Charles Klauder is a name probably unfamiliar to most Tiger fans, but his contributions to Tiger lore have been rich, indeed. The Philadelphia native was an early 20th century architect of particular renown for his work on college buildings, including the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh and several of Princeton’s distinctive dining and residence halls. He also designed the sites of the two greatest comebacks in Tiger history: the 50-49 win at the Palestra in 1999 in which the Tigers trailed Penn 33-9 early in the second half, and Saturday’s 81-79 OT shocker at Rec Hall on the Penn State campus. The Nittany Lions have not used Rec Hall for men’s basketball since 1996, but invited the Tigers to join them in a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The memory of this one will live for a very long time.
The Tigers floundered early on, failing to convert any of their first eight 3-point attempts, as the Lions, behind mainstays Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill, and the frenzied sea of white-shirted Penn State partisans, raced to a quick and commanding lead. Managing just 2 of 10 from behind the arc, the Tigers trailed 35-23 at the half.
The second half did not begin auspiciously for Princeton. The Lions continued to dominate on the glass, outrebounding the Tigers 43-22 for the game, while Frazier and Newbill were lighting it up, each scoring 24 in the game. The lead reached 20 with about ten minutes remaining. Rec Hall was jumping.
At the 6:30 mark, the lead was still 18. No one could have anticipated what was about to happen. Seniors TJ Bray and Will Barrett jump-started the Tiger offense, which slowly but inexorably whittled away at the margin. Barrett, historically a deadly 3-point shooter, canned 4 of 4 in the final six minutes, many of them on feeds from Bray, who set a Tiger single-game record with 13 assists, ten of them in the second stanza.
Barrett’s last three pointer pulled the Tigers within three, at 64-61, with under 40 seconds to go in regulation. A Lion turnover (one of 20 for the game, to Princeton’s 10), followed by a quick foul sent Bray to the line for two FT’s with 16.5 ticks on the game clock. He made the first, but missed the second. Tiger freshman Spencer Weisz emerged from the ensuing melee with the ball and a path to the basket. He drew a hard foul and cooly sunk both charity tosses to send the game into OT. Princeton had outscored PSU 24-6 in the final 6:34 of regulation.
The Tigers completed the improbable comeback in the extra period, getting its first lead in over 36 minutes on its first possession. The lead extended to 5 at 71-66. The Tigers held on to win 81-79. Barrett’s 24 led the Tigers, who were helped by double-figure scoring from five players. Bray’s 11 points, including 9 from the FT line, gave him a double-double.
Princeton’s eight three pointers after intermission fueled the Tiger comeback. The win was the first against a Big Ten team since 1985, and the first on a Big Ten opponent’s home floor since 1955! The record now is 8-1, the best since the 1997-98 team went 25-3 overall.
On Friday, the Tigers travel to Las Vegas for two games, including the first-ever match-up with the University of the Pacific, which comes in at 7-1. Pacific’s RPI is a gaudy 37, to the Tigers’ 44. The Pomeroy Ratings rank the Tigers at 68, while Pacific is at 93. Should be a good one.