Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sleeping Through A Great One

TigerBlog really wanted to stay up to watch the Princeton-USC men's basketball game last night.

In some ways, he felt like a little kid again. Back then, if there was a big game on the West Coast, he'd try to stay up, say he'd take a nap during the day, all those things. They never worked. He'd always be out before the game started.

This was sort of like that. 

There were some things working against him though.

For one, it started at 11 Eastern time. For another, it was on the Pac 12 Network, which TB doesn't get. He could have watched it on line and all, he supposes, except for one other thing: When 11 rolled around last night, TB - just like when he was a kid - was fast asleep.

It was nearly two when his phone buzzed. Multiple times. Something about if he was watching the game.

That's when he figured something was up.

As it turns out, TB missed a good one. A great one, actually.

The final from Los Angeles was Princeton 103, USC 93, in overtime. This was a USC team that was ranked 10th in the preseason, and this was on the Trojans' home court.

It's also the kind of win that can help define a season and give a team a springboard to big things the rest of the way. 

TigerBlog wasn't the only one who missed the game. Radio play-by-play man Derek Jones, as TB said the other day, couldn't be at the game either. He also picked the wrong game to miss.

Princeton recruited a fill-in from Los Angeles to do the game, a young man named Nick Koop, whose name rhymes with "nope." He has to think Princeton plays the most exciting games of any team ever.

On the TV side, there was Bill Walton. He seemed to be impressed too:

By all accounts - other than TB's eyes, which were closed throughout it - this was a wild one.

Princeton led by seven with 46 seconds left and got a pair of Devin Cannady foul shots with 33 seconds left, but USC would miraculously rally to tie it and force the OT. The Trojans would tie at 86-86 though, forcing the OT.

Princeton would build another big lead, using a 9-0 run, and this time there'd be no answer. Instead, the Tigers had themselves a stunning win.

After not reaching the 100-point mark during the last 25 years of the Pete Carril years and then never under Bill Carmody, John Thompson III, Joe Scott and Sydney Johnson, Princeton has now been over 100 point three times under Mitch Henderson.

This was the second time ever that Princeton had reached 100 points against a team currently in a Power Five Conference. The other was against Rutgers in 1958. There was also a 109-point outing against Providence, now in the Big East, in the 1967 NCAA East Regional final.

And you can now add last night to the mix.

There were seven players who went at least 40 minutes, including four from Princeton - the Big Three of Cannady (who went all 45), Amir Bell and Myles Stephens, as well as freshman Sebastian Much.

There were five players with at least 20 points, including Stephens, who went off for a career-high 30. Stephens, who added nine rebounds, was 10 for 16 from the field and 8 for 8 from the line. TB didn't see it, but his sense is there were a few back-down-into-the-lane-turnaround-jumpers mixed in too.

In fact, there had to be a lot of makes close to the basket. Princeton shot 20 for 29 on two-point shots in the game. Add in 14 made threes (yes, on 37 attempts, but still 14 made threes is huge) and 20 for 23 foul shooting from the Big Three, and that's a winning formula.

Cannady had 23 and Much had 19. Bell flirted with the first triple-double in program history, finishing with 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

It was the first win over a Pac 12 team since, well, you know the game. TB doesn't have to tell you.

If you want him to, though, he'll say it was the 1996 NCAA tournament win over UCLA.

The final score that night was 43-41. This time Princeton scored twice as many points in regulation in the win. The second half alone last night saw Princeton outscore USC 53-50.

The 17 points that Princeton scored in OT, for that matter, were one fewer than Princeton scored in the entire first half of that win over UCLA.

With that win banked, Princeton went 2-0 on the California part of its five-game, 12-day trip. Up next is a flight to Hawaii, and then three more games in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
Actually, that sentence applies to both teams, since USC will be out there too, and the teams would meet again if they both won or lost their first games, Princeton against Middle Tennessee, USC against Akron.

TigerBlog has been awake for more than his share of great games. At some point, you start to sense that something is out of the ordinary, that this isn't just another night and another game. TB's sense is that came relatively early in LA last night.

Last night wasn't one of those nights where TB stayed awake.

He appears to have missed a beauty.

No comments: