Princeton all-time moment No. 10 – The Comeback

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. We’re starting with Princeton because that’s where Hoagie Haven is.

10. THE COMEBACK, FEBRUARY 9, 1999

To most observers, Ivy League basketball in the 20th century was not much more than an annual ritual the purpose of which was to crown either Penn or Princeton as champions. Naturally, the annual home and home series between these two combatants developed into the fiercest rivalry in collegiate basketball. None was more intense … and none was as much fun.

On Feb. 9, 1999, the Tigers arrived at The Palestra for the season’s first meeting. At 6-0 in Ivy competition, the Tigers were riding a 10-game winning streak that was sparked by a Rainbow Classic sweep of Florida State, Charlotte and Texas on successive nights in December. The Tigers looked forward to their annual Palestra visit with a great deal of confidence. But as the pundits like to say, when these two get together, “you can throw the record book away.”

Brian Earl got things underway on a positive note, opening the scoring with a long three-pointer. The Quakers answered with a 29-0 run, stunning the Tigers and igniting a frenzy in the packed arena. (The noise generated by a full house in the Palestra is unlike anything this writer has ever experienced.) At the half, the lead was 33-9, achieved in perhaps the best 20 minutes played by any of Fran Dunphy’s teams. Two minutes into the second half, the Quakers extended the lead to 40-13.

A clearly exasperated Bill Carmody called a timeout. He is alleged to have suggested to his befuddled club, “You are smart guys, you figure it out.” The unlikeliest comeback in history followed.

Holding the hot-shooting Quakers to nine more points, the Tigers scored an astonishing 37 of their own behind the heroics of Brian Earl and rookie center Chris Young. Young’s sweeping hook shot gave the Tigers the lead, 50-49, at the 2:14 mark. Neither team scored again and the chapter titled “Black Tuesday” went into Palestra history.

It must be pointed out (before The AQ gets a chance) that Penn rebounded nicely, winning their last seven games, including a Jadwin thrashing of the Tigers, to claim another Ivy title. But “The Comeback” remains an unforgettable moment in the best rivalry of all.

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