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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

At Jadwin Last Night -- Princeton 62 Penn 52

You start sounding like an old, grouchy alum when you say, "well, things aren't the way they used to be -- and they were better then." Well, I hope that's not the case, but last night's Penn-Princeton game at Jadwin did have some meaning to it, and yet the game wasn't a sellout and the atmosphere wasn't quite as intense as way back when. In fairness, Princeton was playing for pride and for its seniors, who were playing their last home game. Those stakes, however, pale in comparison to what the old grads remember -- that the games meant the Ivy title, period. There weren't any interlopers like Cornell or Harvard then, just Penn and Princeton, vying for the title. It wasn't that way last night, and the fans had to settle for the proverbial half a loaf.

I don't have the time to link to the game coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer (or Mike Jensen's piece in the same paper), but here are a few observations:

1. Penn was, well, flat. It was as though every Penn player not named Zack Rosen was waiting for Zack Rosen to pull another Harry Potter-like act out of his bag of tricks and will Penn to victory singlehandedly. His teammate and good friend, Rob Belcore, said as much in Jensen's column. Put frankly, save the efforts of Belcore and soph center Fran Dougherty (and occasionally Miles Cartwright), the Penn team looked relatively absent, especially on offense. Penn's coach, Jerome Allen, was frustrated, too, and was quoted as saying that the team without anything to play for showed more energy than the team with everything to play for. While I understand his feelings, and he's being honest, as a coach he might have been better off saying, "Gee, we didn't show the energy we needed tonight to win, and I take full responsibility for not preparing my team well enough to put them in a position to win."

2. Rosen had an un-Rosen-like night, taking 24 shots to get his 19 points and not getting to the foul line once. Ask most coaches, and they'll tell you that if you can force the other team's best player to take 24 shots to get 19 points, your team (and not his) should be in pretty good shape. Rosen worked his butt off to get difficult shots, and he also was forced into taking some bad ones. Credit Princeton's stifling defense, which a) forced the southpaw Rosen to go right, b) switched well, and c) used its length to disrupt the passing lanes. Douglas Davis, T.J. Bray and Jimmy Sherburne all hounded Rosen, and in the short time out there, I thought that the soph Sherburne did the best job on Rosen. Also, Rosen did not get to the foul line once last night -- further evidence of how difficult Princeton made it for him last night. He's a great player, but he did not have a great game last night, and Penn especially needed one from him.

3. Princeton played with a lot of energy, although somehow the sight of the junior center Brandon Connelly doing his Kareem Maddox imitation failed to impress. At the beginning of the second half, when Penn started to make a run, we saw Connelly do his back into the paint work and miss a short shot, only to have Penn covert on the other end. While Connelly has improved much while at Princeton, the ball is better off in the hands of others, particularly the likes of junior forward Ian Hummer (who was the star of the game, with his energy, his offense, his defense and his passing) and Davis.

4. As for the future, while Princeton will miss Davis, it has many good players returning, among them Hummer, Bray, freshman Denton Koon and many others who give Princeton the tallest and rangiest team in the league. As for Penn, they'll miss Rosen terribly, but they'll have Cartwright and Dougherty back. Senior sharpshooter Tyler Bernardini wasn't a factor last night, and they'll miss both him and Rob Belcore, who had a very good game. I don't know who is having what type of recruiting year, but that's for another post and another time.

5. Another factoid: Princeton honored its women's team at halftime. Over the past 3 years, they were 41-1 in the Ivies. This year they were 14-0 and won 12 of their 14 league games by 25 points or more. The Harvard men might be getting all the hype, but it says here that relatively speaking, the Princeton women are better. Yes, of course, I am a partisan.

6. I am sure that the Harvard team was whooping it up in Cambridge, and congratulations to them. That said, I would have preferred a Penn appearance in the Big Dance over a Harvard one (assuming Princeton wasn't good enough to go), but not at the expense of a Princeton loss in Jadwin last night.

Great end to the season for Princeton -- the second year in a row they've knocked someone out of a chance for the NCAA tournament, albeit not as sweet as last year, when their win put them in. Tough end of the season for a great program at Penn, a great kid in Zack Rosen and a good coach in Jerome Allen.

Here's to hoping that in future years, both Jadwin and the Palestra will be packed, both teams will be the top two in the Ivies, and the rivalry will resume with all its intensity. Both Penn and Princeton need each other to be good in order to make the rivalry what it once was.

And, yes, good luck to Harvard as the Ivy representative in the NCAA tournament. And good luck to the Princeton women, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And irony of ironies, let us not forget that several years ago Coach Amaker chased (or chanced) upon Zack Rosen's father in the Shop-Rite miles from the TCNJ campus where an elite b-ball camp was in progress. In the eyes of many, an apparent NCAA infraction.

Little did they realize that four years hence, Amaker's fate would still be somewhat in the hands of Mr. Rosen!

(And it really irritates me to have the media talk about Amaker as "Jeremy Lin's coach," which while true, ignores the fact that he was recruited by then coach Frank Sullivan, and played under Sullivan for two years. Even made mention of Amaker sitting courtside when the Knicks played the Celtics last weekend.
How soon the legend is embellished...while Sullivan sits under a gag order.)

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Connolly. :-)

12:23 PM  
Blogger George Clark said...

Intensity lacking? Not in my section at Jadwin where two of the Tiger faithful required assistance from paramedics...Credit to the Tiger defenders for the job they did on Zack Rosen, who should be a unanimous POY selection. Doug Davis set the tone early against Rosen, turning in what is arguably his best defensive performance of the year.Sherburne helped a lot until dislocating his shoulder. Hard to watch the medical staff pop it back in. Hope he has not suffered a serious injury.
My impression is that the Penn guys were waiting for Rosen to rescue them, something he has done many times. And while he was not able to do so this time, he has earned the respect and admiration of Princeton fans.
I won't even try to describe what Hummer has meant this year. He is a special player whose strength, jumping ability and passion would stand out anywhere in D1. But the key to the Tigers' season has been the emergence of TJ Bray as the quarterback of the team. In deference to a senior teammate he did not start last night. Within a minute of enetering the game he had a score, an assist and a rebound. He rarely makes a bad decision on the floor.
Connolly is somewhat less of an enigma at the end of the year than he was coming in, but not much. I did not recall him missing a shot, as you report, and the stat sheet credits him with one FG on one attempt. The "miss" was probably his getting stripped while preparing to shoot, something that ought not happen to a 6'11"guy with any strength. He will return, however, as "the biggest human being in the League" in the words of Brian Earl. With Will Barret returning from an injury-shortened season next year and Denton Koon ready to assume a featured role in the offense, the Tigers will compete for the title again in 2013. Doughery, Cartwright and Brooks form a strong nucleus for the Quakers. Can't wait, SportsProf.

12:33 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your comments. All typos are mine.

I will debate George on the "intensity" portion relative to what I saw in the late 70's and 80's. The place was jammed then and much louder. The entire upper balcony was empty last night. As for George's section, well, George has the primo seats -- we bought ours about 25 minutes before game time. And one of those who the paramedics attended to was Princeton Class of '44, probably 90, and he walked out under his own power, which was good to see.

Frank Sullivan was a good coach who didn't get the help from the admissions office that Amaker is getting. I liked the way he coached, and more often than not his Harvard teams finished in the 3, 4, 5 range in the league (or so I recall, but I might be wrong).

Courtney Banghart is a better coach and recruiter than Amaker, period.

I agree with George about Bray. At 6'5", he'll give people headaches. The Tigers need the big men to develop, need to develop another scorer to replace Douglas Davis, and should be fun to watch.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not "partisan" to say that the Princeton women are better than the Harvard men. The AP poll, the coaches' poll, the RPI, Ken Pomeroy, 14-0 and 25-point margins of victory all say so.

This year's iteration of the (men) Tigers got better over the course of the Ivy season more than any other that I can remember (partly because our schedule was so front-loaded with road games). Like most Princetonians, I am opposed to a conference tournament, even though this is one year when we could really use one. Right now, we are not much worse than a 50-50 bet against Harvard on a neutral court.

God, I hope that I'm still watching Princeton basketball when I'm 90, even if twice during a game I inspire radio broadcaster John Sadak to exclaim (as he did last night), "Oh my God, they're wheeling in a stretcher to take out a fan who passed out!"

9:04 PM  

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