Thursday, March 30, 2017

Princeton-Syracuse: Old Memories And New Ones

TigerBlog saw a story the other day that mentioned it was the 25th anniversary of the famous Duke-Kentucky game.

It was in the 1992 NCAA tournament. The final score was Duke 104, Kentucky 103. Somebody from Duke hit a shot at the buzzer; his name escapes TigerBlog.

TB covered the game that night, at the Philadelphia Spectrum, which no longer exists. He wrote this back in 2009, so you're excused for not remembering it:

TB has two great memories from that night. The first was after Kentucky took a one-point lead with less than three seconds to play and timeout was called. From the seat directly behind the Kentucky bench, TigerBlog was about five feet from Rick Pitino, who spent the entire timeout yelling "no fouls, no fouls." Then, after the great pass from Grant Hill (TB voted for Hill for Most Outstanding Player and not Christian Laettner), Pitino turned to his bench and assistants, as if there was one more move he could make, and then reality settled in on him.

The second memory came as TigerBlog was writing his stories on a folding chair in a hallway outside the jammed media room with his long-obsolete radio shack word processor on his knees. Suddenly, from around the corner, a woman came sprinting by and, never seeing TB, fell face first on the floor after tripping over TB and his chair. "Are you all right?" TB asked, and then realized it was CBS's Lesley Visser.

It was two months later that the Princeton men's lacrosse team won the first of its six NCAA championships. Obviously this year will be the 25th anniversary of that event, and the Tigers will be honored at halftime of the NCAA championship game.

If you asked TB, it seems like the Duke-Kentucky game was a few years before the men's lacrosse game, but it wasn't. Sometimes the mind plays tricks with time like that.

Princeton beat Syracuse 10-9 on Andy Moe's goal to start the second overtime. It also started a run that saw the NCAA champion go like this: Princeton, Syracuse, Princeton, Syracuse, Princeton, Princeton, Princeton, somebody else, Syracuse, Princeton, Syracuse, somebody else again, Syracuse.

Added together, and it's six for Princeton, five for Syracuse and two for somebody else (okay, it was Virginia both times).

Even more amazing is that it was Syracuse that eliminated Princeton from the tournament each of those years it did not win through 1994. Before falling to Navy in the 2004 semifinals (TB can still see Jason Donger's game-tying shot clang off the pipe), Princeton had a run where it won 23 straight games against teams not named Syracuse in the NCAA tournament. That's remarkable.

In addition to the NCAA tournament classics that they played, Princeton and Syracuse had some epic regular-season games as well, most notably the 1999 four-OT game that the Tigers won 15-14 on a goal by Josh Sims. TigerBlog called that game on the radio, and he still does not know how Sims tucked the ball in the goal at the Carrier Dome that day.

For all of the great moments that Princeton and Syracuse have had in men's lacrosse, somehow the schools had never played in women's lacrosse until last night. How could that be possible?

The first thing you need to know about Syracuse women's lacrosse is that its coach, Gary Gait, is the greatest lacrosse player of all time (and his son Braedon is a junior on the Princeton men's team). Having Gait coach the Syracuse women would be like having Michael Jordan or LeBron James became a Division I women's basketball coach - and then build a perennial Final Four program.

Princeton would win the first meeting between the two, 16-11. Syracuse, by the way, has been each of the last five Final Fours.

The game last night was a showcase of the skills of Olivia Hompe, who went off for a career-best seven goals and nine points. For a little historical context of what Hompe did, she is just the eighth player in program history to have a nine-point game, and she was one off the record of 10 points in a game. Only Hompe and Erin McMunn in 2013 have had at least nine points in a game in the last 11 years for the Tigers.

As for the goals, Hompe scored early (Princeton's first two) and often (her seven tie her for third-best in a game, one off the school record again).

Princeton pulled away from Syracuse early, going up 5-1 and 9-2 at points. The Orange didn't go away and cut it to three on three occasions but could never get closer than that. 

Princeton-Syracuse was a match-up of Top 10 teams, with the Tigers at No. 7 and the Orange at No. 10. One spot behind Princeton sits Cornell, while the other ranked Ivy team is Penn at No. 11.

Cornell, 3-0 in the league, already owns a 10-4 win over the Quakers. The Tigers are 2-0 in the Ivy League and now 7-1 overall, with a game at home against Delaware Sunday up next.

After that comes five Ivy League games among the final six, with a game at No. 1 Maryland mixed in just for fun two weeks from today. That starts a run of four road games in 11 days, including three Ivy away games in eight days.

The key part of that figures to be the game Wednesday, April 19, at Penn and then the one three days later at Cornell. The Ivy League championship and the right to host the league tournament might get determined by those two results, though of course Harvard, whom Princeton hosts April 8, is currently 2-0 in the league as well.

Ah, but that's all coming attractions.

The game last night was, well, the best women's game ever between Princeton and Syracuse - and hopefully, since TB was quoting the movie last week anyway, as Rick said to Louis to end "Casablanca," the start of a beautiful friendship. 

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