Friday, January 9, 2015

Home For 15

TigerBlog was wrong. For all these years.

All this time, TigerBlog thought that the first Princeton-Penn men's basketball game he ever saw was the one preceded by a women's game between the two schools that went into overtime. Instead, that OT game was actually a few years later.

Ah, but TigerBlog can still see it.

The women's game began with almost nobody in the building. It ended with 9,208 - the capacity of the Palestra back then - on their feet chanting "choke, choke, choke" at a Princeton women's player who was on the foul line in overtime. She didn't. And Princeton won. 

The Princeton-Penn women's basketball rivalry has never approached what the men's rivalry has been. It couldn't possibly, unless those two win, say, 30 of the next 32 Ivy championships between them.

Of course, they've won the last five between them, four straight by Princeton interrupted last year by Penn, who won the title with a commanding victory over Princeton in the winner-take-all regular-season finale. Penn won that game 80-62 and dominated, as in Penn never trailed and the only time the score was tied was at 2-2.

Princeton has lived with the vision of Penn's celebration on Carril Court for nearly 10 months now. The first meeting between the teams since comes up tomorrow on Carril Court - tip is at 2.

It's not quite winner-take-all, as it is just the first of 14 Ivy games for both. Still, it's the defending champ against the team that unquestionably has dominated the non-league portion of Ivy League women's basketball.

Princeton, as you probably now, is 16-0 and ranked 22nd in one poll and 24th in the other. Princeton has demolished almost every opponent, with 15 of 16 wins by double figures. There have been two wins against the ACC and one each against the Big East and Big Ten. Most recently Princeton has beaten two very strong teams - Fordham and Hampton - by double figures.

The Tigers have been led by senior Blake Dietrick, who is the reigning national Player of the Week.  She also needs seven points to become the 22nd Princeton women's basketball player to reach 1,000 career points.

Penn comes to Jadwin tomorrow at 7-4 and off of clinching a first-ever Big Five women's championship.

Princeton ranks first in the league in scoring offense and first in scoring defense. Penn is second in scoring defense but only seventh in offense. The teams have two common opponents, Hampton and Drexel, both of whom beat Penn and lost to Princeton.

Still, do not expect an easy game if you're Princeton. If Princeton expected an easy game last March, it saw what happened. And even without Penn's second all-time leading scorer, the graduated Alyssa Baron, the Quakers have some players who were hugely important to the championship a year ago. They will not go quietly.

The women's basketball game is one of 15 home events this weekend for Princeton Athletics, which will then shut down for most of the rest of January due to first semester exams.

If you're interested, you can see Princeton men's and women's hockey, men's and women's basketball, wrestling, women's indoor track and field, men's and women's squash and men's and women's swimming and diving on campus this weekend.

There will be a bunch of doubleheaders, including, obviously, the basketball one.

The men's game is the 231st in a series that dates to Valentine's Day 1903. Since then, the teams have met at least twice every season without interruption, even due to World Wars or anything else. Penn leads 124-106.

Some of the greatest sporting events TigerBlog has ever seen in his life have been Princeton-Penn men's basketball games. For a long time he looked forward to the two annual meetings - or sometimes the third, in an Ivy League playoff game.

The teams begin the Ivy season tomorrow against each other. They finish it together in March. Will that last meeting be relevant to a championship? There's no way to know now, and that's part of the beauty of opening day.

A bigger question is whether the rivalry - historically one of the best in Ivy athletics history, along with Harvard-Yale football - will ever again be what it once was. 

In the meantime, just enjoy the doubleheader tomorrow.

There are also two hockey doubleheaders at Baker Rink, with the women's games today and tomorrow at 3 and the men at 7. The women play Yale and Brown; the men play Union and RPI.

There is a wrestling doubleheader at Dillon Gym tonight, as Princeton hosts Sacred Heart at 5 and Hofstra at 7. TB isn't necessarily rooting for Sacred Heart, though he did just send the school $1,500 as a deposit for TigerBlog Jr.'s spot in the school's Class of 2019.

There is also swimming and diving against North Carolina State in DeNunzio today and a women's track and field meet in Jadwin, all of which is at 5.

Squash? Harvard's men and women are here tomorrow. Dartmouth is here for both Sunday.

If you want to see Princeton on the road, your options are limited to men's track and field at Penn State and men's volleyball in Califorinia.

And if you want to see Princeton for the two weeks after this weekend, then you're completely out of luck.

So take advantage of the busy weekend.

You have something better to do?

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