Friday, January 8, 2016

Mopping The Floor

It is not true that the Princeton women's basketball team mopped the floor with Hampton last Sunday.

You know. Mopped the floor. Dominated. Rolled. Do people still use that term anymore?

The final was 79-55 Princeton, which doesn't exactly suggest a barnburner. It was closer than the score, a little closer anyway, not necessarily mopping the floor.

Alex Wheatley? She definitely mopped the floor.

As in literally.

During a stoppage in play, after two players went to the court, Wheatley took the mop from under the basket support and wiped the sweat off the floor.

To TigerBlog, that was Princeton women's basketball in a nutshell.

Here is Wheatley, a senior. She's been a first-team All-Ivy League selection. She's been on two Ivy League champions and has won an NCAA tournament game. She sits 57 points away from 1,000 for her career.

On top of that, she's a Princeton Scholar in the Nation's Service honoree, a prestigious award for her academic and service accomplishments. 

And yet she mopped the floor.

Why? Because that's how she is. Something needs to be done? Do it.

No ego. Nothing like that. Just mop the floor and get on with the game.

The win over Hampton improved Princeton to 11-3. Or 0-0, depending on how you look at things. The next game is tomorrow afternoon at the Palestra, the Ivy League opener against Penn.

In the last two years, Penn is 23-5 in Ivy League games. That's 22-2 against the rest of the league and 1-3 against Princeton.

Of course, the one win over Princeton was a huge one, back in the last game of the 2014 season, when the Quakers defeated Princeton to win the Ivy League title. It's the only blemish in the last six seasons for Princeton, who have won five Ivy titles and gone to five NCAA tournaments in that time.

Here's another number for you: 60. That's the combined point total Princeton has defeated Penn by in the last two Ivy openers, by 31 two years ago and 29 last year. Both teams know this.

As TB said, Princeton is 11-3 overall. Penn? The Quakers are 9-2.

Of their five combined losses, three (Princeton's to No. 5 Ohio State and No. 20 Seton Hall and Penn's to No. 16 Duke) are to ranked teams.

Princeton and Penn meet again in the last game of the season, March 8, at Jadwin Gym. Two years ago, that game was winner-to-all. Last year, a Penn loss to Cornell in midseason kept the last game from being winner-take-all.

The game tomorrow features the No. 1 scoring offense team in the Ivy League (Princeton at 75.3 points per game) against the No. 1 scoring defense team in the Ivy League (Penn at 50.3). Actually, Penn's total ranks fourth in Division I.

That, probably, let's you know everything you need to know about the game. Only one team - Drexel with 67 - has scored more than 60 points in a game against Penn so far this season. In Penn's 11 games, it has held its opponent to 50 or fewer seven times.

Princeton's season-low in points is 55, in a 55-44 win over Fordham. Other than that, Princeton has scored at least 61 in every other game, including 11 with at least 70.

The women's game tips at 1:00. The men's game follows, also the Ivy opener for Princeton and Penn, this one on NBC Sports.

Princeton has the best non-league record in the Ivy in men's basketball at 9-4, after a Virginia sweep of Hampton and Norfolk State earlier this week. Penn, with former Cornell and Boston College head coach Steve Donahue in his first season, is 6-7.

Or 0-0. You know, first Ivy game and all.

For those with short memories or those who are too young to remember, Princeton and Penn have played at least twice a year, every year, since their first meeting, on Valentine's Day 1903.

If you look at the entire history of Ivy League athletics, it is non-debatable that Princeton-Penn men's basketball is one of the two greatest rivalries the league has ever known. One of the two - or both - won the Ivy League championship and represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament every year from 1963 through 2007, other than 1968, 1986 and 1988.

The two head coaches know.

Princeton's Mitch Henderson played in the 1990s, during one of the rivalries heydays, before graduating in 1998. Donahue was a Penn assistant at Penn the entire decade, including during all four of Henderson's years.

Princeton basketball, men's and women's, will shut down for first semester exams after this one. The men play again on Jan. 24 against Bryn Athyn; the next Ivy game for both isn't until Jan. 29.

Penn doesn't play in the league again until the 29th either. The Quaker men play only St. Joe's, on the 20th, in between, while the women have three Big Five games.

No matter how busy they are the next three weeks, the teams who are 1-0 in the league will be feeling much happier than the ones that are 0-1.

Princeton-Penn basketball.

It's a renewal of an all-time epic rivalry and one that is starting to grow into one.

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