Tuesday, January 22, 2019

And The Answers Are ...

Guess what TigerBlog isn't doing today.

He's not doing a podcast with Courtney Banghart, the head women's basketball coach. This week's "The Court Report" will have to wait until tomorrow, since Courtney is on the road recruiting today.

This ends their streak of doing their podcast every Tuesday for the basketball season. This included podcasts on Christmas and New Year's Day.

Oh well. Tomorrow will be fine.

For today, TigerBlog will be revisiting the "Who Am I" questions from last week. There were six of them, three alums and three current athletes:

The alums:

1) Who Am I?
I have the top two single-season point totals in Princeton women's basketball history, but I am not the all-time leading scorer in program history. I did score at least 32 points in game three times in my career.  I am also in the top 10 in program history in rebounds and free throws made and attempted, but not in three-pointers made.
2) Who Am I?
Excluding events that are no longer contested, nobody currently holds a Princeton men's track and field record longer than I have. That record, the one that has stood the longest, is actually in a different event than the one I competed in when I was in the Olympic Games.
3) Who Am I?
I am in the top five in Princeton men's hockey history in career goals, assists and points, and I had more than twice as many of each in my NHL career than I did at Princeton.

And the current athletes:

1) Who Am I?
My best single-game rushing performance this year was 104 yards better than the next best by any of my teammates this year - and the fifth-best single-game performance in program history.
2) Who Am I?
I'm a freshman on the No. 4-ranked team in the country and I'm tied for the team lead in goals right now.
3) Who Am I? I'm the only player on the men's lacrosse team who had at least one goal in every game last season.

And the answers?

For the alums, it's Meagan Cowher, Augie Wolf and Jeff Halpern. For the current athletes it's Collin Eaddy, Maggie Connors and Chris Brown.

That was a fun exercise for exam break.

TigerBlog didn't realize that Cowher had the two highest single-season point totals in program history until he looked it up. He would have guessed Niveen Rasheed had one of them, but it turns out she has the third, fifth and eighth.

The school record for career points is 1,683, held by Sandi Bittler, who graduated 29 years ago. Cower is second all-time, 12 points back at 1,671. Rasheed is fourth at 1,617, five points back of Claire Tomasiewicz, though TB figures Rasheed lost out on about 250-300 points or so with a torn ACL that caused her to miss the second half of her sophomore year.

If you're wondering about Bella Alarie, she has 913 career points. At her current pace of just short of 20 points per game, Alarie would get to 1,168 at the end of the regular season, not counting the Ivy League tournament or any postseason. That would leave her 515 points away from Bittler's record. Cower's single-season record is 532.

In other words, it'll probably end up being close as Alarie approaches Bittler's record. Like Rasheed, Alarie also missed significant time due an injury; in her case, the first nine games this season.

As for Wolf, he holds the school records for the discus and the shot put, but he set the discus record in 1982, one year earlier than he set the shot put record. He then went on to finish fourth in the shot at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.

Lastly, Halpern had 60 goals, 82 assists and 142 points in his Princeton career. His NHL numbers were 152 goals, 221 assists and 373 points.

Then there are the current athletes.

Collin Eaddy ran for 75 yards on the first play of what became Princeton's 59-43 win over Yale. For the day, he'd finish with 266 yards on the ground with three touchdowns, the second of which came on his second carry of the day.

Eaddy's big day left him in fifth place on Princeton's single-game rushing list, behind only Keith Elias (299 versus Lafayette and 272 versus Lehigh, both in 1992), Jordan Culbreath (276 versus Dartmouth in 2008) and Homer Smith (273 versus Harvard in 1952).

By the way, TB went to look up the exact numbers that Eaddy had against Yale and first clicked on the schedule on the football page, and seeing that "10-0" on the top is still really cool. Also, TB forgot that Princeton had three players carry the ball against Yale and all three had at least 100 yards (Eaddy with 266, Ryan Quigley with 113 and John Lovett with 110). How often has that happened?

Maggie Connors has 14 goals for the fourth-ranked Princeton women's hockey team, tying her with Carly Bullock for the team lead. Connors' fellow freshman, Sarah Fillier, leads the team with 20 assists and, with her 12 goals, also has a team-high 32 points.

That's an incredible 1-2 combination of freshmen for Cara Morey's team.

Lastly, Chris Brown had a goal in every game for the men's lacrosse team last year, making him the only player to do so last year and only the second Princeton freshman ever to do so (Peter Trombino also did it back in 2004).

Monday, January 21, 2019

Guest TigerBlog - The Feeling

TigerBlog has a long-standing open offer for guest entries, and Tad La Fountain ’72 has submitted a few through the years. Today he once again has the floor for a piece that is appropriate for today, Martin Luther King Day. TB will be back tomorrow, when he'll answer the "Who Am I" questions from last week. 

For today, here are some words from Tad La Fountain:

There’s a wonderful scene in “Diner” - Barry Levinson’s movie about a group of young men in Baltimore at the end of the 1950s. Like “The Big Chill” or “The Breakfast Club,” the cast included a bunch of actors who went on to successful careers; in this case: Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern, Steve Guttenberg, Ellen Barkin, Paul Reiser, Tim Daly and Michael Tucker. Like a bazillion other movies, Kevin Bacon was in the film, playing the role of Timothy Fenwick Jr. When Boogie (Rourke) and Fen are driving in what appears to be the horse country northwest of Baltimore out near the McDonogh School, Boogie spots a beautiful young woman riding her horse and waves her down. Their interaction is remarkably brief, and she rides off, leading Fen to pose one of life’s great questions: “You ever get the feeling there’s something going on that we don’t know about?”

Fifty years ago last spring, I was wrapping up senior year in boarding school when I was contacted by F. Gardiner Cox ’41. Having won the 5.5-metre sloop World Championship the previous year, a former National Intercollegiate champion while at Princeton and a member of the Intercollegiate Sailing Hall of Fame, Gardner was mounting a campaign for the Mexico City Summer Games (with Acapulco as the sailing venue). There would be extensive sail testing and one of his two crewmembers wouldn’t be available for a couple of Sundays; could I fill in? This was a bit staggering - I’d be replacing Dr. Stuart Walker, who literally wrote the book on small boat racing (which had served as my sailing bible growing up) and ended up a member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame. The bowman was Steve Colgate, veteran of a couple of America’s Cup campaigns and likewise a Hall of Famer. This was akin to a high schooler being asked to take BP with the ’27 Yankees.

I got to spend hours on the Delaware River on a beautiful 30-footer as we tried different combinations of mainsails, jibs and spinnakers while sailing against an identical boat also designed by Britton Chance, Jr. (Chance’s father had won the Gold Medal in 5.5s at Helsinki in 1952 and had a remarkable scientific career at Penn, but he also had a Princeton connection – he facilitated the enrollment of a young polio victim from a relatively modest background at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia; Dick Fisher ’57 ended up captain of the Princeton wrestling team, later served as a Princeton trustee and capped his career by becoming CEO of Morgan Stanley). 

At one point during our trials, Steve Colgate needed to poke his head belowdecks to make an adjustment at the bottom of the mast. Since he was bowman, he had the responsibility for the line running through the end of the spinnaker pole set to the windward side (known as the guy) that controlled how far the spinnaker was kept away from the mast; as middle crew, I was tending the sheet – the line that trimmed the spinnaker in and out from the point established by the guy/pole combination. If Steve pulled the guy back too far, the spinnaker would collapse. Conversely, if he let it run out, the sail would start pulling the boat leeward instead of forward. It’s a tricky role that requires constant attention, and he could have very easily passed the guy to me. Instead, I watched in amazement as he ducked below, blind to everything going on above the deck, holding the guy behind his back. Even as he dealt with the adjustment at the foot of the mast, the spinnaker was always kept at the perfect angle. After a couple of moments, he resurfaced, and we continued as before.

I was dumbstruck. I wasn’t onboard because I was incompetent; in fact, even though I had all the cockiness of a 17-year-old who had enjoyed some substantial success in the sport, that confidence in my abilities wasn’t misplaced. But I had just been given a glimpse of a completely different level of competence, and it was both jarring and humbling. There was something going on that I clearly didn’t know about.

That 1968 was an extraordinary year has long been acknowledged. Two rivers coursing through America since the beginning of the decade - Vietnam and the civil rights movement - came together that year. Either one would have subjected the country to painful challenges; the combo plan called American society’s well-being and possibly even its existence into question.

Our Vietnam engagement has been shown to be both ill-conceived and ill-fated. We’d like to think that it at least served as an expensive learning experience (as in “Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment”), but there has been a substantial body of evidence that the educational aspect has been more honored in the breach than the observance.

The civil rights movement was (and still is) the polar opposite. It is nothing less than the manifestation of fundamental human decency and its relevance to everyone who draws a breath. Furthermore, it is inexorable – there is simply no way the species advances if groups are systematically left behind. But even though this effort is grounded in the best of our religious beliefs and is referred to in our fundamental civic documents, it has never been easy and has often come at high cost.

On June 12, 1963, World War II veteran Medgar Evers, the Mississippi NAACP field secretary, stepped out of his car in Jackson and never made it to the house for dinner. Gunned down on his driveway, Evers was assassinated with his family just feet away. After the funeral, hundreds of mourners out of the crowd of 5,000 began a simultaneous demonstration, singing “Oh Freedom” and “This Little Light of Mine.” The police charged the group, arresting 30. It appeared that a full-blown riot was inevitable. 

A lanky white man proceeded to position himself between the two groups, with each showing an itch to create chaos. He yelled to the groups “My name is John Doar! D-O-A-R. I’m in the Justice Department in Washington. And anybody around here knows that I stand for what’s right!” He then walked around and convinced the crowd to disperse, avoiding what would have been sure bloodshed.

Everyone knows the greatest basketball player to ever wear a Princeton jersey. But the greatest Princetonian to ever play basketball was John Doar ’44. Often in conjunction with Attorney General Nick Katzenbach ’43, John Doar spent years in the South consistently displaying levels of moral and physical courage that defy most of our imaginations. Repeatedly, and at key junctures, John Doar demonstrated what he stood for, and it was invariably right. For most of us, being able to lead a life of such integrity in the face of such danger was a glimpse of something going on that we just didn’t know about.

Jazz, with its Afro-Cuban roots, is the quintessential American art form. It’s not cacophony – there are rules and forms, even as lines are improvised and liberties are taken. But it’s clearly not in the European symphonic tradition, with every instrument’s part being carefully delineated. At any point, one of the players can take over the piece and be the leader. Then, solo done, the player flows back into a supporting role. The players feed off each other; they must listen to the others even as they play their own roles. It is the musical equivalent of great team play.

Watching the integration of American sports over the last 50 years or so, we’ve seen Naismith’s game taken to the streets. Two-handed set shots are now alley-oops and backhand jams. But the best ballers know when to take the solo and when to revert to the supporting role. And when we talk about “Education Through Athletics,” what we’re really talking about is developing an understanding of what is right, what we should stand for, and learning how to muster the physical and moral courage necessary to make that stand when it’s our time to solo.

April 3, 1968 – the night before he was assassinated – Dr. King told an audience in Memphis that “It really doesn't matter what happens now.” And then he went on:

“What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight.

I'm not worried about anything.

I'm not fearing any man.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

We can’t help but get the feeling there was something going on that we don’t know about. But taking a day every January to reflect on the significance of the man and the movement is both fitting and proper.

And the name of Gardner Cox’s 5.5-metre sloop? Cadenza – “a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work.” Sounds downright jazzy.

Friday, January 18, 2019

More "Who Am I?"

Other than the fact that the coming forecast includes nasty words like "snow" and "ice" and "negative wind chills," this is sort of like a summer Friday.

So far in Princeton, there has been one somewhat serious accumulation of winter weather, back on the night of Nov. 15. Remember that? TigerBlog does, especially the amazing wind that was blowing the snow all over the place all night.

On that night, it took forever to get wherever it was you were going, since nobody was really ready for winter weather back then. Heck, that was even before Princeton's football season ended.

Since then, there has been one small dusting of snow and a few flurries here and there. TigerBlog is very much okay with that.

Is the coming weather a sign that winter is about to ramp things up? TB hopes not. It seems like the last few years, the worst of winter shows up in February and into March and then tries to hang around into April. TB would be fine if that didn't happen.

TigerBlog still hasn't seen a reliable forecast about just how much snow is going to be here this weekend. Why can't he just find a weather report that will say "the snow will start at this moment. It will continue until this time. In between you'll get this much snow. Have a nice day."

Anyway, it's going to be wintry. So why is it like a summer Friday?

Because there are no Princeton athletic events this weekend, that's why.  There aren't many weekends quite like this. There were a few last weekend and will be a few next weekend. This weekend is nothing.

The last time there was a weekend without a single event was the weekend before Christmas, which wasn't that long ago. The time before that was mid-August. The next time will be June.

This weekend, of course, is because of first semester exams, which cause a very rare free weekend. It's quite a contrast to the weekends TB described yesterday, the ones coming up in February that will be here in no time.

Also like on a summer Friday, it leaves TB without much to talk about, at least nothing that's pressing. There's a ton out there on the horizon of course, with winter teams who are going to jump into the sprint to the finish line just as soon as Feb. 1 rolls around.

But what about today? TB thought about it, and he decided to give you a few more "Who Am I?" quizzes, like the one from last week about Howard Levy. In fact he thought about making Howard the answer to all three of these, but he didn't.

So, here are six quizzes. Your hint is that the first three are alums and the last three are current athletes.

You can cheat by looking in the record sections on goprincetontigers.com if you want. TB will entertain any guesses, and he'll have the answers Monday.

The alums:

1) Who Am I?
I have the top two single-season point totals in Princeton women's basketball history, but I am not the all-time leading scorer in program history. I did score at least 32 points in game three times in my career.  I am also in the top 10 in program history in rebounds and free throws made and attempted, but not in three-pointers made.

2)Who Am I?
Excluding events that are no longer contested, nobody currently holds a Princeton men's track and field record longer than I have. That record, the one that has stood the longest, is actually in a different event than the one I competed in when I was in the Olympic Games.

3) Who Am I?
I am in the top five in Princeton men's hockey history in career goals, assists and points, and I had more than twice as many of each in my NHL career than I did at Princeton.

And the current athletes:

1) Who Am I?
My best single-game rushing performance this year was 104 yards better than the next best by any of my teammates this year - and the fifth-best single-game performance in program history.

2) Who Am I?
I'm a freshman on the No. 4-ranked team in the country and I'm tied for the team lead in goals right now.

3) Who Am I? I'm the only player on the men's lacrosse team who had at least one goal in every game last season.

Okay, what are the answers?

TigerBlog will have them for you Monday. Hopefully there won't be too much snow on the ground by then. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

No. 84, Jesper Horsted

You know what is one month from yesterday?

That's right. It's lacrosse opening day. How about that? It's not that far removed from Christmas and New Year's, and practice is still two weeks away.

Opening day? That's now just four weeks from Saturday. The women are home against Temple. The men are at Monmouth.

There will be 15 home lacrosse games this coming season, seven for the men and eight for the women. There will be two doubleheaders, on March 2 (men vs. Johns Hopkins, women vs. Columbia) and March 23 (women vs. Brown, men vs. Yale).

There's a lot of excitement and anticipation for both teams as they think about the 2019 season. Also, women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer brings 399 career wins into the year as she looks to become the second women's Division I coach ever to reach the 400 mark.

On the men's side, this is Year 1 of some major, major rules overhauls, including the addition of a shot clock and a change in the dimensions of the substitution box that will result in way more transitional play. Princeton, as much as any team, will be helped by the rules changes.

That's all the lacrosse TB will give you today. Still, just a month to Opening Day? That's exciting.

February is crossover season for Princeton Athletics, and nearly half of Princeton's varsity teams - 18 of 37 - will be competing on the first Saturday of the month alone. There will be 15 on the second Saturday and then 17 on each of the last two.

That's a total of 67 events on just the four Saturdays of the month of February. With just about 700 events in the calendar year, that means that a little less than 10 percent of the entire athletic schedule for the academic year will be played on just those four Saturdays.

Throw in the 42 events on the four Fridays that month and the 28 on the four Sundays, and that adds up to 127 out of 700 athletic events on the four weekends in February alone.

That, of course, puts a lot of stress on the people whose jobs it is to make all of those events happen. It's also the most fun part of the year, when everything builds to the end of the winter season and the spring teams are just starting out.

It's also quite a contrast with what's going on now, with no events at all for two weeks because of first semester exams.

There is one Princeton athlete who is competing this weekend, and that is football player Jesper Horsted. He won't be wearing a Princeton uniform, or for that matter his familiar No. 4. But he'll be competing in a big game nonetheless.

Horsted will be playing in the East-West Shrine Game, an all-star game that dates back to 1925. Or actually earlier, though it began as a baseball game. Either way, it's an event that raises money for Shriners Hospitals for Children.

This will be the 93rd edition of the game. Horsted will wear No. 84 for the East team, and TB isn't sure if Horsted chose that or had it assigned to him and if he did choose it if he did so to honor his Princeton teammate and fellow wide receiver, Stephen Carlson.

Like every player in the game, Horsted is there to impress NFL scouts. In many ways, the practices during the week are as important or more important than the game itself, and Horsted apparently has already been turning some heads, as his Princeton head coach, Bob Surace, tweeted:
As you know, Horsted is coming off an amazing season after he caught 72 passes for 1,047 yards and 13 touchdowns as Princeton went a perfect 10-0. It was the first perfect season the program has had in 54 years.

Maybe Horsted's best catches, of which there were many, were a few during the key moments of Princeton's only really close game of the year, a 14-9 win over a Dartmouth team that would go 9-1. Horsted finished his career as Princeton's career leader in receptions and touchdown receptions - and as the narrator of the TAGD video.

The East-West Shrine Game can be seen Saturday at 3 on the NFL Network. It makes at least one Princeton athlete you can watch this weekend.

Don't worry. You'll have a lot of other chances to see a lot of other Princeton athletes really, really soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Up To No. 4

TigerBlog and women's basketball head coach Courtney Banghart are in Year 2 of their weekly podcast, entitled "The Court Report."

Last year, the two did their podcast each week throughout the season except for a week between Christmas and New Year's and the first week of exams in January. This year, they were determined to get through every Tuesday.

What TB didn't check, and he assumes Courtney didn't either, was the fact that Christmas Day and New Year's Day were both Tuesdays this time around. Even so, they didn't skip either.

Those were actually easy talks to have, since the team was playing games before and after. Ah, but what about this week, or this month, for that matter, since Princeton's women's basketball team had only one January game scheduled, and that was already more than 10 days ago.

Well, the podcast must go on, and so it did again this week. For TigerBlog, it was a good chance to ask Courtney a bunch of non-basketball questions about her background and interests, and he actually thinks it's one of the best ones they've done.

Listen for yourself HERE.

The women's basketball team next plays Feb. 1, at Columbia and Cornell, which means that the Jan. 29 podcast can at least talk about the games coming up for that weekend. For this coming Tuesday?

TB will think of something.

In addition to being another podcast Tuesday, yesterday was also Dean's Date at Princeton, the day that all written assignments are due. First semester exams start today and run through a week from Saturday, at which time athletic events will resume.

The women's hockey team is off until Jan. 29, when Penn State comes to Hobey Baker Rink, and the Tigers can feel pretty good about where they stand heading into the break. In fact, Princeton's women's hockey team is sizzling right now, unbeaten in 18 straight and ranked a program-best fourth in Division I.

Princeton is an astonishing 10 points ahead of second-place Cornell in the ECAC standings. Yes, Princeton has played four more games than the Big Red, but still, a 10-point lead is extraordinary - and it provides at least a little margin for error for the Tigers. Even if Cornell wins all four of its games the next two weeks (at Dartmouth and Harvard and then two against Colgate), Princeton would still come back from break in first place in the league.

The prize for winning the ECAC regular season championship would be the host spot for the league's final four, provided the No. 1 seed won its quarterfinal series against the No. 8 seed. Princeton has never hosted that event.

Hosting it this year won't be easy, of course. Nothing is even close to settled yet, especially when you consider that ECAC rivals Clarkson, Cornell and Colgate are ranked sixth, seventh and eighth in this week's poll. Princeton is finished with the last two, but it still has to play Clarkson twice in its final eight league games.

And then there's the Ivy League race. The Ivy League champion is decided by ECAC games between the six Ivy schools, which means there are 10 games that double as ECAC and Ivy games. Princeton has played eight of those and is 6-0-2 in them, for 14 points. Cornell, in second with seven points, and Harvard and Yale can mathematically catch Princeton, but the Tigers would clinch that championship with nothing more than one win over either Brown or Yale (on the road) on the weekend of Feb. 8 and 9.

Princeton has great depth everywhere on the ice, and its push up the national rankings and its long unbeaten streak have been greatly helped by a pair of freshmen, Maggie Connors and Sarah Fillier, both of whom won big awards this past week. Connors was the ECAC Player of the Week after a four-goal performance in the win over Cornell and 4-4 tie against Colgate that made her the leading scorer in Division I for the week.

Fillier was named the national Rookie of the Month for December. From the goprincetontigers.com story:
Fillier led the nation's freshmen in scoring during December with six goals and two assists for eight points to help the Tigers post a 4-0-1 record. She scored more goals than any skater, of any year, with her six in five games. She scored in four of her team's five games and had three multi-point performances. For the month she was a +8 and won 49 face offs.

After the Penn State game, Princeton will have its final four ECAC weekends, including home-and-home weekends with Clarkson and St. Lawrence, the trip to Brown and Yale and home games against Union and RPI.

And then it'll be the ECAC playoffs. Those could end up being a lot of fun for this Princeton team.

That's fourth-ranked Princeton, TB should say.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Weekend In Wrestling

TigerBlog was going to start today with the first president of Oklahoma State University until he got sidetracked a bit.

Apparently TigerBlog isn't the only one with memories of the 1996 First Bank Classic, the tournament at the recently imploded Bradley Center in Milwaukee that Princeton won by defeating Ohio and Marquette.

TB got this text yesterday morning from John Thompson III, an assistant coach for that team:

First Bank Classic, My memory......
We are taking the ball out of bounds under our basket. The ball is being taken out on the side of the lane opposite our bench. As always we have a shooter in the opposite  corner of where the ball is being taken out, which means Gabe is in the corner in front of our bench. Mike McDonnell gives Gabe a cup of water. Gabe is standing in the corner with his back to the court, drinking water and talking to Mike. Marquette forgot about him. As the ref hands Syd the ball Mike says “Now.” Mike snatches the cup from Gabe, and Gabe flips around. The ball is already in the air as Gabe is turning. Catches it and splashes a 3.  AWESOME ! 
Mike McDonnell was the manager of those teams. Gabe was obviously Gabe Lewullis.

That's a great story by the way. 

Okay, so now on to the first president of Oklahoma State University.

TigerBlog was able to find out his name, which was Robert Barker, and that's about all. For the rest of this, he's taking the word of the nice gentleman who walked into Jadwin Gym Friday afternoon along with the rest of the OSU wrestling team for a first look at the building, which left them impressed.

He was the one who told TB that Oklahoma State's colors were orange and black because the first president of the school had come there from Princeton. And, in addition, the original nickname for their teams was "Tigers."

As it turns out, the school was founded in 1890 as the Oklahoma Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical College, becoming Oklahoma A&M after the territory became a state in 1907 and finally Oklahoma State University in 1957. TB didn't know that Oklahoma wasn't a state until the 20th century, but that's the case; in fact, Oklahoma was the 46th state, with only Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii to follow.

And the original nickname of the school was actually "Tigers," something that according to the school's athletic website was never really popular:
From the 1890s on, Oklahoma A&M sports teams had been referred to as the Agriculturists or Aggies, the Farmers, and officially - but unpopularly - the Tigers. But by 1924, Charles Saulsberry, sports editor of the Oklahoma City Times, and other writers who regularly covered college events had begun to refer to Stillwater's teams as the A&M Cowboys. Reporters in search of colorful synonyms started sprinkling Cowpokes, Pokes, Waddies, Cowpunchers and Punchers in conversation. 

TigerBlog loves a good piece of historical trivia.

The Tigers, er, Cowboys were in Jadwin Friday to work out ahead of Saturday's wrestling match. The OSU wrestlers walked in and looked around the building before heading down to the wrestling room for practice.

For Princeton it was a weekend in which two Top 15 teams came to Jadwin, first No. 15 North Carolina Friday and then No. 3 Oklahoma State Saturday. It turned into an extraordinary showing for the Tigers, who knocked off North Carolina 23-16 before falling 27-12 to OSU.

Princeton came into the week ranked 25th in Division I.

The biggest by-product of the weekend was a reaffirmation of the fact that Matthew Kolodzik is a legitimate NCAA champion contender at 149 pounds. He's been the top-ranked wrestler at that weight all year, and he stayed unbeaten with a pair of wins over wrestlers ranked in the top six.

Princeton, though, is not just about Kolodzik. Princeton won four matches against the Cowboys, including third-ranked 197-pounder Patrick Brucki, who improved to 19-0 with win over No. 10 Dakota Greer.

Lenny Merkin won at 165 pounds, beating No. 18 Andrew Shomers 9-8 to complete a run of three-straight Princeton wins, starting with Kolodzik's 8-3 win over No. 6 Kaden Gfeller with freshman Quincy Monday's 6-5 win at 157.

Kolodzik began the weekend with a 3-2 win over fifth-ranked Austin O'Connor of North Carolina. Brucki won the clinching match with a pin in the first round.

This was a big weekend for Princeton. There are others to come for sure, including the huge Ivy match Feb. 9 at Cornell, as well as the EIWA championships and ultimately the NCAAs.

Weekends like the one gone by, though, do a lot to solidify Princeton's status among the nation's wrestling elite. Plus it was a lot of fun.

The Oklahoma State wrestlers walked into Jadwin Friday afternoon impressed with the building itself.

They left Saturday impressed with the Princeton wrestlers.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Sweeping Into The Break

When TigerBlog saw that the Bradley Center was imploded yesterday, he immediately went back to his only trip to the arena in Milwaukee.

Like most random places - and some not random places - TB has been to, he's been to Milwaukee for just one reason. Princeton men's basketball was playing there.

This was back in December 1996, for a two-game tournament called "The First Bank Classic." TB's memories of that trip include the following:

* the team flew to Chicago, and then, when told it was only 90 minutes to Milwaukee, basketball/lacrosse player Jason Osier said "they have an airport there?"
* Princeton won, beating Ohio and then Marquette in the final
* it seemed like it was 27 degrees and freezing rain the whole time, which was fine, because TB doesn't think he ever had to go outside, since the hotel was connected to the arena
* Princeton centers Steve Goodrich and Jesse Rosenfeld both fouled out, leaving 6-5 Sydney Johnson to guard 6-10 future NBA star Chris Crawford
* the trophy for winning the tournament was gigantic and had its own seat on the plane home, complete with seat belt

TigerBlog also thinks that the Marquette game is the one when Princeton had committed seven fouls before Marquette had committed any, causing this exchange between then-Tiger head coach Bill Carmody and one of the officials:
BC: "fouls are 7-0."
Ref: "as soon as they commit one I'll call it, coach."

Further, TB is also pretty sure that's the same game when the lack of fouls called against Marquette worked out well for the Tigers, because Marquette had to foul Princeton six times to get them to the one-and-one in a two-point game. The first five were inbounded at midcourt and resulted in an immediate foul.

The sixth, which would have put Princeton on the line for a one-and-one, instead became a 45-foot crosscourt backdoor pass for a layup that sealed the 66-62 win.

Princeton started five players in that game, and three of them are now Division I head coaches - Sydney Johnson at Fairfield, Brian Earl at Cornell and Mitch Henderson at Princeton. There can't be too many examples of a time when a team had three players in its lineup who would go on to be Division I head coaches.

For that matter, you can add in that all four coaches for Princeton then became head coaches. Carmody, obviously, already was one, and still is. The other three members of the staff were Joe Scott (head coach at three places, including Princeton), John Thompson III (coached Princeton and then took Georgetown to the Final Four) and Howard Levy (now the head coach at Mercer County Community College).

Unlike any other coach in Division I men's basketball, Mitch Henderson has only one game left for the month. That game is Jan. 27, at home against Wesley, after a two-week break for exams.

Mitch can go into this particular break feeling pretty good about where his team is right now. The Tigers played a very solid game Saturday while beating Penn at the Palestra 62-53, completing a two-game, one-week sweep of the Quakers.

Princeton now heads into the break at 2-0 in the Ivy League, with 12 games in six weekends awaiting the Tigers once February and March roll around. Princeton has also won four straight since its loss at Duke.

What's most interesting to TigerBlog is that Princeton has been in the 60s in both of its wins against Penn and the one before it, the 67-66 win at then-No. 17 Arizona State.

Why is this interesting? One, Princeton hasn't been getting into shootouts on nights where it's raining three-pointers. In the last three games, Princeton is 19 for 72 from three-point range, and all three are wins.

Second, the Tigers have shown that they can execute when it's necessary. These games have all been close throughout, almost possession by possession in the second half, and Princeton has made every play that it needed to when it mattered most.

Third, Princeton is playing great defense. Arizona State and Penn in the game Saturday both were held below 33 percent shooting, and Penn shot 41 percent in the game at Jadwin. When you defend like that, good things will happen.

Princeton beat Penn on the road Saturday on a day when the Quakers honored their 1979 Final Four team, and the Tigers did it on a day when they were hardly perfect. That's a great sign.

There will be no momentum carryover from that game when the Ivy season kicks into high gear in a few weeks. At the same time, those two Penn wins are sitting there in the bank.

It wouldn't shock anyone if Penn went on a roll from here, and in fact Princeton should be rooting for the arch-rival to knock off some teams. The first goal is to get into the Ivy tournament, but there's nothing wrong with thinking about challenging for the league title and the top seed in that tournament after the two wins over Penn.

Yes, it won't be easy. It's a very good league this year, and no game is a layup. In fact, there's no guarantee for any team in the league that it'll be in New Haven come March 16-17.

Having two wins over Penn in your pocket, though, is a great way to start.

Heading into exam break at 2-0 in the league is reason to smile. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Busy Weekend Before The Break

TigerBlog might as well start with Richmond Aririguzoh again and make it a clean sweep of the week for the men's basketball big man.

Princeton is at Penn tomorrow afternoon (2 pm tip at the Palestra) for the second game in eight days between the teams after the Tigers won 68-65 in overtime in Jadwin Gym last Saturday. Aririguzoh is coming off a career-high 20 points, with seven rebounds, to earn Ivy League Player of the Week honors.

It'll be interesting to see the rematch between Aririguzoh and Penn center A.J. Brodeur, who had 18 points and 15 rebounds of his own in the game. Beyond that, there are all kinds of unknowns going into the rematch, and both teams can take confidence in some of them.

For instance, Penn's Michael Wang is another week healthier, while Princeton's Devin Cannady and Jaelin Llewellyn will probably shoot better than a combined 1 for 12 from three.

Beyond any of that, though, it just figures to be a very close, very hard-fought game between the two long-time rivals. And then for Princeton, it'll be the long break for first semester exams.

In fact, all of Princeton Athletics will shut down for exams after this weekend's events, of which there are a bunch. Also in fact, there are 19 events featuring 11 different teams between today and Sunday.

And then after that? All will be quiet until the 26th, when exams are over. For this weekend, there are some great events beyond just the men's basketball game.

HERE is the complete schedule for the month.

The weekend started yesterday, when the third-ranked women's squash team beat No. 2 Trinity 5-4, marking the second straight year the Tigers have beaten Trinity. Up next are the Ivy opening matches at Brown tomorrow and Yale Sunday.

Also, if you haven't seen this week's edition of "Beyond The Stripes," click HERE and check out the impact that Hurricane Katrina had on a brother/sister Princeton squash duo.

As for today's events, TigerBlog will start on the road, in Ithaca.

The Princeton women's hockey team is unbeaten in 16 straight games and ranked fifth in the nation. This afternoon at 3, the Tigers take on the team ranked one spot above them, fourth-ranked Cornell.

There aren't a lot of matchups in any sport between teams in the top five in the national rankings. That alone makes this one special, not to mention the impact it can have on the ECAC race.

Back on Nov. 17, Princeton and Cornell skated to a 2-2 tie, by the way. These teams are 1-2 in the league standings, and they are also the two highest ranked ECAC teams in the national poll.

No matter what happens this afternoon, Princeton will have a quick turnaround to the game tomorrow at 3 at Colgate, who happens to be ranked ninth and who made it all the way to the NCAA championship game last year.

The women's hockey team will return from exams on the 29th to host Penn State. Then it'll be the final eight ECAC regular season games in the first 23 days of February, followed by the ECAC playoffs - and possibly the NCAA tournament beyond that.

You can watch the game today at Cornell on ESPN+.

The men's hockey team, meanwhile, hosts Harvard and Dartmouth tonight and tomorrow with face-off at 7 both nights. Princeton, the defending ECAC champion, tied Harvard and beat Dartmouth the first time around.

Also at home this weekend the women's swimming and diving team will be in DeNunzio Pool tomorrow against Villanova and Rutgers. That meet starts at 11.

Then there is the wrestling team.

The 25th-ranked Tigers host a pair of nationally ranked opponents in matches that have been moved to Jadwin Gym. First up is No. 15 North Carolina, who is in Jadwin tonight (no admission charge). Then, tomorrow at 1, third-ranked Oklahoma State will be in Jadwin (you will need to purchase tickets for that one).

Both matches can be seen on ESPN+.

Here's the first line of the preview story by TB's colleague Craig Sachson:
This type of weekend was almost unthinkable not too long ago, but two of the nation's top programs will make their way to Jadwin Gym to take on a nationally ranked Princeton wrestling team that features a trio of Top-10 wrestlers with NCAA championship aspirations.

And HERE is the rest of his preview.

As TB said, it's an interesting weekend.

And then nothing for two weeks after that, other than exams.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Back In The Old Days

TigerBlog has mentioned Richmond Aririguzoh every day this week, so why not again today?

Aririguzoh, the center on the men's basketball team, was named Ivy League Player of the Week after his 20-point, seven-rebound performance in a 68-65 win over Penn last weekend. He also was featured on this week's edition of "Hard Cuts" as he walked off the court after the game.

You can see that episode HERE by the way.

As Aririguzoh walks, he looks into the camera and starts talking about how great the atmosphere was, how crowded Jadwin Gym was. And he says something really, really strange, something along the lines of "just like back in the old days, back when Coach played."

When TB heard this the first time, it took him a second to process what Aririguzoh was saying. Wait a second. "Coach," is Mitch Henderson. And the days when he played can't really be considered "the old days" quite yet, can they?

Mitch Henderson graduated in 1998. TigerBlog was the men's basketball contact back then, and he saw every game Mitch played here in his four years except for two.

Did you see the one-handed 30-foot bounce pass that Jaelin Llewellyn threaded to Myles Stephens in the first half against Penn? If you didn't, you can see it in the "Hard Cuts" episode.

Over on the radio, TigerBlog mentioned to his partner Patrick McCarthy that he'd seen Mitch make that pass about a million times. Well, maybe not a million.

In fact, when Henderson was a senior, TB wrote a feature story about him that began with the time that Bill Carmody came down to TB's office - which, by the way, pretty much always resulted in something funny - and said "you have to come see this."

It was a Monday morning, after the Tigers swept Yale and Brown on the road (TB thinks it was on the road, but it was definitely Yale and Brown). Carmody was in his office looking at video against Brown, and he wanted to show TB one specific Henderson play.

On the play, Henderson throws a one-handed bounce pass to a cutting Gabe Lewullis for a layup. Also on the play, you could see that four of the Brown players were staring at Henderson as he did it. He had them frozen, presumably because of how much of a magician he was with the ball.

TB remembers writing something along the lines of "that pass would have been unbelievable were there literally 100 others just like it," since at the time he wrote, Henderson had 101 assists on the season. As it turned out, Henderson would finish that magical season with 131 assists, a number that ranks fourth on Princeton's single-season list.

He also has 304 career assists, which leaves him in eighth place at Princeton. The top seven, by the way, includes two centers (Kit Mueller, Ian Hummer) and one forward (John Thompson).

If you saw Henderson play, you remember what kind of passer he was. His ability to throw one-handed passes with either hand and do so immediately off of a dribble was uncanny, and he is easily the best TB has ever seen at doing so.

The pass that Llewellyn threw to Stephens was a lot like the ones that Henderson threw all the time. It brought back those memories to TigerBlog, and it also made TB wonder how many assists Henderson would have had if he had played in a Mitch Henderson-coached offense - one that pushes the ball in transition - with a 30-second clock.

The next opportunity Henderson has to coach a game, by the way, comes up Saturday at 2 at the Palestra, with the rematch against the Quakers. It's a rarity that Princeton plays an opponent consecutively.

For instance, you have to go back to the 1915 and before that 1906 seasons to see the last time Princeton played Penn in two straight games. Both of those times, the second game was played less than a week later and, for what it's worth - which is absolutely nothing - the team that won the first game also won the second.

After the game Saturday, Princeton doesn't play again until Jan. 27 against Wesley, after the break for first semester exams. And then after that it's back into the Ivy League schedule Feb. 1 and 2, at Columbia and Cornell.

So anyway, that was Henderson the player. Now he's Henderson the coach, but does that make when he played "the old days?"

TigerBlog saw something else that took him back 20 years in a flash, by the way. You know what happened on Jan. 10, 1999 - which was 20 years ago today?

It was the debut of a new show on HBO called "The Sopranos."

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I Am Howard Levy

TigerBlog starts today with the answer to yesterday's "Who Am I?" quiz.

TB gave you the improvement of a player from his first two seasons with the men's basketball team to his last two, and it was dramatic. Then he asked you to guess who it was. 

A few of you commented, and a few others emailed TB directly. That was a fun little exercise, and TB will do it again one of these days.

And that answer was Howard Levy. Howard is very familiar to Princeton fans, after his playing days (he's a 1985 grad) and then his years as an assistant coach here under Bill Carmody, John Thompson III and Joe Scott.

These days Howard is the head coach at Mercer County Community College, as well as a frequent attendee at Tiger games.

The whole thing started, as you recall, when TigerBlog was talking about the great improvement that junior center Richmond Aririguzoh has made this year. Princeton women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart talks about how hard Richmond has worked, how often she's seen him in the gym, in the current episode of "The Court Report," which you can listen to HERE.

There was also a comment from Monday's entry, the one that started with Chris Thomforde. Here was the comment:
After you said that Chris Thomforde was fifth at Princeton in career free throw percentage, I looked up his figure, which was 0.829. That has got to be one of the sport's very highest career stats for a player 6'10" or taller.
Richmond Aririguzoh's FT percentage for this year of 0.776, while obviously derived from a small sample size, must be one of the best run rates for a player 6'9" or taller.
Why there is such a strong correlation between FT percentage and a player's height? Perhaps it has something to do with small muscle versus large muscle motor control. Somewhere there is a Princeton senior thesis waiting to written on this phenomenon.

This got TigerBlog thinking. If you look at the 20 highest free-throw percentages in NBA history, only three of them - Kevin Durant, Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitski - are by players who are 6-9 or taller. Currently in the NBA, on the other hand, three of the six players who are currently shooting at least 90 percent from the line - Durant, Danilo Gallinari and Jeff Green - are at least 6-9. So are seven of the top 15.

What explains this? Maybe it has something to do with how it used to be that the biggest kid was simply planted near the basket, so he never had to learn to dribble or shoot from more than two feet away. These days, your tallest men - and women - are playing facing the basket, developing more than a low post game and with it the ability to develop a shot from away from the hoop.

For a Princeton women's example, for instance, there is Bella Alarie, who stands 6-5 but with guard skills.

Anyway, that would be a good senior thesis topic.

Meanwhile, as TB is sure you're aware, the college football season ended Monday night in a way that made pretty much any non-Alabama fan happy. TigerBlog assumes that about 90 percent of those who watched who weren't fans of either of the participating schools had to be rooting for Clemson.

TB figured the final score would be about what it was. He just didn't think that it would be Clemson who would be the winner, not that he was sorry to see Alabama go down.

With the final college game of the year (other than all-star games), TB can say that there are way too many bowl games that nobody cares about and a lot of them were absolute blowouts. The three playoff games weren't exactly competitive either.

Now that the dust has settled, there are only three unbeaten teams in Division I football for the 2018 season. Clemson and Alabama were both unbeaten coming in, so one of them was going to finish perfect. And then there was North Dakota State, who was the FCS champion.

The third? That would be Princeton. The Tigers, by the way, finished the season ranked ninth in both major FCS polls, which is the highest Ivy League finish in 32 years.

There are 124 teams in the FCS. There are 129 FBS teams. That's a total of 253 Division I football teams.

Three of them finished with perfect records. Princeton was one of them.

Any time you can make that statement, you have to feel pretty good about it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Game Of "Who Am I?"

Remember how TigerBlog said yesterday that he couldn't really think of another men's basketball player at Princeton who had made the kind of jump from his first two years to his third year the way current junior center Richmond Aririguzoh - named the Ivy League Player of the Week yesterday - has this year.

Then he thought of one. It's led to one of TB's favorite games to play, a little game of "Who Am I?" He'll give you the stats, and you try to figure out who it is.

Here are his numbers from Years 1 and 2:
Freshman year - 11 games played, 11 points, 1.0 points per game, eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks
Sophomore year - 22 games played, 39 points, 1.8 points per game, 28 rebounds, 12 assists, four blocks

And then here is Year 3:
Junior year - 28 games, 313 points, 11.2 points per game, 117 rebounds, 52 assists, 22 blocks

That's a pretty good jump.

As for Year 4, here's that one:
Senior year - 29 games, 310 points, 11.9 points per game, 169 rebounds, 58 assists, 22 blocks

In the end he worked himself from a player who made limited contributions to a second-team All-Ivy League selection as a senior. His career high would end up being 24 points, something he did twice, including once in an NCAA tournament game.

Also, he never attempted a three-pointer in his career.

Any guesses as to who it is? TigerBlog isn't sure if he should tell you the answer later or wait until tomorrow to see if you can figure it out on your own. He'll think about it for a few minutes.

In the meantime, speaking of men's basketball, the next home game isn't until Jan. 27, when the men's team returns from the coming exam break against Division III Wesley.

That game is one of two remaining in January for the men's team, who also has its rematch against Penn Saturday at the Palestra in the final game before exams start. Those two games are exactly two more than the women have remaining this month, by the way.

Princeton's women's basketball team is off until Feb. 1 and 2, when Columbia and Cornell will be in Jadwin. The Tigers will be well-rested, which is good, since there will then be nine games in February and then four more in the first nine days of March - and that doesn't include the Ivy tournament.

In the meantime, that doesn't mean that Jadwin Gym will be silent now for the foreseeable future. In fact, there will be two intense Princeton matchups there this weekend, just not in basketball.

The wrestling team will be in Jadwin this weekend for a pair of matches against nationally ranked opponents, as North Carolina and Oklahoma State will be here Friday and Saturday. Both matches are in Jadwin, not Dillon, and there will be an admissions charge for the OSU match only.

Those should be two great events, and TB will have more on them as they get closer. To get started, you can listen to this week's edition of "The Higher Standard" podcast with Midlands champ Patrick Brucki HERE. Brucki, of course, was one of two Princeton champs at the prestigious event at Northwestern, in addition to Matthew Kolodzik, the nation's top-ranked wrestler at 149.

Meanwhile, the women's hockey team stretched its unbeaten streak to 16 straight games, extending the school record, with a 4-1 win over Harvard and 5-2 win over Dartmouth, both on the road. Sarah Fillier was the nation's leading scorer the past week with five goals and three assists (that includes the Dec. 31 game against Merrimack), earning her ECAC Hockey Player and Rookie of the Week honors.

Princeton also moved up to No. 5 in the Division I rankings. The Tigers have only lost two games this season, both to No. 1 Wisconsin back in mid-October in the first two the team played.

Keeping the streak going this weekend won't be easy, as Princeton is back on the road, at No. 4 Cornell Friday and No. 9 Colgate Saturday. 

Princeton is nine points ahead of second-place Cornell (and Quinnipiac) in the ECAC standings with 22 points to 13 for the Big Red and Bobcats. The Tigers have played four more games than the Big Red, and Princeton is of course off for the next two weekends after this one for exams.

And so that brings TB back to the "Who Am I" question. Should he give you the answer now, or should he wait to see if anyone figures it out.

Hmmm. He'll wait til tomorrow and see if he hears from anyone.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Wanting More

TigerBlog had a chance to interview Chris Thomforde on the radio at halftime of the Princeton-Penn men's basketball game Saturday.

Thomforde is a giant of a man - a gentle giant at that, but a giant nonetheless - and not because he stands close to 6-10. He is a man of undeniable loyalty and integrity, one who spent his long career in the ministry and education, most recently as the president of Moravian College.

Now retired and living in Minnesota, Thomforde was back in Jadwin Gym Saturday for the reunion of the 1968-69 men's basketball team on the 50th anniversary of its 14-0 Ivy season and NCAA tournament appearance.

During their halftime interview, TigerBlog asked Thomforde about his experiences playing first for Butch van Breda Kolff and then after that on Pete Carril's first two Princeton teams, including his senior year, when the Tigers made the first of Carril's 11 NCAA tournament appearances. Thomforde talked about a driven, knowledgeable coach whose earliest Princeton teams had some elements of the offense that would evolve and he would make famous.

As for Thomforde, he had 1,122 career points, which ranked fourth when he graduated and still ranks 20th today. He's also still fifth all-time at Princeton in free throw percentage (and was 123 for 137 as a senior) and sixth in rebounds.

That interview came at halftime of Game 2 of the Jadwin Gym Princeton-Penn doubleheader, one that TigerBlog can sum up as making you want to see more. And there will definitely be more to see, with the only question of being how much.

The two games included one that went overtime, and in those 85 minutes of basketball, there was never a point where any of the four teams had a lead of double figures. In fact, of the last 35:50 of the men's game, the score was within six points one way or another for 35:04 of it. On the women's side, all but 19 seconds of the second half were within six points. 

The women played first, and the Quakers won that one 66-60. It was a back-and-forth game, and Penn made a late run to pull it out before having to breath deeply as Princeton hit two late threes and got a turnover to almost take it back.

Bella Allarie had 21 points and 17 rebounds, of which 13 points and 11 rebounds came in the second half. The teams, who have won every Ivy title for the last nine years, meet again Feb. 26 in Philadelphia. And maybe again after that, in the Ivy League tournament at Yale in March.

This is Year 3 of the Ivy tournament. Penn won the first for the women. Princeton won the second a year ago. The championship game was Princeton-Penn both times.

As for the men, Princeton won the first Ivy tournament and then Penn won a year ago. The tournament is a long way away, but Princeton made a huge statement with a 68-65 overtime win.

In a statistical oddity, it was the second straight Princeton game with 133 total points, after the first statement win, a 67-66 win over then-No. 17 Arizona State seven days earlier. That game gave Princeton a huge boost in confidence, and it carried over into the Ivy League opener.

The win over Penn was a showcase for the incredible improvement of junior Richmond Aririguzoh. TigerBlog has been trying to think of another player he can remember at Princeton who has made the kind of jump from his first two years to his third year that Aririguzoh has, and he can't really think of one.

Aririguzoh averaged 1.5 points per game as a freshman and 2.7 last year. This year he's at 10.5 after his career-high 20 in the win over the Quakers.

His freshman shooting percentage was .412. That improved last year to .596 and this year is now at .657.

Even more impressive is that his free throw percentage was .414 last year. This year? He's made 45 of 58, or .776, including two with 25 seconds left to give Princeton the win over Arizona State.

He was dominant against Penn, with 20 points on 9 for 13 shooting (making both of his free throws), along with seven assists and very solid defense. Aririguzoh, a premed student, has become one of the best Princeton big men TB has seen at using his dribble to get to the basket.

Aririguzoh wasn't a one-man show. Myles Stephens had 11 points and 16 rebounds. Devin Cannady, even on that rarest of nights when he didn't make a three-pointer, had 12 points, including a floater in the lane to give the Tigers the lead for good with 43 seconds left in the OT.

Jerome Desrosiers was the fourth Princeton player in double figures, with 10. Sebastian Much almost made it five, finishing with nine points - including two foul shots with six seconds left.

If you liked that game, you don't have to wait long to see the rematch. It's this Saturday in Philadelphia, at 2.

After that, Princeton and Penn will be done with each other for this year. Or will they? There might be a third meeting in Connecticut in March, just like the women.

After watching the two games Saturday, that's an appealing possibility.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Bill Walton On "Hard Cuts"

Bill Walton On Hard Cuts

It was back in 1995 or 1996 that Bill Carmody, still an assistant coach for the Princeton men's basketball team, came into TigerBlog's office and announced that "the greatest college basketball player of all-time is in the men's room."

It took TigerBlog a second to remember that Nate Walton was a Princeton recruit and so his father, Bill Walton, could have been in Jadwin Gym. It was only once he thought of who the greatest college basketball player of all time probably was that he put two and two together.

You can make a serious case that Bill Walton is the greatest college basketball player ever. Playing in the early 1970s, when freshmen were still ineligible for varsity, Walton won three national Player of the Year awards while leading UCLA to the 1972 and 1973 NCAA titles, including a 21-for-22, 44-point night against Memphis in the 1973 final. As a senior in 1974, UCLA lost four times, including having its 88-game winning streak stopped by Notre Dame 71-70 and then falling to North Carolina State 80-77 in two overtimes in the NCAA semifinals, ending a run of seven-straight championships for the Bruins, who would win again in 1975.

TigerBlog watched all three of those games on TV. The game against Memphis was just a case of sheer domination. The Notre Dame game was high on drama as the streak ended. The game against North Carolina State - led by David Thompson, who was basically Julius Erving and Michael Jordan combined before he hurt his knees - is one of the two best in college history, along with Duke's 104-103 win over Kentucky in the 1992 East final.

Walton would lead the Portland Trailblazers to the 1977 NBA title, and the 1977-78 Blazers started out 50-10 before Walton broke his foot, something that hindered him the rest of his career. Included in that start was a 107-106 win over the Knicks at the Garden on Dec. 10, a game TB attended.

Walton was big and strong and the best passing big man who ever played. Were it not for the injuries to his foot, he would be remembered in the same way that Bill Russell is as an NBA player.

UCLA, by the way, would win only one NCAA title since 1975, and that would be in 1995. The next season, 1996, saw Princeton knock off the Bruins 43-41 in the opening round. Nate Walton was a high school senior then.

Nate would be a first-team All-Ivy League selection after leading Princeton's most improbable Ivy championship team ever, the 2001 Tigers, who were led by a rookie head coach (John Thompson III) and a revamped lineup after Chris Young signed a professional baseball contract, Spencer Gloger transferred out and a few other projected rotation players weren't able to play.

Despite that, Princeton beat Penn 68-52 in Jadwin Gym on the final day of the regular season to win the title. On that night, where a Princeton win meant the championship and a Penn win would have meant a tie and a playoff game, Walton had one of the greatest stat lines of all time - nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists, six steals.

As TB looks back on all of the athletes he's known at Princeton, he'll always have a special fondness for Nate Walton, a natural leader who made every player on the court better, all while also having a great sense of humor about it all.

Clearly, Walton had a great experience at Princeton. And clearly his father is extremely proud of that.

If you saw Princeton's 67-66 win over Arizona State last weekend, you heard Bill Walton's commentary on the game. Much of it centered on Nate and his time here, and the lifelong respect that grew out of it for his father as far as Princeton and Princeton basketball are concerned.

If you didn't see this week's "Hard Cuts" and didn't click on the link up top, then watch it HERE. Bill Walton's passion for life and genuine love of Princeton basketball shine through. There's nothing phony about any of it.

The current Princeton Tigers will play the second game of a Carril Court doubleheader tomorrow against Penn in a matchup of the teams that have represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament the last two years. The day starts at 2 with the women's game and then continues at 5 with the men's game. The 1968-69 Princeton Tigers, who went 14-0 in the Ivy League and became the first of Pete Carril's 11 NCAA tournament teams, will be honored on the 50th anniversary of their championship season.

The women's game matches the teams that have won the league each of the last nine years (six for Princeton, three for Penn) and who are the 1-2 teams in the Ivy's preseason poll. More importantly, Princeton has won seven straight and is unbeaten with Bella Alarie while Penn is 8-2 overall and ranked first in the league and third in Division I in scoring defense at 49.0 per game.

Princeton and Penn have met at least twice a year every year since 1903 in men's basketball. It is by far the greatest rivalry in the history of Ivy League basketball - and, for TB's money, the best rivalry in any sport in Ivy history. It's always special when these two get together.

It's a Princeton-Penn basketball doubleheader, which makes it one of the most special days you'll have on the Princeton Athletics calendar.

And you know who Bill Walton is rooting for in this one.

Seriously, make sure you watch the "Hard Cuts" episode. It's very special.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

RIP, The Tyler Trent

It's been about a year since TigerBlog went to Indianapolis for David Morrow's presentation of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award.

While he was there, he took a side trip for about an hour to West Lafayette and the campus of Purdue University. While there, on a night when the temperature was three degrees by the way, he went to a men's basketball game at Mackey Arena between the Boilermakers and Wisconsin.

TigerBlog has seen basketball games all over the country, and the atmosphere in Mackey is up there with anything he'd ever experienced. North Carolina. Duke. Michigan State. Louisville. Syracuse. Kansas. He's been to all of those and more, and Purdue is his favorite.

Since that night, TB has been a big Purdue fan. He's gone out of his way to watch the Boilermakers on TV, and he still thinks they would have beaten Texas Tech and given Villanova a game in the regional final last year had center Isaac Haas not gotten hurt.

His interest in Purdue carried over to this football season, when he again paid special attention to his adopted team in the Midwest. In fact, Purdue was the only team to beat Ohio State this season and did so convincingly, 49-20.

Somewhere during the football season, TigerBlog became aware of the intriguing story of Tyler Trent, the Purdue student and superfan whose goal was to become a sportswriter. Sadly, Tyler's dreams were cut short by a rare bone cancer, one that first caused him to break his arm playing ultimate frisbee when he was 14 and, on New Year's Day, ultimately claimed his life, tragically, at the age of 20.

Tyler Trent became a rallying point for the entire Purdue community, especially the football program. His huge spirit was evident on his Twitter feed - @thetylertrtent.
He used his brief time in the spotlight to promote the fight against cancer, even writing a book about it. He also wrote in a nationally syndicated column his thoughts on his impending mortality, including this:
Though I am in hospice care and have to wake up every morning knowing that the day might be my last, I still have a choice to make: to make that day the best it can be. To make the most of whomever comes to visit, texts, tweets or calls me.
Yet, isn’t that a choice we all have every day? After all, nobody knows the amount of days we have left. Some could say we are all in hospice to a certain degree.
So why don’t we act like it? 

Wow. What else can TB say?

He wanted to talk about Tyler today, because of the way he's followed his courageous and inspirational fight these last few months. The world has clearly lost someone pretty special.

There's no appropriate segue from that to anything to do with Princeton Athletics today, so TigerBlog will just jump ahead to the coming hockey weekend.

TigerBlog was at three of the four hockey games played at Hobey Baker Rink this past weekend, when the men's team swept Maine 1-0 and 7-3 and the women's team tied Merrimack 1-1 before winning 5-3. The women, by the way, stretched their unbeaten streak to 14 games (10-0-4), which is the longest streak in program history.

The teams each played a different goalie in each game, and all four played very well. Ryan Ferland had to wait two weeks after getting pulled against Penn State before he got back on the ice and made 40 saves in the 1-0 shutout. That's a huge statement about Ferland, the MVP of the ECAC playoffs last year.

Austin Shaw, who was lights out (and didn't allow a goal) in relief of Ferland in the 4-4 tie against Penn State, then made 27 saves to win his first career start in Game 2 against Maine. 

On the women's side, Rachel McQuigge stopped a penalty shot in overtime to preserve the 1-1 tie and then Steph Neatby made 35 saves in the win.

The two hockey teams are entering an interesting two weeks, with four big games each before the break for first semester exams. The men are home for all four (Harvard/Dartmouth this weekend, Cornell/Colgate next weekend, face-off at 7 for each game), while the women play the same teams on the road. If you're in New England this weekend and want to watch the women, they play at 3 at Harvard and 3:30 at Dartmouth. 

By the way, both teams are used to dealing with busy stretches followed by long periods off.

The women, for instance, didn't play for 22 days before the Merrimack games. Those two games then started a stretch of six games in 14 days, which will then be followed by 17 days off for exams and then nine games in 26 days to end the regular season.

The men have a very similar schedule: 13 days off, then six games in 15 days, then 20 days off, then 10 games in 30 days to end the regular season.

Princeton's women head back into the ECAC schedule in first place, unbeaten in the league at 8-0-2, five points ahead of Cornell and seven ahead of Colgate. Princeton and Quinnipiac have played 10 of their 22 league games; everyone else has played either eight or seven.

As for the men, the Tigers are in a three-way tie for fifth with Brown and Union, but the men are a week behind the women and there is just way too much time to go in the season for anything to really matter quite yet.

The games this weekend are big, of course, since every game counts. What's most important is building momentum heading into the postseason.

That's something that can't be accomplished in January with exams looming. Check back in February, and you'll see two teams hoping to play well into March.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone.

Have you ever gone to Times Square on New Year's Eve? There are always millions of people there, and yet TigerBlog hardly knows anyone who has ever done it.

He certainly hasn't. That's not his thing at all.

When TB was a kid, he used to watch the New Year's Day bowl games on TV, and whenever they put up the graphic with the score - which didn't stay frozen on the screen like it does now, so if you ever watch a replay of an old game, it looks sort of weird - it would usually have the a "Happy New Year" with the number of the year included. It was almost like a confirmation that the new year had actually become official when he saw it on his TV screen during a football game.

TB saw something last week that said that 12 percent of American adults were asleep by midnight on New Year's Eve. TigerBlog would have guessed that number would have been much higher.

He also read a story that said that gym memberships soar after the New Year and that 80 percent - that's eight in 10 people - never once go. That seems a little high, no? 

TigerBlog started his new year with latest version of "The Court Report," his weekly podcast with women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart. The two said they wouldn't miss a Tuesday all year, and they have successfully made it through the last two Tuesdays, which just happened to be Christmas and New Year's Day.

You can listen to this most recent one HERE. Unlike the Christmas version, when the two sang a duet of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," there was no singing this time around.

During their conversation, TB asked Courtney if she ever makes New Year's resolutions, and she said she has. TB has never done so.

For winter teams like Courtney's, the season spans two calendar years, and your record is what you do during those months. Still, if you want to look at the big picture of 2018 for the women's basketball team, it had an Ivy League championship, an Ivy League tournament championship, an NCAA tournament appearance and lastly a seven-game winning streak with a team that now is pretty much at full strength.

The month of January is a busy one around college sports, though not quite for the Princeton women's basketball team, which plays just once this month.

That game, of course, is a huge one, and it comes up Saturday at home against Penn. Princeton (six times) or Penn (three) has won the Ivy League title each of the last nine years, and they each have one Ivy tournament title in the first two years of the event.

Both figure to be in New Haven come March for this year's Ivy tournament, and the game Saturday figures to be a good coming attraction for the rest of the season. Penn, by the way, allows just 49 points per game, best in the Ivy League and third in Division I.

The game is the first of a doubleheader, with tip-off at 2. The men's team then plays Penn at 5.

Princeton and Penn men actually play twice in eight days, with the second game at the Palestra a week later. The women play their second game on Feb. 26.

Princeton Athletics heats up a bit the next two weekends before shutting down completely for first semester exams. There will be nine teams who compete this weekend and then 11 more next weekend, which isn't exactly crossover season, but it will be busy.

Then there are 12 days off for exams. The schedule for January can be seen HERE.

In the meantime, this is entry No. 1 for 2019. There were 254 last year, and there have been 254, 255 or 256 each year since 2010. The difference is attributable to how many Saturdays and Sundays there are in any given year.

TigerBlog doesn't usually plan ahead in terms of what he'll be writing about, but come late December, he figures to have the top stories of 2019 and the top stories of the entire decade.

What will make the year-end list? Who knows. Right now it's a blank slate for 2019, which is pretty exciting.

Another year, with another story to be told for the 37 varsity teams and 1,000 athletes who compete for Princeton. The first of approximately 700 athletic events for the year is tonight, by the way, when the men's volleyball team is at UCLA (10 Eastern, Pac 12 Network).

So once again, TigerBlog says Happy New Year.

Here's to a great 2019.