Monday, February 15, 2016

The Devin Cannady Show

There's a parking garage with an entrance at 118th Street off Amsterdam Ave., in New York City.

TigerBlog has parked there many times. From that garage, there's a walk through a path that is framed by some dumpsters and the back ends of some buildings. 

At the end of the path is the entrance to Levien Gym, the home of Columbia basketball. The walk from the garage to the building is about five minutes, and on the wrong winter night, it is a really cold five minutes.

TigerBlog has some pretty fond memories of the 15 or so times he saw Princeton play at Levien Gym in men's basketball. He was thinking back to those times as he watched Saturday's Princeton-Columbia game.

And why not? The game saw Princeton dig an early hole that seemed insurmountable, and no matter what, Princeton couldn't get closer than six or eight or so. TigerBlog was left to remember other nights in the building, since this one seemed lost. 

The key word in that paragraph, used twice, is "seemed."

Actually, it would have been insurmountable had Devin Cannady not turned in about six of the greatest minutes any Princeton basketball player has had in the last, oh, very, very long time.

The result - an improbable 88-83 win for the Tigers, in a game in which they trailed by five with 29 seconds left in regulation and then trailed by seven in the overtime - was one of the most exciting Princeton basketball games in awhile.

Cannady was ridiculous. The freshman from Indiana took over the game in a way that not a lot of players can, and he did it at what was the most critical moment of the Tiger season. To date, at least.

Cannady finished with 23 points, of which eight came in the final 25 seconds of regulation in what was a surreal stretch of basketball. It started when Columbia led 73-68 with 29 seconds left after a pair of made free throws.

Then Cannady needed only four seconds to go end to end and float in a shot to make it a three-point game again. Then, after Columbia made one and missed one to go up 74-70, Cannady caught the ball in transition, took a step back to make sure he was outside the arc and the swished a three, making it 74-73 with 11 seconds left.

Columbia then scored on a layup, making it 76-73. Was it over? Hardly.

That's when Cannady made his most startling, did-he-just-do-that play, dribbling up and without flinching launching one from way beyond the three-point line. Swish. Game tied, to overtime.

That was eight points in 25 seconds. Can anyone top that?

Oh, and when TigerBlog mentioned that this was the most critical moment of Princeton's season, to date at least, he meant it.

Yale had already defeated Harvard, leaving the Bulldogs unbeaten. The loser of the Princeton-Columbia game would have two league losses, while the winner would still only have one, since Princeton and Columbia had both lost at Yale.

Princeton's next game is Friday at home against Yale. Had Cannady not gone off in those 25 seconds, Princeton would have been two back, rather than one, when the Bulldogs come to town.

Cannady, though, wasn't done when the Columbia game went to overtime.

Again Columbia pulled away, leading 83-76 with 2:12 left. Again Cannady brought Princeton back, first with a basket and foul shot to make it 83-79 and then, after a Steve Cook three-point play, another basket in the lane that gave Princeton the lead at 84-83.

By the way, that was Princeton's first lead since 2-0. Columbia would actually lead for more than 42 minutes in this one.

Cannady wasn't the only one who came up big for Princeton. Pete Miller had a career-high 20, with 13 rebounds, on 9 for 10 shooting, and were it not for the big man, Columbia would have been up by 20 or more.

Miller, though, picked the wrong night for his best game. This one will always be remembered as the Devin Cannady show.

He was incredible. He combined raw physical talent with sheer determination, and it added up to a "I'm not letting us lose" moment. It's not something that can be taught or learned. It's something a player either can do or can't do.

Put Cannady in the "can do" category.

And because he did, Princeton had a huge win in a huge game.

Its prize, by the way, is an even bigger game Friday.


Larry Greenfield '64 said...

I watched the game on ESPN and agree that it was thrilling. I had given up twice but, thankfully, the team hadn't. Can't wait to see the Yale game Friday

Bill Sferro said...

Tigers did not come all this way to just come all this way. More great things ahead.

George Clark '69 said...

I differ on just one point. Thank goodness Pete Miller picked this night to have his career best performance. Without Pete's work Devin Cannady has no chance for his otherworldly heroics. Please arrange for an MICU to be standing by on Friday...This old heart of mine may not be able to take it!