Monday, December 31, 2018

Best of 2018 Part II

Remember Friday, when TigerBlog gave you Part 1 of the countdown of the top stories of 2018?

Well, he had this to say:
Because there are only nine events, TigerBlog feels confident that he can go ahead with his list of the top stories in Princeton sports for the last 12 months. If something happens in those nine events to shake up the list, then TB will amend it later.

And so now, for the first time since he's been doing this, TB needs to do some amending. Actually, there are two things to amend.

The first is that the women's hockey team tied Merrimack 1-1 yesterday, with the tie preserved by Rachel McQuigge's save on a penalty shot in overtime. The tie extended Princeton's unbeaten streak to 13 games, which moves the 2018-19 Tigers into sole possession of the record for the longest such streak in program history. When TB wrote Part 1, the current Tigers were tied with the 2015-16 team.

So that was the small one. The other one was a bit bigger.

The men's basketball team defeated 17th-ranked Arizona State 67-66 Saturday in Tempe, knocking off a team that had in its previous game defeated then-No. 1 and unbeaten Kansas on the same court. It was an incredibly impressive performance by the Tigers, even more so considering Myles Stephens was out injured.

The win was Princeton's first over a Top 20 team since the 1996 NCAA tournament win over UCLA. It was accomplished behind 21 points from Devin Cannady, who was one of four Tigers in double figures, and then two very clutch free throws from Richmond Aririguzoh for the winning points with 24.8 seconds to play.

That win definitely belongs on the list of the big stories for 2018. The question is where?

TigerBlog gave you Nos. 6-11 Friday in this order:

No. 11 - the men's lightweight rowing team finishes second nationally 
No. 10 - the women's hockey team ties the school record for unbeaten streak while moving up the national rankings
No. 9 - Michael Sowers breaks his own single-season scoring record 
No. 8 - the men's track and field team completes another "triple crown" and starts its run for another
No. 7 - Leslie Robinson has Princeton basketball's first "triple double" 
No. 6 - the reliable women of spring were again reliable

TB would put the men's basketball win Saturday at No. 11.

So where does that leave the top five? TigerBlog said before that choosing between the top two stories is not easy. In fact, were he doing the top stories in Princeton Athletics for this decade (coming 12 months from now by the way), then this year's top two would both be in the top five and could even still be 1-2.

He'll get to that shortly. In the meantime, here's the top five:

5. the remarkable wrestling resurgence continues
This is really two stories in one, combined under the heading of the continuation of the wrestling resurgence. Princeton finished third at the EIWA meet and qualified four for the NCAA championships, including Matthew Kolodzik, who was an EIWA individual champ and then a third-place finisher at the NCAA meet, earning All-America honors. Oh, and Kolodzik is the No. 1-ranked 149-pounder this season. As for Princeton, the Tigers began the 2018-19 season by ending an 18-match losing streak to Lehigh and a 14-match losing streak to Rider and finished the 2018 portion of the schedule with a fifth-place finish at the prestigious Midlands tournament, where Kolodzik and Patrick Brucki won the team's first individual championships. This team had a great 2018; it's a team that could have a better 2019.

4. the fabulous fall
Where to start with Princeton's fall season of 2018? Princeton had eight teams in their championship season this past fall, and this was the scoreboard: five champions, two runners-up, one third-place. The five champions were football (unbeaten season), men's soccer (down 2-0 in the first league game, rallied to get a tie and then five straight wins), women's soccer (dramatic win over Penn on the final night of the season to get the title and NCAA bid) and men's cross country (in a word, dominant; in another word, untouchable) in the Ivy League and men's water polo in the Northeast league. One of the runners-up was the field hockey team, which made it to the NCAA Final Four by avenging its regular-season defeat against Harvard. The other runner-up was women's volleyball, who had won three straight Ivy titles before finishing one game back this year. The third-place team was the women's cross country team, which shrugged that off to win the NCAA Regional and then finish 21st nationally. Princeton is currently ranked seventh in Division I in the Learfield Directors' Cup standings, measuring the best overall athletic programs based on NCAA tournament participation and success. By any measure, the Fall of 2018 was extraordinary for Princeton.

3. a pair of NCAA fencing champions
Kasia Nixon and Maia Chamberlain won NCAA individual fencing championships a few minutes apart, giving Princeton two of the three women's weapons champions. Princeton became the second women's team ever to win two individual weapons in the same year, after Notre Dame did so in 2017. Nixon's win in the epee was Princeton's second straight after Anna Van Brummen won it in 2017, making Princeton the second school after Penn State in 2010 and 2011 to accomplish that feat. Nixon was sixth in her weapon entering the final two rounds of qualifying, but she moved into fourth place to advance to the semifinals before winning two more matches and the title. Chamberlain earned All-America honors for the second straight time after being a semifinalist in 2017.

And so that brings TB to the top two. These two are clearly the football team's 10-0 season and the men's hockey team's dramatic run to the ECAC championship and the NCAA tournament. The question is in which order?

TB has thought about this a lot.

The football team went 10-0 this year, for Princeton's first perfect season since 1964. The Tigers became the highest scoring team in the history of the Ivy League, and the fact that Princeton had the two offensive Bushnell Cup finalists - winner John Lovett and runner-up Jesper Horsted - was also a first.

At the same time, it's possible that the team was better defensively than offensively. Almost no game was competitive, with two major exceptions, a 29-21 win at Harvard in which the defense kept Harvard from ever really making it a game until the very, very end, and the game against Dartmouth Nov. 3.

In that game, both teams came in at 7-0, and Dartmouth took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a touchdown. From there, Princeton's D completely wiped out the Big Green, whose only other points came on a safety. And Princeton needed every stop it got before rallying for a fourth-quarter TD and a 14-9 win in what was an epic game.

As for the men's hockey team, the Tigers finished seventh in the ECAC regular season and then blew out Brown in the opening round twice to reach the tournament quarterfinals. Waiting there was second-seeded Union, a team that was 17-0-3 in its previous 20 games against the Tigers. What happened? A Princeton sweep to advance to the semifinals at Lake Placid.

First up was top-seeded Cornell, whom the Tigers beat 4-1. That left third-seeded Clarkson, and Princeton looked all the world like it was going to win before the Golden Knights scored with 6.4 seconds left to force overtime.

With all the momentum against them, the Tigers stormed back anyway, winning the championship on Max Becker's goal with 2:37 gone in OT. The magical run ended with a 4-2 loss to Ohio State in the NCAA tournament opening round, but what Princeton did was amazing.

So who was more amazing?

You can make a case for either. The men's hockey team won more games in the ECAC tournament last year than the seniors on the team won the entire year as freshmen.

The football team was unbeaten for the first time in 54 years, but it was also only two years removed from its last Ivy title. The men's hockey team had last won the ECAC title 10 years earlier, but it was also only two years removed from being 12th in a 12 team league.

It's a tough choice, since these are two of the most impressive accomplishments TB has seen at Princeton. He's tempted to leave it at that and let everyone make their own conclusions, but he won't.

He comes down to this: Beating the top three seeds in the tournament and winning the final after giving up that late goal, coupled with where the program had been when the current players came in, is the deciding point for him.

TB has it this way:
2. Football
1. Men's hockey

Have a great, safe New Year's Eve. And hopefully 2019 will be a great year for everyone who competes for, coaches at and simply roots on Princeton Athletics.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Best Of 2018, Part 1

The six-day break for Christmas ends for Princeton Athletics ends today, as the men's hockey team hosts Maine at Hobey Baker Rink at 7.

Princeton hasn't played since Dec. 15, when a 4-4 tie against ninth-ranked Penn State felt more like a win after the Tigers trailed 4-1 late in the second period. Princeton and Maine will play again tomorrow night at 7 as well.

After that, the women's hockey team will take to the Baker Rink ice for a pair of games Saturday and Sunday at 3 against Merrimack.

While those two are home, the wrestling team will be at the Midlands tournament at Northwestern tomorrow and Sunday. The women's basketball team is at New Hampshire tomorrow, and the men's basketball team is at 17th-ranked Arizona State tomorrow as well. The men's volleyball team plays the first of two matches in California Sunday, at Pepperdine.

And that's the schedule for the rest of the calendar year for Princeton Athletics.

Because there are only nine events, TigerBlog feels confident that he can go ahead with his list of the top stories in Princeton sports for the last 12 months. If something happens in those nine events to shake up the list, then TB will amend it later.

In the meantime, here are the top stories in Princeton Athletics for 2018. This list was chosen solely by TigerBlog, and you can feel free to disagree with him if you like.

Also, only athletes who competed in the calendar year of 2018 for Princeton are eligible for the list, which lets out any professional or international accomplishments by current or former Princeton athletes, and there were several that were impressive in the past 12 months.

This is Part 1. He'll be back Monday with Part 2, which will include the top story for the year. You can probably figure out which ones will be in the top two, but they could still be in either order. He's still not sure, actually, which way he'll go.

For today, though, here is Part 1:

No. 11 - the men's lightweight rowing team finishes second nationally
The men's lightweight rowing team was second in the Eastern Sprints, behind Columbia, and then finished second at the IRA championships, also to Columbia. The margin of the grand final was less than one second after a great final sprint by the Tigers, who finished five seconds ahead of the third-place boat from Harvard. The second-place finish was Princeton's best since 2010.

No. 10 - the women's hockey team ties the school record for unbeaten streak while moving up the national rankings
The women's hockey team opened its season with a pair of close losses at Wisconsin, the No. 2 in the country. Since then? Princeton has not lost. In fact, the Tigers will take a 12-game unbeaten streak into those upcoming games against Merrimack. Also in fact, that 12-game unbeaten streak ties the record for the longest one in program history. Princeton, who has not played in four weeks, is still in first place in the ECAC with 18 points (8-0-2), and the Tigers are ranked sixth nationally. 

No. 9 - Michael Sowers breaks his own single-season scoring record
Michael Sowers set the Princeton men's lacrosse record for points in a season as a freshman with 82 - and then promptly broke that last year as a sophomore with 83, including a program-record 56 assists. Through two seasons, Sowers ranks first and second on the school's single-season points list, and he is already fifth all-time in assists and 10th all-time in points at Princeton. Should Sowers match last year's total, he'd have 248 through three years - the program career record is 247 and was set 25 years ago by Hall-of-Famer Kevin Lowe.

No. 8 - the men's track and field team completes another "triple crown" and starts its run for another
The men's track and field team won the indoor and outdoor Heps titles in 2018, which added to the 2017 cross country championship completed the "triple crown" that Princeton has now won nine times, and four times in the last eight years. No other Ivy men's track and field program has ever done it even once (Princeton is also the only one to do it on the women's side, having done it twice). The Tigers then started out the new academic year on the right foot with a dominant performance to win the 2018 Heps cross country title and then followed that with an NCAA regional championship and 22nd place finish nationally.

No. 7 - Leslie Robinson has Princeton basketball's first "triple double"
The Princeton women's basketball team clinched at least a share of the 2018 Ivy League title with a 79-44 win over Brown on March 2. That title, the seventh for the Tigers in the last nine years, was not the only history made that night, however. In that win over Brown, senior Leslie Robinson had 10 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, making her the first basketball player at Princeton - male or female - ever to have a "triple double." Princeton would go on to win the outright Ivy title and the Ivy League tournament championship (with a 63-34 win over Penn) as Bella Alarie was named the league's Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Princeton fell to Maryland in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

No. 6 - the reliable women of spring were again reliable
Princeton won 11 Ivy League titles in the 2017-18 academic year, and four of those came from four women's teams in the spring - the women's lacrosse, tennis, golf and open rowing teams. These were hardly unique occurrences, by the way. Consider this recent history. The women's golf title was the second straight. The women's tennis title was the fourth in five years. The women's open rowing title was the third straight and fifth in six years. The women's lacrosse championship was the fifth straight. All four teams competed in the NCAA postseason events in their sport.

Coming Monday (New Year's Eve), the top five.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Five Days, Six Teams

If you read yesterday's entry, you know that TigerBlog was talking about the time he and Tom McCarthy went to Hawaii for Princeton men's basketball.

They were there 20 years ago this week. As TB said yesterday, he's not sure if it seems like that long ago or not.

One thing he forgot to include is that while Tom has moved on to be the TV play-by-play voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as an announcer for the NFL and college basketball, TigerBlog is now doing games with Patrick McCarthy, Tom's son. Again, he's not sure if that makes 20 years ago seem longer or shorter.

Anyway, there are five days left in the calendar year of 2018, and there are nine Princeton athletic events still to be played in those five days featuring six different teams.

TigerBlog knew about five of those teams. He didn't realize the men's volleyball team is also playing this week.

The Tigers open their season with a trip to California, beginning at Pepperdine Sunday and then at UCLA Tuesday, with New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in between.

The men's volleyball team is one that is eagerly ready to turn the page to 2019 and see what the season has in store, especially since the Tigers, for the first time ever, are the preseason favorite in the EIVA.

Of course, just rolling the balls out won't exactly get it done. If anything, the preseason poll that has Princeton in the top spot is a sign that those in the know are expecting a fairly wide-open season, especially when you consider that two teams - George Mason and Penn State - received more first-place votes than the Tigers.

The EIVA playoffs aren't until April 18 and 20, so there's a long, long time until the preseason poll unfolds into what actually will play out. And hey, in the meantime, there's a trip to Southern California for New Year's.

In addition to men's volleyball, there are five other teams who will be competing between now and when the ball drops in Times Square. Of those five, three are on the road - the men's basketball team (at 17th-ranked Arizona State, who just beat previously No. 1 Kansas, Saturday at 2 on the Pac 12 Network), the women's basketball team (at New Hampshire Saturday at 1) and the wrestling team (at the prestigious Midlands Tournament Saturday and Sunday at Northwestern).

As for the home games, they're all hockey, one a day for four straight days beginning tomorrow.

It starts with the men's team, who hosts Maine tomorrow and Saturday, both at 7. Then it's the women's team's turn, with two games against Merrimack Sunday and Monday, both at 3.

By the way, during this week, more than any other time of the year, nobody has any idea what day of the week it actually is.

When last you saw the Princeton women, they were sweeping RPI and Union to push their unbeaten streak to a school-record-tying 12 straight games and maintain their No. 6 national ranking.

And that, friends is the rest of the 2018 schedule.

Since an average calendar year at Princeton features approximately 700 athletic events, the overwhelming majority of things that have happened in 2018 have already occured. As is always the case at the end of the year, TigerBlog will give you his thoughts on the top stories in Princeton Athletics the next two days, or at least tomorrow and Monday.

In some years, the No. 1 story is pretty obvious. In others, there are several contenders.

This year? There are two. You can probably figure them out, and you can have your own opinion on which one should be No. 1. TB is going back and forth trying to decide what he thinks, and he might not have it settled until he hits the "publish" button.

In addition to the year in review, there will also be some countdown of the top pictures from Princeton Athletic games from 2018. On this one, TB is absolutely sure what should be No. 1, though he has about 15 more that are tied for No. 2.

You'll be able to find those on social media, and you'll be able to find the top stories countdown right here starting tomorrow. 

And then that'll be it for 2018.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

20 Years Ago Already

TigerBlog hopes everyone had a great Christmas.

Part of his was spent doing his weekly podcast with women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart. Hey, they committed to doing a podcast every Tuesday this year, and every Tuesday means every Tuesday, even if it's Christmas.

Or, as it will be for the next one, New Year's Day.

As for the Christmas version, TigerBlog even got Courtney to sing a little. You can hear it for yourself at the end HERE.

There's something very strange, by the way, about being the only person in Jadwin Gym, as TB was after he finished recording the podcast. He's not sure how many times it's happened in all his years here, but it's happened a few. Each time, it's a bit eerie, how quiet a normally bustling building can get. 

With the end of Christmas, TigerBlog figures there will also be the end of the worst kind of commercials on TV - the ones where Christmas songs are changed with lyrics that instead promote a particular product, one that TB will never use because of how much he objects to the concept.

Today is Dec. 26, 2018. It makes TB think back to Dec. 26, 1998, or 20 years ago today.

That was TB's first day in Hawaii for the 1998 Rainbow Classic, a tournament that the Princeton men's basketball team would win with victories on successive nights over Florida State, Texas and UNC Charlotte. It worked out well for TB, since by winning, Princeton kept playing the night game, which meant that the morning was spent updating game notes and the afternoon was spent on Waikiki Beach.

If you've never been to Hawaii on the week between Christmas and New Year's, well, TB recommends it. In addition to the basketball, one of TB's biggest memories of that week is arriving at the hotel - the Outrigger Waikiki -around midnight after the long, long trip that started at Newark in the middle of the afternoon Eastern time.

TB has told you this story before, he's pretty sure. He's also sure you probably don't remember it.

The team had traveled out a day earlier, and it was just TB and Tom McCarthy, then the radio voice, on a jammed flight from Newark to San Francisco, before a transfer to Honolulu.

The first flight got into San Francisco late, past the time that the connecting flight for Hawaii was leaving. The flight attendants assured TB and McCarthy that the second plane would wait for them, and as it turned out, it did.

Of course that plane was a 747, a full 747 at that. And TB and McCarthy were the only two people on the first flight who got on the second, which at least was at the next gate.

As the two walked down the aisle, to row 52 as TB remembers, the pilot made an announcement thanking everyone for their patience and saying that they were waiting for two people from a flight from Newark. This in turn was greeted with boos and calls to leave them, which is what you might expect from people who were hoping to get to Hawaii as quickly as possible.

TigerBlog tried to walk as quickly as he could to his seat, but Tom just took his time, stopping to wish people happy holidays, apologize for being late and, in the case of one completely bald man, ask him if he shaves his head every day.

Anyway, after that, it was the flight to Hawaii, arriving long after it got dark. And a long shuttle ride to the hotel, which was the last stop of many.

And then it was time to check in. Now, 20 years later, TB can still feel the tropical warmth from the Pacific as it drifted across him when he got out of that shuttle. Then he walked into the lobby of the hotel, checked in and went up to sleep.

When he woke up the next morning, he looked out from the balcony in his room out onto the beach and the ocean. It was certainly beautiful. It was also 8 am on a Sunday, which meant that it was 1 pm Eastern time, which meant it was kickoff time for NFL games. His hotel room TV had the Bears-Packers, on a snowy day. At 8 am in Hawaii.

At least he thinks it was Bears-Packers. Let him check, and he'll be right back. 

So it turns out he was right. Back on Dec. 27, 1998, the Packers beat the Bears 16-13 in Chicago.

Meanwhile, when he went downstairs to the lobby, he saw something that he hadn't realized the night before - it was an open air lobby. The elevator doors opened, and there beyond the lobby was the beach and the Pacific Ocean.

TigerBlog has worked here for a long time and has had way more than his share of great experiences. That week in Hawaii is easily in the top 10.

And it was 20 years ago today.

Actually, he's not sure if that seems like a long time or not. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Richest Man In Town

The surest way to get TigerBlog to tear up is invite him over, click HERE and to fast-forward to the 7:00 mark.

Never fails.

If you don't want to go through all that, then the link takes you to the last scene of the Christmas classic "It's A Wonderful Life."

The line that always, 100 percent of the time, brings a tear to TB's eyes is Harry Bailey's toast to his brother. TB could watch it in early July on a day far removed from Christmas and still it'll have the same effect.

Want to see some more of TB's favorite Christmas clips? Then watch one of these:

* the end scene from "A Christmas Story"

* bonus scene from the same movie

* Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" in "Meet Me In St. Louis"

* Charlie Brown makes a bold purchase

* the Grinch's heart grows

* this one is more serious (go to the 20:00 mark)

* this one is the greatest ever version of any Christmas song ever performed 

* this one is second

* this one is really cute

There are hundreds of other Christmas clips TigerBlog could leave for you. And you also have your favorites that are different from his.

Princeton Athletics has shut down for a week around the Christmas holiday, something it does for nothing else all year other than first semester exams.

The last events before Christmas all went well for the Tigers. The wrestling team defeated Rider 23-21 Thursday night, ending a 14-match losing streak to the neighboring Broncs. This came after Princeton had beaten Lehigh earlier this year, ending an 18-match losing streak to the Mountain Hawks.

There are still home dates against nationally ranked North Carolina and Oklahoma State in Dillon Gym after the new year, as well as a trip to the Midlands tournament at Northwestern Dec. 29 and 30th. Looking way ahead, though, there's also the opportunity for another long losing streak to end, when Princeton heads to Cornell Feb. 9 for a huge one.

Both basketball teams won Friday road games.

The women defeated a Hartford team that had gone overtime with 22nd-ranked Michigan State in its previous game and more than doubled it up, winning 75-38. Princeton played 11 players in the game, and all 11 scored.

The Tigers have now won six straight, getting to 7-7 overall prior to a trip this weekend to New Hampshire.

Princeton is also 5-0 since Bella Alarie returned from injury. The reigning Ivy League Player of the Year was once again dominant in the win over Hartford, with 24 points, 11 rebounds, five blocked shots and two assists - all in just 22 minutes.

Her average numbers so far through five games: 19.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.8 blocks. The 4.8 blocks, by the way, might be the most impressive number.

The men defeated Lafayette 81-79, with five players in double figures, led by Devin Cannady's 22. With that performance, Cannady moved past the 1,400-point mark for his career, and he is now in seventh place all time at Princeton with 1,405.

Cannady was 8 for 9 from the foul line, which is news, since he's only missed two all year. He ranks ninth in Division I (first in the Ivy League) at 93.8 percent, and he is third in Division I in three-pointers made per game with 4.33.

TigerBlog presumes he might lead Division I in total number of feet on made three-pointers per game, which, he'll admit, is not actually a stat. Still, Cannady's range is insane.

By the way, next up for Princeton is a game Saturday at Arizona State. That's the same Arizona State that defeated No. 1 Kansas two days ago.

And those were your last Princeton results for a week.

The reason, of course, is Christmas. Enjoy the links TB left for you. They're among his favorites.

The holiday means different things to different people, depending on your perspective.

Whatever it is to you, TigerBlog hopes you have a great one. A merry one, for that matter.

Friday, December 21, 2018


 If you asked TigerBlog to list his all-time single favorite professional athlete, there exists the real possibility that the answer he'd give you would be Julius Erving.

Dr. J. was one spectacular highlight after another during his professional basketball career. TB was a fan from the time he watched him play for the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association, as he would dunk the red, white and blue ball in what seemed like a more amazing fashion each successive time.

Eventually he would move to the Philadelphia 76ers and help the team to its most recent NBA title, back in 1983. TigerBlog, back then doing student radio at Penn, interviewed him once after a Sixers practice and found him to be an easy-going, extremely friendly, very welcoming person.

He also played with what was obvious great joy, and fans couldn't help but respond. If you never saw him play, you'll have to take TB's word for it.

TB isn't the only fan of the Doctor who works around here. Bob Surace, the head football coach, clearly is as well.
Speaking of Surace, you can click HERE to read about another honor he has pulled in after the 10-0 season his team just had. Surace and John Lovett are both being honored by the Maxwell Club, and Lovett is the first Princeton player to win this honor since Dick Kazmaier.

Speaking of basketball, both of Princeton's teams are playing tonight, with both teams to tip at 7.

The women are at Hartford, with a chance to get back to .500 after a 1-7 start. Of course, Princeton became a different team when Bella Alarie returned from injury four games ago, all of which are Tiger victories. The current streak including the win over Davidson in Alarie's last game out is five straight.

The most recent win came Wednesday, when the Tigers defeated St. Francis of Brooklyn 83-64. Here's something TB wishes he could easily look up: When was the last time the women's basketball team had three players score at least 18.

Alarie had 18. So did Gabrielle Rush. The leading scorer was freshman Julia Cunningham, who had 19, including five three-pointers.

Hartford is 5-6 on the year, but there are two results that will definitely grab your attention. One is a 73-60 win over Harvard, back on Nov. 21. The other is the Hawks' most recent game, a 74-66 overtime loss to No. 22 Michigan State.

As for the men, they are at Lafayette. The women are playing Hartford for the third time. The men are playing Lafayette for the 71st time, and the Tigers hold a 51-19 edge to date.

It'll be a welcome opportunity for the Tigers, who are coming off a loss at Duke Tuesday night. After the game tonight, Princeton will next play at Arizona State a week from tomorrow.

In fact, after the two games tonight, Princeton Athletics has no events of any kind for a week, until the men's hockey team hosts Maine a week from today.

So that's Surace and basketball.

Now TB wants to talk about another generationally talented, universally beloved athlete, like Dr. J.

Hobey Baker was one such athlete.

TigerBlog has learned a lot about Hobey Baker through the years. The younger of two sons of a wealthy Philadelphia family, was already a well-known athlete by the time he came to Princeton from St. Paul's School (the one in New Hampshire).

He would play hockey and football at Princeton, and he is in the Hall of Fame for both. He was a great player in both sports, and he led Princeton to national championships in both.

His legend is pretty familiar. Baker was known as the most gentlemanly player who ever competed, with only one penalty in his entire Princeton hockey career. He graduated in 1914 and then, with no professional hockey or football, played in exhibition games in New York City, where he also worked in finance.

And he took up flying, even landing a plane at Palmer Stadium on one occasion.

Baker would become a fighter pilot during World War I, with three confirmed kills to his record by the time the war ended in November 1918.

It was shortly after the armistice that Baker was supposed to be headed back to the United States. He instead was killed when his plane crashed shortly after taking off in the French town of Toul, either, depending on which part of the legend you believe, in a terrible accident or in a suicide that was fueled by the thought that life without sports or war was not worth going back to.

Baker, like Dr. J., was a beloved figure. He was one of the first great American athletes, beyond just being an iconic Princeton figure. He was like the LeBron James or Peyton Manning of his time, only he died at the age of 26.

Princeton's hockey rink is obviously named after him, and the best player in college hockey each year is awarded the Hobey Baker Trophy. Even all these years later, he's still remembered as one of the three greatest Princeton athletes ever, along with Bill Bradley and Dick Kazmaier.

By the way, that day in Toul, France, was Dec. 21, 1918, or 12/21/18.

It was 100 years ago today that Hobey Baker died.

On this campus, he will live forever.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Higher Standard

So the invitation to last night's Department of Athletics Holiday Party included a request to wear the ugliest sweater you could.

There would be prizes to the worst of the worst.

This led TigerBlog to wonder when it was that ugly sweaters stopped just being sweaters and crossed over into intentional ugliness. Or when did people start to think finding the ugliest sweater was a good thing.

There's a good commercial out about the woman who asks her dad if he's going to an ugly sweater contest, when he's obviously wearing a sweater he likes. That's cute.

Anyway, the winner of the contest was easily men's hockey coach Ron Fogarty, who had the ugly sweater/Christmas pants combination that was impossible to beat.

The party last night was a chance for the department to get together and have a little fun. It was a chance to take a break from all of the work that goes into putting a college athletic program together.

It was also a chance to get everyone who works here in the same place at the same time, something that doesn't happen often. It's a spread-out department, with people centered in Jadwin, Dillon, Caldwell, DeNunzio and the boathouse, among other locations.

Beyond that, it was also a chance to recognize two very likeable people who have been to a lot of holiday parties before they retired this past November. Clare Baxter and Dee Vertucci, who both worked in the ticket office.

Clare and Dee are both easy to like, and it was nice to see them have a chance to be front and center last night. TB wishes them both well in retirement.

As for Princeton Athletics, everything these days isn't just about partying. There are still athletic events to be played, including a really big one tonight.

The wrestling team is home at 7 in Dillon Gym against local-rival Rider. If you're wondering whether or not Princeton will be motivated for a pre-Christmas match, consider that the Tigers have lost 18 straight matches to the Broncs.

So yes, motivation won't be an issue.

Princeton last beat the Broncs on Jan. 5, 1982. That's a long time ago.

Princeton has already erased one big losing streak this year when it took down eighth-ranked Lehigh to end a 14-match streak against the Mountain Hawks. This Princeton team is one that is definitely excited about the possibilities for the league season and beyond once the new year rolls around.

For tonight, it's the home opener for a team that has already competed against four Top-15 teams, as head coach Chris Ayres continues to challenge his team and make his program be a national factor. Ayres could send as many as five freshmen out tonight against Rider.

He also has unbeaten junior Matthew Kolodzik, who is the top-ranked wrestler at 149 pounds. Patrick Brucki at 197 is also unbeaten, and he is ranked fourth nationally.

Ayres has become the newest member of the Princeton Podcast Club, with the debut of his "Higher Standard" podcast that will now run weekly through the rest of the season. You can listen HERE.

This is not the last big date of the calendar year for the wrestlers, who will head to Northwestern for the Midlands Championships Dec. 29 and 30. That's always a gathering of some of the very best in the country.

After tonight Princeton is next home the weekend of Jan. 11 and 12 (a Friday and Saturday), when North Carolina and Oklahoma State will be here. Or should that be No. 12 North Carolina and No. 3 Oklahoma State?

Yes, the schedule is very challenging. Oklahoma State, by the way, will wrestle Princeton and then Rutgers while in New Jersey and then five days later wrestle at West Virginia, with a match at Pitt the next day. Will the Cowboys go back to Stillwater in between?

For tonight, it's a local match, one with a lot on the line for the Tigers. It's a chance to end another long losing streak and make another statement, and the first chance to do so at home.

That's Princeton-Rider at 7.

Wear your ugliest sweater. Or whatever you like.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Duke Memories

If you're looking for the most underrated player TigerBlog has seen in his time watching Princeton men's basketball, consider this stat line:

* 21 points, 8 for 13 from the field, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

Not a bad game, right. A little context makes it even more impressive, by the way. TigerBlog will add that context in a second.

For his career, Mr. Underrated scored 1,010 points, and he's also fourth all-time at Princeton in steals and 14th in assists.

Despite reaching 1,000 career points, he was never really what you would consider to be a scorer. Or, for that matter, maybe not even a basketball player.

The player to whom TB is referring is Will Venable. You know him better for his long Major League Baseball career and his current role as the first base coach for the Chicago Cubs.

Venable, by the way, had a pretty good career as a Major League Baseball player. His career numbers? He had a career .249 batting average with 81 career home runs (more than TB would have guessed) and 135 stolen bases. His career OPS was .719, which isn't bad, and none of this factors in that he was also one of the top defensive outfielders in baseball.

Back when he was a Princeton basketball player, though, TB always wondered what his ceiling could be in that sport. There were many nights against many nationally ranked opponents where Venable was clearly the best player on the floor, including the night with that stat line above, a night when Duke had Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick.

That was back on Jan. 5, 2005, when Princeton lost at Duke 59-46. Venable had 21 of Princeton's 46, including, TB thought, a wild baseline drive and dunk. Or was that a different game? Was it in the game at Duke the season before?

Venable was a ferocious defender and a great all-around player, and he was also quiet and confident. And he had a complete killer instinct. Added all together, it made Venable one of the elite players that TigerBlog has ever seen play at Princeton, even if he's not always included in that conversation.

That night at Duke his senior year, by the way, was proof of everything TB has been saying.

TigerBlog was at that game. He's seen Princeton play at Duke a few times, including on Nov. 14, 2000, for John Thompson III's first game as head coach.

There are two things that stand out to TB about that game. First, TB was on the radio with Tom McCarthy, and the game was the first round of the preseason NIT. After Duke won, Tom said "... and Duke advances to play ..." and then paused, as neither he nor TB had bothered to see whom the winner would play, since it figured to be Duke anyway.

Second, after the game, TB and McCarthy went to a Waffle House and saw Duke's Shane Battier there. Battier had scored 29 points in the game, joining Carlos Boozer, Jason Williams and Nate James in double figures for the Blue Devils. Princeton had two players in double figures, Andre Logan (16) and Mike Stephens (10).

TigerBlog wasn't in Durham last night for the most recent Princeton-Duke game. He watched that one on TV.

Princeton lost 101-50 to Duke, who is far and away the most talented team in the country. In fact, it's not really all that close between Duke and whoever is second.

This isn't to say that the Blue Devils are a lock to win the NCAA title. That's never easy, and it won't be any easier starting four freshmen. And yes, Duke has replaced Kentucky as the "one and done" capital of college basketball. And yes, Duke is not the same team on those occasions when it ventures out of its home arena, and TB thinks that playing on neutral courts always hurts Duke come tournament time.

Still, when it comes to sheer talent, who can possibly match up to that team?

In fact, someone who knows a lot about college basketball texted TB last night and said that this Duke team could be the most talented team any Princeton team has ever played.

That's why it's impossible to judge anything Princeton did in the game last night. In fact, the Tigers hung in well, holding the lead for the first 14 minutes or so.

Myles Stephen had a strong game for Princeton with 19 points, and Jaelin Llewellyn still had seven assists to go with eight points. Duke, though, was just overwhelming in the last five minutes of the first half and the entire second half.

Even if you're not a Duke fan - and TB isn't - you have to be impressed with how this team plays and just how loaded with talent it is.

The good news for Princeton is that it has a quick turnaround, to Friday night at Lafayette.

Still, there's nothing wrong with scheduling Duke, or any other team.

It's a chance to play the best and to play in that environment, and that's never a bad idea.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

And That's 11 For Bella And One For Jaelin

TigerBlog is wondering if there's anyone out there who went to all three of these games Saturday:

* an 85-81 men's basketball win over Iona in Atlantic City at 11:30
* a 60-57 women's basketball win over Marist in Jadwin Gym at 5
* a 4-4 men's hockey tie against Penn State in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia at 7:30

TB made it to the last two, after listening to the men's basketball game on the radio. In retrospect, he probably should have made the drive to AC and did the tripleheader.

Did anyone? That would have been a lot of driving, not to mention a really impressive display of Princeton Athletics fandom.

If you did go, then you found yourself in the same situation as TigerBlog was - an hour from Philadelphia, trying to figure out the right time to leave women's basketball.

Since the game was close, TB didn't want to leave until the end, but then he figured he'd be really late to Philadelphia. As it turned out, he left a little after the under-5 media timeout of the fourth quarter and listened to Jon Mozes and Dei Lynam for the end on ESPN+.

He says listened because actually watching on his phone while driving would have been bad, right?

What he missed when he left was seeing Gabrielle Rush's game-winning three, which snapped a 57-57 tie with 28 seconds to go and then a defensive stand that led to a steal by Bella Alarie as time expired to preserve the win. TigerBlog saw the replay of Rush's shot a few times, and it was a dead-on perfect no-doubt-about-it winner.

It was a good win for the Tigers against a Marist team that came in at 7-2. It was the fourth straight win for the Tigers, who now head to New York City matinee tomorrow at 6-4 St. Francis (the one in Brooklyn). Tip is at 2.

Princeton is 5-7 overall now, and also 3-0 since Alarie returned from her injury. In the three games, she has averaged 18.7 points,. 9.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

She's also two for two on winning the Ivy League Player of the Week award. That's No. 11 for her career, which moves her into a four-way tie for fourth-most in league history. With one more, she'll tie Penn's Diana Caramanico for third with 12, leaving only Harvard's Allison Feaster (21) and Princeton's Niveen Rasheed (14) ahead of her.

On the men's side, Jaelin Llewellyn was honored for the first time with Ivy Rookie of the Week honors, which came after his extraordinary 22-point, eight-assist performance in the win over the Gaels.

Through two games  Llewellyn is averaging 19.5 points and six assists. He's drawn raves, with one long-time observer of Princeton basketball saying he's already the best freshman he's seen at Princeton and another asking if TB thought Llewellyn might go to the NBA after this season.

Remember, cautious optimism everyone.

Still, there's no denying Llewellyn's amazing ability and the impact he's had already. Princeton is averaging 79.5 in the two games he's played, compared to 70.8 in the seven he missed (or 68.5 if you don't count the opener against Division III DeSales).

Also, Princeton had four players in double figures against St. John's (Llewellyn's first game) and then five in double figures in the Iona game. That's a great sign.

The Princeton men play tonight, and the task is not an easy one, not by any stretch. The Tigers are in Durham tonight to take on the second-ranked Duke Blue Devils, with tip at 6 on ESPN2.

Duke is obviously an insanely tough challenge for any team, especially with the seemingly unstoppable Zion Williamson, a 6-7, 285-pounder who averages 20.4 points per game and shoots 66 percent from the field. Oh, and here's something funny about Williamson, the certain No. 1 pick in next year's NBA draft: He's not even Duke's leading scorer, or leading freshman scorer for that matter. That honor falls to R.J. Barrett, who scores 24.2 per game.

Duke averages 93 per game and allows 66, which is pretty much the score of its last game - a 91-58 win over Yale 10 days ago.

Princeton next plays again Friday night at Lafayette and then Dec. 29 at Arizona State. After the new year, there's the Ivy opener at home against Penn as part of a doubleheader.

In the meantime, there's Duke. There are no expectations on the Tigers tonight, which means it should be a fun game to watch.

And a chance to see how Princeton stacks up against what is very likely the best team in the country.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The View From High Up

So anyone who has ever gotten into the elevator at Princeton Stadium has had the same thing to say.

This is the slowest elevator in the world. TigerBlog, of course, stands up for the elevator, which gets an unfair rap.

First of all, he's still not completely over the fact that Palmer Stadium had no elevator, and so he remembers carrying, among other things, a copy machine all the way up to the top of the old stadium on an annual basis.

The elevator in Princeton Stadium has three stops, marked as "1," "2" and "3." The problem isn't so much that the elevator is slow, though any elevator that took that long to go from the first floor to the third floor would rightly be considered glacial.

No, this elevator is going from the ground to the press box, which is 120 feet off the ground. In that respect, it's like going from the first floor to the 12th floor in a normal building, and so it's not really that slow of an elevator.

Contrast that with the freight elevator at the Wells Fargo Center, which TB rode Saturday night. That elevator seemed to take forever to get to the top, though in fairness it seemed like the elevator wasn't so much going up to the press level as it was reaching a cruising altitude.

TigerBlog isn't sure that he's ever been so high off the floor of a venue as he was at Wells Fargo for the men's hockey game between Princeton and No. 9 Penn State Saturday night. Here's the view from up there:

Open heights are not TB's best thing. 

It took a little adjusting, especially to get past the part where he wondered what would happen if he  fell over the glass and plummeted straight down. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

In fact, it turned out to be a great vantage point for the game. TigerBlog isn't sure if the ice surface at Wells Fargo is bigger than that at Hobey Baker Rink or if it was an illusion from being up that high, but the vantage point was great for seeing how plays developed, the speed of the players, the ability to pass and even the velocity of the shots.

The game was a very entertaining one, with big performances all around. It was also an odd one, in that both teams should have lost and should have won, so perhaps the 4-4 tie was the right outcome. 

There were more than 8,000 fans in the building for the game, and the overwhelming majority of them routinely chanted "We Are ... Penn State" over and over. They probably went home the more unhappy at the tie, but as TB said, both teams could have won.

Penn State should have won because it scored four goals in a 14:35 span that covered the last 14:18 of the first period and the first 17 seconds of the second period to build a 4-1 lead. That fourth goal led a goalie change, as senior Austin Shaw replaced starter Ryan Ferland, the MVP of the ECAC tournament last year.

Shaw had played just short of 27 minutes for his career prior to being inserted against the Nittany Lions, who were on a roll at that point. So what happened?

Well, Shaw would play the final 39:43 of regulation and the five minutes of overtime, for a total of 44:43. And he would not allow a goal.

Along the way, he made 21 saves, including three in the overtime. He played with a lot of confidence, something that grew as the night went on.

Even with Shaw's performance, it was still a 4-1 game until late in the second period and a 4-2 game until less than five minutes were left in the third. Princeton rallied, scoring twice 3:26 apart to force the eventual tie.

While Shaw was an unlikely hero, the night was also a showcase of Princeton's stars, who couldn't be more fun to watch, whether it's all the way at the top of an NHL arena (the kind in which they likely will be playing in the very near future) or much closer to the ice at Baker Rink.

Princeton scored four goals. Max Veronneau had two goals and two assists. Ryan Kuffner had one goal and three assists.

From TigerBlog's view, Veronneau's speed and skill stood out even more, as he consistently created space for himself, was able to find open teammates and looked as much a speed skater as hockey player, especially on that second goal, when he outraced two Penn State players to create something of a breakaway.

Veronneau came really, really close to having three, or even four, goals. Kuffner's game-tying goal came after Veronneau hit the crossbar (or maybe snuck it under the crossbar) and then had Kuffner tap it in.

And then there was the overtime, when Veronneau, who seemed to have been on the ice about two-thirds of the game, still had enough energy to drive to the goal and put a backhanded shot that appeared to be heading in, only to have Penn State goalie Peyton Jones (a high school classmate of TigerBlog Jr.'s, by the way, so a hard guy to root against on this night) make a spectacular save to preserve the tie.

When the game was over, TB went downstairs and listened to both coaches speak to the media. Penn State's coach is Guy Gadowsky, the former Princeton coach, and it was great to catch up with him for a few minutes.

As for the current Princeton coach, Ron Fogarty, he knows his team is pretty much where it was a year ago, when it made its move after first semester exams and ended up in the NCAA tournament. Is there anyone in the ECAC who is looking forward to playing this team come playoff time again? Unlikely.

In the meantime it was a very entertaining night at the Wells Fargo Center, when, again, a tie seemed like it was the right outcome for this one.

Friday, December 14, 2018

No. 3, No. 6 and A Three-Game Weekend

Has TigerBlog mentioned that Princeton Athletics had a great fall season?

Not in the last five minutes at least? Well, as a way of reminding you, the Learfield Directors' Cup standings were updated yesterday, and Princeton currently ranks third in Division I.

That's all of Division I.

Stanford, who wins every year, is first. Wake Forest is second. Princeton is third. Then it's Michigan in fourth, followed by four ACC schools (North Carolina State, North Carolina, Duke, Virginia), Penn State and then Notre Dame, another ACC school.

That's what kind of fall season Princeton had.

Meanwhile, TigerBlog talked yesterday about this week's issue of "Hard Cuts," the one that covers Princeton's men's basketball trip to Ground Zero and Madison Square Garden. If you didn't see it on and didn't link to it yesterday in this space, then you can see it HERE.

Also, if you missed these week's "Beyond The Stripes," you can see that one HERE.

The subject is the Fillier sisters, twins who are freshmen on the women's hockey team. Or should TB say "the sixth-ranked Princeton women's hockey team?"

Princeton had an interesting situation last weekend. The Tigers were looking to stretch their unbeaten streak to school-record-tying 12 straight games, and they would be the favorite in both, at RPI and at Union.

On the other hand, Princeton was swept a year ago by RPI, so nothing is ever certain. And being a road favorite is especially difficult.

Beyond that, Princeton played knowing it wouldn't have another league game for four weeks, or game of any kind for three weeks, so whatever happened last weekend would stay with that team for awhile. And what happened?

A sweep. Princeton 5, RPI 2. Princeton 4, Union 0.

As a result, Princeton is 9-0-3 in its last 12, tying for the longest mark in program history. The Tigers are also in first place in the ECAC with 18 points (at 8-0-2), five points ahead of second-place Cornell (though the second, third and fourth place teams in the league have all played two fewer games than Princeton).

What has clearly started out as an exciting season hits the brakes for those three weeks, before Princeton hosts Merrimack Dec. 30 and 31 on the ice at Hobey Baker Rink.

This weekend features just three Princeton Athletic events, all tomorrow. It's possible to see at least some of all three, though that would require considerable time behind the wheel.

The men's basketball team is in Atlantic City to take on Iona, with tip off at 11:30. You can listen to that game with Derek Jones and Noah Savage on WPRB, but the game is not being streamed on ESPN+. Instead, it's only available on flohoops, with its own subscription fee.

TB apologizes, but this is unavoidable.

Or you can drive to Atlantic City and watch the game in Boardwalk Hall. It's the first of four games on the day in the building, one in which Princeton has never played.

Princeton and Iona don't have much of a series history, with the Tigers having won all six previous meetings. The teams played four times between 1988 and 1992 and then again in 2006 and 2007, so none of this really matters for tomorrow's game.

TigerBlog did cover the 1989 game at Iona and the 1990 games, plural, at Iona, in which Princeton defeated St. Mary's and Iona to win the Manufacturers Hanover Classic. Until he looked at the year-by-year results on the webpage yesterday, TB did not remember going there twice and thought that the 1989 game was actually the tournament. Hmmm.

Meanwhile back in the present, Iona is 2-6, but the Gaels have played their usual tough schedule and are always good.

Iona is also doing the opposite of what Princeton's women's team is doing. The Gaels' men are in the middle of three straight games against Ivy teams, having lost to Columbia in the first game of the doubleheader at Madison Square Garden Sunday in which Princeton played St. John's in the nightcap and then following up the Princeton game with a game at Yale.

For good measure, the game after that for Iona is against Holy Cross, coached by Bill Carmody.

While Iona, a MAAC team, is playing three straight Ivies, the Princeton women, an Ivy team, are playing the third of three straight MAAC opponents. Tip for Princeton-Marist women will be at 5 in Jadwin Gym, so you can leave AC after the men's game, grab a nosh and get to Princeton in plenty of time for the women's game.

Princeton is 3-7 overall, 2-0 in the MAAC (after wins over Quinnipiac and Monmouth) and 2-0 since Bella Alalrie returned from injury. Marist, who has been off all week, is 7-2 overall and always good.

The women's game should end around 6:45, which means that if you hop in the car, you'll get to the Wells Fargo sometime in the first period of the men's hockey game between Princeton and No. 9 Penn State. The puck drops on that game at 7:30.

TigerBlog? He'll be attempting the listen-to-Derek-and-Noah-women's-basketball-men's-hockey trifecta.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Garden Party

If you know much about Bill Bradley's Princeton basketball career, then you know about the records that he set that have almost no chance of ever being broken.

For instance, Bradley's 2,503 points - in three years, without a three-point shot - don't seem untouchable, until you consider these two facts about current Tiger Devin Cannady:

1) Cannady needs to average 14.4 points per game for the rest of the regular season to finish as the No. 2 scorer in program history, and
2) Cannady would need to average 60.6 points per game for the rest of the regular season to catch Bradley

That's a little perspective.

When you think of the games that Bradley played at Princeton, there are a few that stand out more than others. One of these was his last, when he scored 58 points against Wichita State in the 1965 NCAA tournament consolation game, and those 58 points are still the record for the most ever scored in a Final Four game.

The other game that seems to stand out is the 1964 Holiday Festival game at Madison Square Garden. In that game, Bradley scored 41 points before fouling out with four minutes to go with the Tigers ahead. Michigan would come back to win 80-78 on a shot by Cazzie Russell with four seconds left.

Russell, by the way, would win an NBA championship with Bradley as New York Knicks' teammates in 1969-70.

Fast-forwarding 33 years to another Holiday Festival, Princeton won the 1997 version, defeating Niagara 61-52 in the championship game after a 58-56 win over Drexel in the first game. This tournament is famous for a few reasons, including a timeout that head coach Bill Carmody called in which he said to his team: "you're smart; you'll figure it out."

Also, in that Niagara game, Princeton had 21 baskets and 21 assists, which, by the way, isn't necessarily a good thing the way the game is played these days, especially with a 30-second clock. Princeton can put five players on the court now who all routinely create their own shot, a sign of the evolution of the offense.

In the 1997-98 season, that 21 for 21 was a sign of the unique way that Princeton played, and it got considerable national exposure. Mitch Henderson, the current Tiger head coach, had eight of those 21 assists (and 11 points), and his two-night line in the Holiday Festival was 23 points, 13 assists and five steals, not to mention 80 minutes played.

Princeton played at the Garden often in the 1960s and 1970s, into the 1980s, between Holiday Festivals, NITs (the entire tournament was played there back when Princeton won it in 1975) and a few single games. If TB is correct, then Princeton's only other MSG experience between that 1997 tournament and this past weekend, when Princeton played St. John's in a one-game Holiday Festival, was the 2000 Holiday Festival, with losses to Penn State and Rutgers that came a few months before the Tigers won the 2001 Ivy League championship under first-year head coach John Thompson III.

Madison Square Garden bills itself as "The World's Most Famous Arena," and there's something extraordinarily special about playing there. Princeton dropped the game to the unbeaten Red Storm 89-74 (after trailing by only six at the under-four media timeout of the second half), but there was much more to the game than that.

TigerBlog watched it on TV, and as he did he thought that the players would never forget playing there. When Ryan Schwieger hit a long jumper from the corner, for instance, TB thought the sophomore would always be able to talk about the time he knocked down a three at the Garden.

Apparently, TB wasn't the only one who felt this way.

"Hard Cuts," the weekly video series that chronicles the men's basketball program, is in Season 2, and the current episode that was released yesterday follows the team during its trip to New York City, starting at Ground Zero and continuing with the game.

You can see the episode HERE.

This episode is a little longer than the others, running 7:29, but it's well worth the extra few minutes.

In the end, Henderson talks about what it all meant, and his comments are great - very strong and very thoughtful. When you hear them, you'll know what TB means. For everything else that's in the video, the head coach's comments at the end are the best part.

Mitch talks about his own memories of competing at Princeton and what he took away from that time, and he also mentioned that he thinks that his team will be talking about what they saw this weekend for awhile.

Or, as TB thinks, forever.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Schwarzman Winner

There are weekends in which Princeton has had upwards of 30 athletic events in a three-day span.

Then there's this time of year.

Today is Dec. 12, which means that there are only 19 days left in the calendar year. During those 19 days, Princeton will have 17 athletic events.

Welcome to the very slow month of December. If you wanted to rank Princeton Athletics in terms of how busy months get around here, it would go something like this:
1. March
2. February
3. November
4. October
5. April
6. September
7. May
8. December
9. January
10. June

July and August are tied for 11th.

June's excuse is that the only teams who would still be competing are track and field, baseball and rowing.

January? It has final exams, which wipe out half the month. And even with that, there might still be more events in January than December in an average academic year.

The busiest time is mid-February through late-March. Without adding it all up, TB thinks March has more events than February, what with teams on spring break trips added in.

The two crossover seasons are stuffed with events. The summer is free. The other months have their moments. January has exams.

December? It has some great matchups for basketball, hockey and wrestling throughout and some other events mixed in, but it's very quiet for the most part. The stretch that Princeton is entering, with the final two weeks before Christmas, is especially so, with eight events between now and Dec. 25, or actually Dec. 28, for that matter.

The breakdown of those eight events is this: three men's basketball games, three women's basketball games, one men's hockey game and one wrestling match.

Of those eight, only two are at home - the women's basketball game against Marist Saturday afternoon (5) and the wrestling match next Thursday against Rider, a team Princeton has lost to 18 straight times.

There will be four home hockey games after Christmas - the women with two against Merrimack and the men with two against Maine. And that's all that's left on campus for 2018.

With the schedule a little lean this week, TigerBlog did want to take a moment to recognize an extraordinary achievement by a member of the men's water polo team. P.J. Greenbaum, a Tiger senior, was one of four Princeton students to be named a Schwarzman Scholar.

The program, in its fourth year, selects students for a one-year master's program, in Beijing. There were 147 seniors around the world (that's the whole world) selected out of 2,800 applicants.

You can read all about the program and Greenbaum's honor HERE. To sum it up, Greenbaum is in the Naval ROTC program headed towards a commission as a surface warfare officer, nuclear propulsion option. He has a family history of service, and his resume also includes, well, a lot. Just read his bio in the story.

In case Greenbaum's name is familiar, it's because he was the subject of a video in the "Beyond the Stripes" series earlier this year. You can see that video HERE.

TigerBlog rewatched the video yesterday. He loves the part where P.J. talks about his great-grandfather, a pitcher on the Princeton baseball team and a member of the class of 1912, not to mention a pilot in World War I, and then his grandfather (also a Princeton pitcher).

He also casually mentions how he will take his year off for grad school if he's chosen, and if not he'll head out to sea. He talks about the responsibility he'll undertake as a Naval officer in the Fleet, and he does so very humbly. It's quite impressive.

Again, watch the video.

Earning the award he did is not easy. If only 147 winners were chosen out of 2,800 applicants, then he had basically a one in 20 shot at it. And that doesn't even count all the people who might have applied but figured they had no chance.

His story is fascinating. He only walked onto the water polo team in the spring of his junior year and yet made his presence felt, all while balancing his academic and ROTC responsibilities.   

Here at Princeton, the goal is to give the student-athletes a chance to "Achieve, Serve, Lead."

P.J. Greenbaum is doing all three at a very high level.

His Schwarzman Scholar award is certainly proof of that. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

That's 10 For Bella

Bella Alarie needed one game this year to earn another Ivy League Player of the Week award.

Alarie, returning from injury that forced her out of the first nine games of the year, had that 16-point, 19-rebound outing in the 54-42 win over Quinnipiac Saturday night. The performance earned her league Player of the Week honors.

To put this accomplishment in perspective, TigerBlog offers a little Ivy Player of the Week history, courtesy of the Ivy League website.

For Alarie, it was her 10th Ivy Player of the Week honor, which makes her the 10th player in league history to win 10 or more. And that doesn't include her six Ivy Rookie of the Week honors two years ago.

TigerBlog isn't sure exactly how long the league has been choosing a Player of the Week in women's basketball. It goes back to at least the late 1980s, since Sandi Bittler, a 1990 grad and the all-time leading scorer in Princeton women's basketball history, won six of them.

The Player of the Year award goes back to the 1979-80 season. TB presumes the Player of the Week award started at some point shortly after that.

There are now three Princeton players who have reached double figures in Player of the Week awards, and it shouldn't be all that shocking who the other two are. Any guesses?

This is so easy that TigerBlog won't even give you a few paragraphs to think about it. The answer is Niveen Rasheed and Blake Dietrick.

In fact, Rasheed ranks second all-time in league history with 14 Player of the Week awards, while Dietrick had 11, which actually ties for fourth. The all-time Ivy leader? That should also be easy - Harvard's Allison Feaster, who was honored a remarkable 21 times.

It's also not shocking that the three players who are 1-2-3 on the list are, in TigerBlog's opinion, by far the three best players in Ivy women's basketball history (******who have already completed their careers): Feaster (21 times), Rasheed (14 times) and Penn's Diana Caramanico (12 times).
As for the rest of Princeton, there are two other former players who have won the award more than Bittler but less than Alarie. Can you name those two?

This one isn't as easy, so TB will give you a few paragraphs.

Your hint is that they were teammates and even classmates. One won it seven times. The other won it eight times.

Oh, and speaking of players who have won seven of them, Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart  won seven times while she was a player at Dartmouth, where she scored 1,423 career points. She also had 273 career three-pointers, which remains tied for the league's career record.

And the answer to the question about the classmates who won 15 Player of the Week awards between them? They were members of the Class of 2016, Annie Tarakchian (with eight) and Michelle Miller (with seven).

Another not surprising fact is that of the 10 players who have won the Player of the Week award at least 10 times, a total of eight also have at least one Player of the Year award on their resumes.

The two who don't are Nia Marshall of Cornell and Camille Zimmerman of Columbia, both of whom graduated in the last two years, or during the current eight-year stretch in which the winner of the Player of the Year has come from either Princeton (five times - Rasheed twice, Dietrick, Alarie and current assistant coach Addie Micir) or Penn (three times).

Alarie's next chance to move up the list begins tonight, when the Tigers are at Monmouth. The Hawks are 3-5, but they have won three of their last four after an 0-4 start. Included in this current stretch is a 55-51 win over George Washington, who has a 64-49 win over Princeton from back on Nov. 11.

After the game tonight, Princeton will be home Saturday against Marist, who will be the team's third straight MAAC opponent. Marist will bring a 7-2 record to Jadwin for that game.

This is actually a busy stretch for the Tigers, who will play five games in 18 days beginning with tonight's game. There are also games within that time, all on the road, against St. Francis (N.Y.), Hartford and New Hampshire.

The game at New Hampshire, on Dec. 29, is the seventh and last of December. There's only one game for the entire month of January, against Penn at home on Jan. 5.

Things will get much busier once February rolls around.

In the meantime, it's Princeton at Monmouth tonight, with tip at 7.

It's the next chance to see Bella Alarie, who is already established herself as one of the best ever to play in the Ivy League.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Nice To See You Two

Bella Alarie returned from her injury to have a triple double against Quinnipiac in her first game of the 2018-19 season Saturday night.

Triple double? Yeah. She had 16 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 times falling to the floor.

Okay, TigerBlog made up the last part. He's not exactly sure how many times Alarie fell during the game, but he knows that each time she did, he held his breath until she got up.

Heck, she even pounded the floor once with both fists - and was fine.

And that's great news for the Tigers.

So, too, was the starting lineup for the men's basketball game against St. John's yesterday in Madison Square Garden. For the first time in his career, Jaelin Llewellyn took to the court.

Alarie is the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year. Llewellyn is a Top 100 recruit. Yeah, it was great to have both of them out there.

And, despite needing some time to get into peak game shape, both of them were very impressive.

Alarie played 36 minutes in a 54-42 win over a very good Quinnipiac team, one that has won three NCAA tournament games in the last two years. The 6-5 junior was her regular self, which means she was dominant on both ends of the court.

As has been the case since she first stepped into the lineup, she is two players in one - a 6-5 guard who can do 6-5 things (like rebound and block shots and score near the basket) and who can do guard things (like bring the ball up and shoot threes). It's a rarity anywhere in women's basketball, and it again sparks comparisons to the player Alarie most reminds you of, WNBA and Olympic star Elena Delle Donne.

Princeton played very well in Alarie's absence against a brutal schedule and with a team that was essentially half freshmen. Bring her back into the mix obviously makes the team considerably better, and does so at a time when there's still plenty of time for everyone to get used to playing together before the Ivy League season starts.

As for the game against the Bobcats, Princeton also got 16 points from Carlie Littlefield and 11 from Gabrielle Rush, and the Tigers held the visitors to 21 points in the first half and 21 in the second half. 

The men's team couldn't stop unbeaten St. John's, falling 89-74. Princeton was down 19 in the second half and then put together an incredible stretch in which it outplayed the Red Storm all over the court, cutting it to six at the under-four media timeout.

Llewellyn was extraordinarily impressive. The freshman from Mississauga, outside of Toronto, had 17 points and four assists, shooting 3 for 6 from three-point range. Oh, and he had that one-handed reverse dunk that was a thing of beauty.

It wasn't the easiest way to step onto the court for the first time, against an unbeaten Big East team at the Garden. From the first time he touched the ball, you could tell he was comfortable, confident and highly skilled.

Llewellyn also played well with Jose Morales on the court at the same time, which gives the Tigers an explosive dimension. Richmond Aririguzoh continues to get better every game, and the result was great balance, with four players in double figures.

Llewellyn had his 17. Aririguzoh had 14 and matched up very well with the Red Storm big men. Morales had 14 points and added five assists and four steals.

The leader, again, was Devin Cannady, who had 18 points on six threes, five of which were from beyond the NBA line that is on the court. Former NBA player Donny Marshall, who was in the Fox Sports 1 studio at halftime, said that Cannady has one of the purest shots he's seen in college basketball in the last few years.

Cannady continued his march up the career scoring list as he heads towards second all time. And any opportunity to see him play is a good one.

The story from the weekend in Princeton basketball, though, was the season debut for Alarie and Llewellyn.

They both were welcome sights for their teams. And they both left you wondering what they're going to be like in February.

For Princeton fans, that thought should make you smile.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Remembering The ’90s

So Wednesday night was billed as "’90s Night" at the Princeton men's basketball game against St. Joe's, with music from that decade to be featured.

During one timeout, TigerBlog heard DJ Darius the First play "U Can't Touch This," the M.C. Hammer, uh, classic.

When he first heard it, TB thought "isn't that from the ’80s?," and so he looked it up on his phone. You know when that song was released?

Jan. 13, 1990. So yeah, it was the 1990s. By less than two weeks, but it still counts, TB presumes.

That same day, the Princeton men's basketball team defeated Brown 64-53 in Providence in a game TigerBlog covered back in his newspaper days. Perhaps the newly released song was played as part of the pregame music? Was there pregame music? TB can't remember that.

TB looked up the box score to that 1990 game, and a lot of classic Princeton basketball from that era was reflected in those numbers.

Kit Mueller played all 40 minutes and had 18 points, seven assists, three rebounds, a block and two steals. Sean Jackson played all 40 minutes and had 17 points, shooting 5 for 9 from three. George Leftwich played 39 minutes, and if you saw George Leftwich play even a quarter as much as TB did, then you know the stat that's coming next: Leftwich had no turnovers.

By the way, among those who played for Brown that night was current Stanford Director of Athletics Bernard Muir.

On the day "U Can't Touch This" was released, Princeton was almost 10 months removed from its 50-49 loss to No. 1 Georgetown in the classic NCAA tournament opening round game. The Tigers would win the Ivy League championship in the 1990 season as well, plus the next two after that, making the Class of 1992 the only one in program history to have won four league championships.

Penn would then win the next three, and Princeton would come back with three more in 1996, 1997 and 1998, the last three years when current head coach Mitch Henderson was running the show. TigerBlog had a front row seat for Ivy League basketball for the entire decade, and there were a lot of nights like that 1990 night in Providence.

As for the "’90s Night" game Wednesday, it was certainly entertaining, even if St. Joe's defeated the Tigers 92-82. Despite that, there's a lot to like about this team, which is heading into the meat of its December schedule.

TigerBlog has written a lot about Devin Cannady, who continued his torrid senior season with 23 more against the Hawks, including another three-pointer from well beyond NBA range, and who is now ninth all-time at Princeton with 1,333 points. And Myles Stephens needs just 16 more points to move into 20th place all-time in scoring at Princeton.

Those two are the known commodities. The two players who have really emerged this year are center Richmond Aririguzoh and guard Jose Morales, both of whom get better each time they step on the court.

Your next chance to see the Tigers is Sunday, when they play in the world's most famous arena (or should that be all caps?), Madison Square Garden, against the 8-0 St. John's Red Storm, coached by Chris Mullin.

St. John's, for a long time, was coached by Lou Carnesecca, the 93-year-old Hall of Famer for whom the on-campus arena at the school is named. TigerBlog has liked St. John's ever since the time MotherBlog told him the story of how she was on a flight that the Johnnies were on and Coach Carnesecca had one of his players apologize to her for not helping her put her bag in the overhead bin. MB couldn't say enough good things about him after that.

St. John's will be another good test for the Tigers, who play next after that in Atlantic City against Iona before heading to Duke.

If you're looking for basketball on Carril Court this weekend, you're in luck. The women are home against Quinnipiac tomorrow evening at 7, after a full day of indoor track and field with the Princeton Invitational.

The game against the Bobcats is the first of three straight against MAAC teams, with a game Tuesday at Monmouth and then next Saturday at home against Marist. Quinnipiac, by the way, is a something of a mid-major powerhouse, having reached the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 two years ago and having won a game in the NCAA tournament last year.

TigerBlog interviewed Carlie Littlefield during halftime of the men's game Wednesday night. The sophomore has carried a lot of the load this year with the three injured players - Bella Alarie, Qalea Ismail and Taylor Baur - out of the lineup, and she talked about that responsibility during the interview.

She also talked about her time in Vietnam this past summer with the Coach For College program, which is also the subject of this week's edition of "Beyond the Stripes." You can see the video HERE.

Littlefield averaged 8.3 points in 28 minutes per game last year. Those numbers are up to 14.8 and 35.0 this year, both of which are team bests, but her game - last year or this year - isn't defined by stats. She plays with great maturity and leadership, and it's easy to forget she's in the first third of her sophomore season still.

So it's Princeton-Quinnipiac women tomorrow at 7 on Carril Court. The men's game is Sunday at 1:30ish (it's the second game of a doubleheader) on Fox Sports 1.

As for the rest of the weekend in Princeton Athletics, it's a relatively busy one, with men's hockey also at home. You can see all of the events HERE.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Let's Go Starpucks

On average, there are approximately 814,000 people in the United States who are doing this on any given day.

And what would this be? TigerBlog will get back to that.

Right now, TigerBlog wants to talk hockey. Did you see that Seattle is getting an NHL team?

TigerBlog mentioned it to his Seattle-resident brother, who was 1) aware of it and 2) not all that interested. He did chuckle when TB mentioned that one of the proposed names he saw for the team, perhaps in jest, was "Starpucks."

Meanwhile, in hockey closer to home, here's the list of teams who are ranked ahead of Princeton in this week's women's hockey poll for Division I: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northeastern, Cornell and Clarkson.

Princeton is No. 6.

The Tigers, off their impressive sweep of Quinnipiac last weekend, are 7-2-3 overall, 6-0-2 in the ECAC standings and 7-0-3 in their last 10 games. It's been a nice few weeks for Cara Morey's team.

As TB wrote last week, the team's success is even more impressive considering two-year starting goalie Steph Neatby hasn't played a second yet this year due to injury. In her place, Rachel McQuigge has been the team's starter, and her 163 save with only 10 goals allowed earned her the ECAC Goalie of the Month Award for November.

December will not be that busy of a month for Princeton, which plays only four times between now and the end of 2018. The first two of those four games are this weekend, at RPI tomorrow and Union Saturday.

Right now, Princeton is alone in first place in the ECAC standings with 14 points, one ahead of Cornell, who is 6-1-1 in the league. Princeton and Cornell tied 2-2 at Hobey Baker Rink earlier this season. Colgate, the NCAA runner-up a year ago, is in third with 11 points; Princeton owns a 6-0 win over the Raiders earlier this year as well.

RPI (3-3 in the league) and Union (0-5-1) are the only league games for the Tigers this month. Princeton will be off for 22 days after the Union game before a pair of games Dec. 30 and 31 against Merrimack at home.

The new year will get off to a fast start, with back-to-back trips to Harvard and Dartmouth and then Cornell and Colgate before first-semester exams.

While the women are away this weekend for ECAC games, the men are home for two non-league games against Arizona State. How good can Arizona State be in hockey, you're wondering?

The answer is very. The Sun Devils, in just Year 4 of having a program, are currently ranked 19th in Division I, and they will bring a 10-6-0 record to Baker Rink for the games tomorrow and Saturday. The teams split a pair of games in Arizona a year ago.

By the way, UMass, to whom Princeton lost in OT two weeks ago, moved into the No. 1 spot in the national rankings this week.

If you're looking for the most simplistic way of seeing just how far Princeton men's hockey has come under Ron Forgarty, consider that this week the Tigers are in the "others receiving votes" category in the poll. In years past, this would have been a cause for a party; this year, the Tigers are itching to get back into the Top 20, where they've been all year.

Princeton has five more games this month, and none of them are ECAC games. There will be a game on Dec. 15 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia against No. 9 Penn State, and then there will be two games at home against Maine Dec. 28 and 29.

Princeton currently sits in fifth place in the ECAC standings. The Tigers won the ECAC tournament championship a year ago to advance to the NCAA tournament, and once 2019 rolls around - and more intensely after the exam break - Princeton will be playing to duplicate those achievements.

For this month, though, it's just some fun games, four at home and one about 45 minutes away.

And that's the Princeton hockey update.

As for what 814,000 Americans do on any given day? It's celebrate a birthday.

Did you get that correct?

Why mention that today? Well, to 813,999 of the celebrating Americans today, you're on your own.

To John Mack, whose stacked resume includes gems like "Roper Trophy winner" and "student-worker in the Office of Athletic Communications," happy birthday.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Home With The Hawks

Here's today's Princeton men's basketball trivia question from TigerBlog:

Name all of the players in Princeton men's basketball history to win both Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year. TB will give you a few paragraphs.

On the women's side, it's been done twice, by Niveen Rasheed (a two-time unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year) and most recently by Bella Alarie, who went from Rookie of the Year as a freshman to Player of the Year as a sophomore, something that no other Princeton player has ever done and something that only seven Ivy League basketball players - all women - have managed to do.

TigerBlog interviewed Spencer Weisz at halftime of the men's basketball game against George Washington Saturday afternoon, and afterwards he mentioned to his broadcast partner Patrick McCarthy how Weisz had been the Ivy Player of the Year as a senior in 2017 after beginning his career with the Rookie of the Year award in 2014. Then he told Patrick he would research how many Princeton players have won both awards. 

And here's the complete list: Spencer Weisz.

For all of Princeton's great players, only Weisz has won both. And before you wonder why Bill Bradley wasn't the Ivy Rookie of the Year in 1963 and Player of the Year in 1963, 1964 and 1965, keep in mind that the awards didn't begin until the 1970s.

In fact, there was an Ivy League men's basketball Rookie of the Year first, beginning in 1971. The first winner, by the way, was Princeton's Brian Taylor.

The Player of the Year award didn't start until 1974-75, when Penn's Ron Haigler won. Princeton's first two winners were the next two years (Armond Hill and Frank Sowinski).

Princeton has had two players who won two Ivy Player of the Year awards, and neither was the Rookie. Those two were Craig Robinson, the 1982 and 1983 Player of the Year, and Kit Mueller, who won in 1990 and 1991.

The 1979-80 season, Robinson's freshman year, saw co-Rookies of the Year - Penn's Paul Little,w whom TB saw play a lot, and Yale's Steve Leondis, whom TB had not heard of but who remains the fifth all-time leading scorer in Bulldog history with 1,540 points (six fewer than Mueller scored in his Princeton career). Harvard's Ralph James, another player TB remembers well, was the Rookie of the Year when Kit was a freshman.

Anyway, the answer to the original trivia question was Spencer Weisz, who helped Princeton go 14-0 in the Ivy League and then win the first Ivy tournament his senior year, making the 2016-17 Tigers the first 16-0 team in league history. The tournament wasn't easy, especially the semifinal game against Penn on Penn's home court, where the Tigers didn't tie it until Myles Stephens had a put-back on an offensive rebound in the final seconds of regulation and didn't lead until overtime.

In talking to Weisz, it was clear how strong a sense of relief he still has with how close their dream season came to being derailed by the Quakers on that really cold March Saturday. And how he remembered every detail.

Weisz is now playing professionally in Israel, and it was also pretty interesting to listen as he talked about how he had to adjust to playing the more physical European professional game.

Princeton pulled away from George Washington to win that game 73-52. Up next is a game tonight against St. Joe's, who comes to Carril Court for the 7 pm tip-off with a record of 4-4.

Princeton and St. Joe's are separated by about 40 miles and both have great basketball histories. The meeting tonight will be only the 18th (including twice in the NCAA tournament in the 1960s) between the teams, which is surprising to TigerBlog.

The teams have met each of the last three years, with the Hawks' winning each. The game tonight will feature some great three-point shooters, with St. Joe's Charlie Brown and Jared Bynum and Princeton's Devin Cannady all at or better than 50 percent from distance this season - and that doesn't count the Hawks' Taylor Funk, who was 5 for 6 on threes against Princeton last season in Philadelphia.

Brown, by the way, is 6-7. Funk is 6-9.

The Tigers had their best outing of the year in the win over GWU Saturday, with Cannady, Myles Stephens, Richmond Aririguzoh and Jose Morales all in double figures (the latter two with a career-best 13 each).

Next up is St. John's, with that game in Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.

For tonight, though, it's a different Saint, the one with the Hawk who will never die. It should be a very entertaining game, even if it is only the 18th between two very natural rivals.

Tip-off at 7. See you there.