another called in a two. The scoreboard operator called it a three and put it on the board that way, so the game appeared to be tied.

Yale inbounded the ball and then called timeout, thinking the game was tied.

During the TO, the officials huddled together and decided (miraculously without the use of replay) that it was in fact a two and that the Bulldogs were still up by one.

Princeton fouled on the inbounds. Yale made one of two, and Lewullis hit the rim from midcourt on a shot that would have won it. Instead, it was a frustrating start to the second half of the Ivy season, which saw Princeton also lose to Harvard in overtime and then at home to Penn to finish second in the league.

In the silver-lining department, Princeton did get to the NIT and win games at home against Georgetown and at North Carolina State before falling at Xavier in a run that was probably more fun than losing a first-round NCAA tournament game would have been.

Meanwhile, back at the end of the Yale game, TB has always wondered what would have happened had the Bulldogs not called timeout. Suppose Yale went right to the basket, since everyone thought it was tied, and missed a shot that both teams would have figured meant a third overtime.

And then the refs got together and decided it was a two, not a three. Would they have put the last few seconds back on the clock?

TB wonders what Greg Herenda's memory of that ending is.

Maybe he can ask him Saturday night, when he brings FDU to Jadwin for the first meeting between the schools.

No comments: