Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Remembering A Former Opponent

The night of Feb. 6, 1990, was a big night in Mercer County college basketball.

TigerBlog, still a sportswriter, was covering Trenton State at Glassboro State, which today is actually The College of New Jersey at Rowan. It was a huge New Jersey Athletic Conference game that year.

About 25 miles away, in Philadelphia, it was Princeton at Penn. It was, of course, a huge Ivy League game.

Princeton had won the Ivy League title in 1989 and gone on to lose 50-49 to No. 1 Georgetown in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. As a Princeton fan, you've probably heard of that game.

The 1989-90 season began with Princeton as something of a national curiosity after the Georgetown game. They were a big story every night. Everywhere Princeton went, everyone wanted to see the team that had almost beaten Georgetown.

It was exciting to be around them. And TB was around them for pretty much every game, minus the trip to San Francisco in December. He did go with the Tigers to Michigan State, for the first events ever held in the then-new Breslin Center.

That night in February, though, he was not with Princeton. He was instead with Trenton State, the other team he regularly covered. He's pretty sure Harvey Yavener went with Princeton to the Palestra.

Of course, he was much more interested in the Princeton-Penn game than the TSC-GSC (TCNJ-Rowan) game. Plus, as he remembers it, the game he was at was the second of a doubleheader, so he covered the women's game beginning at 6 and then the men at 8. Meanwhile, Princeton-Penn was at 7 or 7:30.

Whatever the actual game times were, TB is positive that the Princeton-Penn game came down to the wire while there was still plenty of time in the game he was actually covering. And so he tried to do something that in 1990 was not nearly as easy as it is today: He tried to follow the Princeton-Penn game.

Now if this happened in 2021, TB would have endless ways to do so. He would sit courtside at the game he was at and watch the other game online. At the very least, he'd follow the livestats.

In 1990, he had to find the one place in the athletic building at Glassboro State that had a radio and offered good enough reception to be able to pick it up. And so he was able to get set up in a random office there to listen to the end of the game. 

It was quite an ending. Princeton led 50-49 (that score again) with one second to go when Paul Chambers went to the line for a one-and-one. He missed it, but the ball sort of hung on the rim just long enough to throw the Princeton players who were closest to it off balance.

It also gave a player from Penn the chance for a tip-in. That player was Hassan Duncombe. His tip gave the Quakers a 51-50 win.

TB was annoyed by this, but he went back to covering the other game. As it turned out, it was just a hiccup for the Princeton dynasty then, as the Tigers won the 1990 Ivy title – and added the 1991 and 1992 titles as well. 

That night was the last time for more than 20 years that TB would miss a Princeton-Penn men's basketball game. 

As for Hassan Duncombe, he finished his career with 1,009 points. He's one of three Quakers ever to go for 40 points in a single game, and he was a first-team All-Ivy pick in 1990.

Hassan Duncombe passed away last week at the age of just 52. He left behind a wife and four children.

TB was shocked and saddened when he saw the news on Twitter. He never met Hassan Duncombe, but he remembered him as a very, very tough opponent and the one who played the pivotal role on that night nearly 32 years ago. A story about him in the Daily Pennsylvanian last week included this: Dunbcombe had one of the more iconic moments in Penn basketball history.

TB sends along his condolences to Hassan Duncombe's family and friends, and to the Penn basketball community.

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