Monday, February 13, 2017

A Pretty Good Weekend For Princeton Men's Hoops

It was a very good weekend for the Princeton men's basketball team, to say the least.

TigerBlog would like to stat out back when there were about four minutes left on the countdown clock pregame Friday night at Jadwin Gym.

TigerBlog stood near Princeton's team room. Both Princeton and Cornell had already gone past him, out onto the court, and now TigerBlog, who had radio to do in a few moments, was waiting for Princeton's newest cheerleader, though he'll get back to her shortly.

As he was stood there, he saw a familiar face turn the corner as he was headed to the court. A very familiar face. 

"How do you like my tie," he said to TigerBlog. "It's red."

The familiar face was that of Brian Earl, who came to Princeton in 1995 and now, 22 years later, is in his first year as the head coach at Cornell. The game Friday night was his first back at Jadwin with his new team.

The list of Princeton athletes that TB has met in all his time here that he likes more than Brian Earl is not very long.

About two hours later, Brian had TigerBlog very antsy. His Cornell team had been down 10 at the break and then up five in the second. Princeton would regain the lead, but Cornell would never give up. By the final five minutes or so, all TB wanted was the game to be over and to get out of there - with a win.

Princeton would go 6 for 6 from the foul line in the final 37 seconds, all on one-and-ones, and it would basically need all of those in what became a 69-60 win. If Princeton had missed any of them, it would have been dicier. If Princeton had missed all of them, Cornell probably would have won.

Devin Cannady, the leading free-throw shooter in the Ivy League, made four of them. For the year, Cannady has missed only four of 55 foul shots.

The other two were made by Aaron Young, who prior to that had attempted only four foul shots on the year. Young played two minutes in the game, and he came off the bench only in the final seconds of the second half.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson inserted Young because he knew Cornell had to foul, and he knew Young would make them. And that's exactly what happened. It is of such moves, by the way, that championships are won.

At some point during the radio broadcast, TigerBlog mentioned the list of future head coaches that Earl either played or coached under at Princeton - Pete Carril, Bill Carmody, John Thompson, Joe Scott, Howard Levy, Sydney Johnson, Mitch Henderson. It's quite a remarkable list. How many other head coaches in Division I have played or coached under that many others?

TigerBlog watched Brian from across the court during the game, to see his reactions. He usually didn't have any. He stood there, arms folded, with a look that said "you can't tell what the score is by looking at me" and "whatever just happened is exactly what I thought was going to happen."

And of which of those others did it most remind TB? John Thompson. It was right out of his playbook.

Speaking of Thompson, Friday night's game marked the Princeton cheerleading debut of Morgan Thompson, John's daughter and a current freshman.

As for Princeton, the win over Cornell was followed up by an easy-turned-really-hard 61-59 win Saturday night over Columbia. Princeton led by 20 at 46-26 early in the second half and then survived, for the second straight Saturday night, a three-pointer at the buzzer that had a chance that would have turned a win into a loss.

The standings, though, do not reflect "almosts" and "maybes." They reflect only wins and losses, and right now, Princeton stands at 8-0 in the league. Every other team has at least two losses, after Harvard beat Yale Saturday night.

The wins this weekend gave Princeton something rare and not very easy to do. The Tigers won Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday - five wins, eight days, three on the road.

Not every Princeton team has had the opportunity to do that, since Princeton has often played Penn not on a Tuesday in midseason but on a Saturday to start the league season.

Princeton did play its first game against Penn on a Tuesday in mid-year every year from 1997 through 2011. Only three times in that stretch did Princeton go 5-0 in that stretch - 1997, 1998 and 2011. In none of those years did Princeton win three on the road.

Next up for the Tigers is two consecutive road weekends, at Yale and Brown this weekend and at Columbia and Cornell the following weekend.

Of course, this year is a different animal in Ivy basketball because of the tournament. Goal No. 1, though, is to be No. 1 and win the league championship, which will be decided in the regular season.

There is still a long way to go for Princeton to get that goal. These past five games, though, were a huge hurdle.

Wins at Dartmouth (after a 20-day layoff), at Harvard (first since 2010), at Penn (90th anniversary of the Palestra), home against Cornell (down five in the second half) and home against Columbia (20-point lead vanished).

That wasn't easy.

It was very impressive.

1 comment:

Richard Woodward said...

Relating to men's basketball, I am struck by curiosity regarding Henry Caruso's season-ending toe injury. Let's ignore for a moment the fact that in my 60 plus years as a sports fan and avid reader of sports news, I've never heard of a single player in any sport suffering a season-ending toe injury (turf toe yes, but you don't get turf toe in basketball).

OK, then, here is my curiosity: (1) in the game notes that precede each game or game pair, Hans Brase is listed on the roster, but not Henry; (2) in the composite stats for the year you will find Hans but no Henry; (3) I've watched most Princeton games this year on ILDN, and I often see Hans sitting on the Tiger bench, but never Henry. What's going on?