Monday, January 8, 2018

Doubleheader One Of Two?

TigerBlog got to the Palestra Saturday about 10 minutes before the start of the Princeton-Penn basketball doubleheader.

The doubleheader, by the way, was created when the men's game originally scheduled for Friday night was postponed until Saturday due to the brutally cold weather. And it has been brutal.

He decided he'd leave his heavy Princeton Athletics winter coat in the car and brave the three-minute walk into the building rather than drag the coat around with him for both games. How cold could he get in three minutes, he wondered?

There were two answers: 1) very and 2) not as cold as he'd get when he walked outside after the game and then got into the car, which itself was frozen.

While he was warm inside, he saw the Princeton women beat Penn 70-55 and then the Penn men beat Princeton 76-70. Princeton's women snapped a five-game losing streak to Penn. On the other hand, the Penn men beat Princeton for the first time in nine tries. 

The goal for the Princeton men and women, of course, is to be part of another Palestra doubleheader, this one on March 11, when presumably it'll be much warmer. It'll be on that Sunday, more than two months from now, that the Ivy League tournament championship games will be played, and from those two games will come automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.

It's a dynamic that's just two years old in the Ivy League. It first played out a year ago, when the four teams who competed in the doubleheader Saturday were among the eight who advanced to the first Ivy tournament.

The Princeton men won that tournament, completing a 16-0 run through the league. The Princeton women lost to Penn in the championship game, after Penn also won the regular season.

The Ivy League champion remains the team that wins the regular season. The NCAA tournament, though, isn't guaranteed without winning the tournament.

As TB said, the Ivy champ won the Ivy tournament both times last year. It'll be interesting to see what happens when that isn't the case. Would you rather have an actual league championship or an NCAA tournament bid without the championship?

As for the doubleheader Saturday, there were several Princeton players who deserve mentioning:

* Gabrielle Rush scored 17 points, of which 14 came during a first half in which she made all five of her shots, including four three-pointers. Princeton won by 15, but the first-half was back-and-forth, and it ended with the Tigers ahead 31-28. Had Rush not done what she did in those first 20 minutes, this might have been another story.

* Sebastian Much, a freshman on the men's team, scored 11 points and continues to be wildly impressive on the offensive end. The problem for Much was that he was limited to just 19 minutes because of foul trouble. When you watch his play, you can't help but project what he'll be as a junior and senior.

* Amir Bell had 12 points in the men's loss, and he is often unstoppable as he goes to the basket. The big numbers for him from Saturday, though, were these: 40 (minutes played) and zero (number of turnovers). That's extraordinary considering how much the ball is in his hands. Bell also was a huge part of the second-half defense on Ryan Betley, who scored 19 in the first half and then just two after the break.

* Carlie Littlefield, another freshman, had eight points, six rebounds and five assists in 38 minutes (a team high). Littlefield, whose impact on the women's basketball team has been huge from Day 1, also did a Curley Neal (for those who don't know, he is a former Harlem Globetrotter and legendary dribbler) imitation while trying to take time off the shot clock that ended up with a Penn player on the floor and an uncontested layup for Littlefield.

TigerBlog wanted to talk about those players. There are two others who deserve special mention.

* Devin Cannady had 21 points in his own 40-minute outing. Cannady also became the 33rd player in program history to go past 1,000 career points, and he did so in the first league game of his junior year. Cannady looks like he could play 400 minutes without ever getting tired, and of every player TB has ever seen at Princeton, Cannady might be the one who plays with the most confidence.

And of course, there's:

* Bella Alarie, who had 18 points and 12 rebounds. TB will start with those numbers. He wishes he had a way of looking up how many Princeton players - male or female - have ever had a game of at least 18 points and 12 rebounds. The answer is not many. Alarie makes it look routine. Then throw in this little stat: She added eight blocked shots. Eight. That's one off the school single-game record. Put it all together, and Alarie came within two blocks of the first triple-double in the history of Princeton basketball. She's so much more than her stats though. She can do it all on a basketball court. She's 6-4, so she can swat away shots and rebound. She plays like a guard, so she can bring the ball up the court and shoot threes. She's still 6-4 on that end, though, so she can post up at will almost. She is a huge presence and, best of all for Tiger fans, still just a sophomore.

Anyway, those are the thoughts of the doubleheader Saturday. It was fun.

It would be good to do it again in March.

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