Monday, January 3, 2022

An Ivy Opening Tiger Win In A Legendary Coach's Final Jadwin Appearance

So did you have fun on New Year's Eve?

TigerBlog hopes so. He also hopes you had a safe holiday, and he wishes everyone the best for 2022.

For his first entry of 2022, he starts out back in 1983, or Feb. 11, 1983, to be specific. That was the date of the first game Harvard's Kathy Delaney-Smith coached against Princeton.

That game, a 64-46 Princeton win, was played in Cambridge. She'd get her first win over the Tigers 15 days later, in her first appearance in Jadwin Gym.

She's gone on to win 44 more against the Tigers. With Princeton's 68-50 win over Harvard yesterday afternoon in the Ivy League opener for both at Jadwin, Delaney-Smith's career record against the Tigers now stands at 40-38, with at least one more to go.

Delaney-Smith announced earlier that this will be her final season as the Crimson women's basketball coach. She won the first of her 11 Ivy League championships in 1986, and her most recent one came in 2008, which you won't be surprised to learn also happened to be Courtney Banghart's first year at Princeton.

Even as the balance of power shifted away from Harvard and Dartmouth (17 Ivy women's basketball titles, most recent in 2009) to Penn and especially Princeton, Harvard has remained a tough opponent year after year. And Delaney-Smith has remained one of the most-respected coaches in any sport in Ivy League history. As she heads down the final stretch of her career, her place as an icon not only in the Ivy League but also in women's college basketball history is secure.

The game yesterday was Delaney-Smith's 1,050th as Harvard head coach. That's an extraordinary number. Her predecessor at Harvard was another legendary coach, Carole Kleinfelder, though she was legendary for her 25 years coaching lacrosse for the Crimson, where one of her many first-team All-Ivy selections was none other than Chris Sailer. 

Her career record stands at 623-427. When you've won more games as an Ivy League basketball coach than Pete Carril did at Princeton, that's saying something.

Delaney-Smith was honored at Jadwin before the game. She and Princeton head coach Carla Berube developed a strong relationship when Berube was at Tufts for 17 years, and Berube often attended Harvard practices before the NESCAC teams began their preseasons.

As for the game itself, it was something of a primer for everything Berube believes. Princeton shot only 31 percent from the field, but that's going to happen sometimes, especially after a long layoff (Princeton last played Dec. 22 against Texas after its game against Central Florida last week was postponed due to Covid issues at UCF). 

Ah, but if you can defend, you can win on off shooting nights. And that's exactly what Princeton did yesterday.

Princeton led 12-10 after one and then built the lead to double figures in the second quarter before leading 31-22 at the break. The third quarter was the kind of quarter that Berube loves, since her team held Harvard to a single made field goal in the 10 minutes.

Harvard shot 1 for 15 for the quarter. For a defensive-minded coach like Berube, that's a great stat. 

Princeton had a 16-9 (or is that 9-16) advantage in turnovers (Princeton turned it over way less) and outrebounded the Crimson, which resulted in 10 more attempts from the field. The Tigers also had twice as many made foul shots (18-9) and three-pointers (six to three).

After the game, on the ESPN+ broadcast, Kaitlyn Chen called it a "total team win," and yes, it was. There were three Tigers in double figures, including Chen, who has continued to get better and better as her first college season has gone along. She finished with 17 points and three steals.

Abby Meyers led Princeton with 19 points and 11 boards, while Julia Cunningham had 15 of her own. Ellie Mitchell was in foul trouble all game and finished with only two points, but she had 11 rebounds, which leaves her tied with Yale's Camilla Emsbo for the Ivy lead.

Speaking of the rest of the league, Columbia defeated Yale 65-55 in the league opener for both of those teams. Columbia, coached by former Tiger assistant Meg Griffiths, was down by eight at the half before outscoring the Bulldogs 43-25 the rest of the way.

The other winners on opening day were Penn (66-37 over Brown) and Cornell (45-36 over Dartmouth).

Princeton is at Columbia Friday and Cornell Saturday. This year, of course, is the first of the new non-travel partner format, so there was only a single game this weekend. Next weekend is the first with two games. In all, there will be four weekends of back-to-back and six of just one. 

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