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.


D '82 said...

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.

Chris Thomforde’69 said...

Thanks Tiger Blog. I am honored to be remembered. More importantly, go Tigers! Beat Penn...and everyone else in the Ivy League for that matter. Chris Thomforde