Monday, December 6, 2021

Working Overtime At Jadwin

For the rarest of weekends, the Mercer County college team that TigerBlog was rooting the hardest for was not a Princeton team.

No, this past weekend he was hoping to see the College of New Jersey women's soccer team win when it played Christopher Newport in the Division III championship game. Unfortunately, the Lions came up on the short end of a 2-0 decision in a matchup of undefeated teams.

What was TB's interest in this game? It was TCNJ coach Joe Russo's final game.

Russo is the only coach TCNJ women's soccer has ever had. He began the program back in 1990, when TigerBlog was still covering the school (then known as Trenton State College). During those early years, he covered a few women's soccer games (maybe even the first one ever), as Russo began to get things going.

And get it going he did. It took him two years to get to the NCAA tournament and four years to win it. He'd add to more to finish with three while also winning more than 500 games and missing out on the NCAA tournament only once after he first got the team there.

On a side note, Russo's brother was the DHL deliveryman who would be in Jadwin Gym pretty much every day and would always come and hang out in the Office of Athletic Communications. He was also a very nice guy.

And of course congratulations to Joe Russo on an incredible career. 

As for Princeton's teams, TB watched the men's basketball game against Drexel (on television, not in person), and that one turned out to be a really good one, as the Tigers erased a double-figure first half deficit to win in overtime 81-79.

Here was Tosan Evbuomwan with the game-winner:

TigerBlog is a big fan of trying to figure out who current generation Princeton athletes remind him of from earlier days. In the case of Evbuomwan, there's only one player who comes to mind. Who is it?

Guesses? He'll let you think about that for a little while.

First, this was Evbuomwan's stat line from the game: 27 points on 11 for 20 shooting, 0 for 2 from three, seven rebounds, six assists, 34 minutes, one turnover.

Those are big, big numbers. That's not too far away from triple-double territory, something Princeton  men's basketball has never had (Leslie Robinson of the women's team had one). The triple-double disclaimer is that assists weren't an official stat back when Bill Bradley played, and TB senses he would have had a few.

How many people realize that Evbuomwan leads the Ivy League in assists, and by a relatively wide margin? With 38 in eight games, he's at 4.8 per game. The next-best total in the league is 3.9.

Meanwhile, back at Tosan, he can rebound, create for himself, pass, defend and is a physical force at all times. Is there some Mason Rocca there, for those who go back to the 1990s? The healthy Mason Rocca, of course.

Evbuomwan is eighth in the Ivy League in rebounds. Ethan Wright is fourth. Considering Wright is 6-4, that's pretty impressive stuff. Wright averaged 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds for the first two games. Since then? He's averaging 16.9 points and 9.9 rebounds. He's just short of 50 percent from the floor for the season.

Neither Evbuomwan nor Wright is Princeton's leading scorer, even though they're both in the top 10 in the Ivy League. Jaelin Llewellyn is the Tigers' leader at this point, with 15.4 per game, sixth in the league. To reach 1,000 career points, Llewellyn needs to average 13.1 points per game over the remaining 18 games. 

Of course, the goal is to play more than 18 games. It's to play into the Ivy League tournament and then into the NCAA tournament.

So far, Princeton is looking like a team that is going to make a serious push to be playing in the biggest games come March in what appears to be a very strong Ivy League in 2021-22. 

In December, the Tigers are a lot of fun to watch. The next chance to do so is tomorrow, when Princeton hosts Bucknell at 7.

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