Bella Alarie: A once-in-a-lifetime Tiger

Bella Alarie averaged 16.1 points, 9.1 rebounds. 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks per game over a four-year career at Princeton during which she named Ivy Player of the Year three times and led the Tigers to three straight Ivy League championships. (Ivy League Network)

This has been a week of tumultuous developments in the Ivy League, most of them sad and disappointing.

But there has been some good news from the league as well. Players of the Year have been announced: Paul Atkinson from Yale and AJ Brodeur from Penn on the men’s side, and the incomparable Bella Alarie from Princeton, for the third year in a row, on the women’s.

Alarie is the only Princeton player to have won the POY award three times and to be named a first-team All-Ivy player in all four years of her college career. She has been more than a once-in-a-generation player. She has achieved once-in-a-lifetime status.

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Princeton men falter versus Cornell, but Tiger senior class still shines

The final regular season game followed a great storyline. One of my favorite coaches spurred his team to its best offensive showing of the season, 60% shooting from the field, 64% from deep, five players in double figures and 85 points in a win. The problem for me is the favorite coach is Brian Earl, skipper of the Cornell Big Red, who masterminded a terrific game plan in the 85-82 Cornell victory.

Although the Tigers mounted a heroic late comeback effort, make no mistake about it: This was a convincing and highly deserved win by the visitors from high above Cayuga’s waters.
For Tiger fans the highlight of the evening was the more emotional than usual senior night sendoff to three great Tigers: Richmond Aririguzoh, Jose Morales and Will Gladson.

Read morePrinceton men falter versus Cornell, but Tiger senior class still shines

Princeton men roll over Columbia amid coronavirus threat

The mood in Jadwin Gymnasium last evening as the Tigers squared off against the Columbia Lions was different than usual, almost subdued. Perhaps it was the miserable weather, or perhaps it was the prospect of a meaningless game against the cellar-dwelling Lions.

In reality, the distracted atmosphere in the building was the product of the minute-by-minute developing story of the nationwide spread of the coronavirus, which has now reached the east coast and central New Jersey.

Read morePrinceton men roll over Columbia amid coronavirus threat

Princeton men’s defense stifles Brown as Tigers’ depth bodes well for Ivy League Tournament run

The Tigers claimed one of the four slots available in the Ivy League Tournament with a 71-49 thrashing of the Brown Bears in Providence last night. The key to the win was a signature defensive effort reminiscent of some of the best Tiger teams in the long and illustrious history of the program.

Princeton focused on the Bears’ formidable “Big Three” of Brandon Anderson, Zach Hunsaker and Tameneng Choh, holding the talented trio to a combined 33 points on 12-for-39 shooting from the field. No other Bear player scored more than six.

Brandon Anderson posted 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting as Brown struggled to score in a 71-49 home loss to Princeton Friday night. | Photo by Erica Denhoff

The game did not start out as a Tiger rout. Brown jumped out to a 5-0 early lead, but two Jaelin Llewellyn threes restored order after five minutes. Jerome Desrosiers and Drew Friberg came off the bench to spark a 9-0 Tiger surge giving the visitors an 18-10 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the opening period. Later, Desrosiers would feature prominently in a 13-0 Tiger run leading to a 40-28 halftime advantage.

Drew Friberg continued his hot streak in the second half. His long three at the 17:05 mark maintained the 12-point Tiger lead, but sparked a 14-0 run to put the game away. With eight minutes left and the score 56-33, Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was able to reach far down the bench.

Read morePrinceton men’s defense stifles Brown as Tigers’ depth bodes well for Ivy League Tournament run

Princeton women pummel Penn, 80-44

This week brought good news for the Tiger women. On Monday they received word that their 17-game winning streak and overall 21-1 record had vaulted them to No. 21 in the Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the AP Poll. Tiger do-everything player, Bella Alarie was named national Player of the Week by the USBWA. Princeton hoped to add to the excitement by dispatching their nearest Ivy competitor, second-place Penn, in the Tuesday night rematch at Jadwin Gym.

Read morePrinceton women pummel Penn, 80-44

Jaelin Llewellyn shines as Princeton escapes Dartmouth with 65-62 win

The typically wild weekend road trip to Boston and Hanover is over, and the Tigers survived with one of their goals, a berth in Ivy Madness, well within their grasp. We may well look back on this trip as the time Jaelin Llewellyn’s total game was on display at an absolutely crucial juncture for his team. Recognizing the need to step up in the absence of Ryan Schwieger, Llewellyn courageously embraced the challenge and, to put it mildly, delivered.

On Friday at Harvard, Llewellyn almost single-handedly kept the Tigers in the game to the last seconds, leading the scoring with 22 points. If he has had a weakness this season, it has been his inefficiency from deep. He takes more three-pointers than anyone else, but came into the weekend converting an unacceptable 25%. His 21 points on Saturday night gave the Tigers the spark they needed, and included 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. The final score, 65-62 Princeton, tells very little about the game.

Read moreJaelin Llewellyn shines as Princeton escapes Dartmouth with 65-62 win

Harvard returns favor versus Princeton with one-point win

Princeton and Harvard have matched up quite evenly this season. Each team has scored the same number of points as the other and, after last night’s contest at Lavietes Pavilion, each has a one point win at home. The rubber match, if it happens, will also take place at Lavietes during the Ivy League Tournament next month.

Last evening’s affair, while hardly an aesthetic success, was an intense, physical battle that was not resolved until the final buzzer sounded on a 61-60 Harvard victory.

The Tigers were minus starting forward Ryan Schwieger due to illness. His status for tonight’s game at Dartmouth is unknown. Jaelin Llewellyn picked up the scoring slack for Princeton, exploding for 14 of the first 16 points and a total of 17 for the half.

Princeton made a nice five-minute run late in the half to grab a nine-point lead. Stubbornly, the Crimson clawed back to cut the Tigers’ margin to 34-30 at the half.

Both teams ramped up the defensive pressure in the second half. Mason Forbes, in particular, stepped for the Crimson as Chris Lewis spent more than half the game on the bench. Forbes did a great job defending the paint, contributing seven rebounds and 11 points in 22 minutes.

Mason Forbes was the KenPom game MVP of Harvard’s 61-60 win over Princeton Friday night, posting 11 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and two assists. | Photo by Erica Denhoff

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Princeton bounces back with 73-54 victory over Brown

Last night’s contest between the Tigers and the Brown Bears matched two clubs apparently heading in different directions. The Bears, winners of five straight, including a win the previous night in Philadelphia, came in focused on a shot at the league title. The Tigers, on the other hand, had squandered their hot start by failing to be competitive in two of their last three outings. The humiliating loss to Yale was galling in every way. The question for Mitch Henderson was how his kids would respond just 22 hours later.
The winner of this one would at least maintain a hold on second place and move a step closer to Ivy Madness.

Read morePrinceton bounces back with 73-54 victory over Brown

Yale thrashes Princeton at Jadwin, 88-64

The Princeton-Yale series has, more often than not, at least in this century, featured consequential contests. Adding to the mystique of the H-Y-P rivalries, basketball games among these three usually match teams contending for the Ivy League championship.
Last night’s visit to Jadwin by the Bulldogs fit the bill perfectly, bringing together two teams tied atop the standings with 5-1 records in this week’s “Game Of The Year.” I remember writing about a Yale game at Jadwin Gym a few years ago described as “the most intense game I had witnessed in many years.”
The larger than usual crowd filing into the arena last night expected more of that intensity. Adding to the aura of excitement was the much anticipated annual halftime appearance of Red Panda, the San Francisco-based performer who uses her foot to flip cups onto a saucer placed on the top of her head while balanced on an 8-foot unicycle. You have to see it to appreciate it.

Read moreYale thrashes Princeton at Jadwin, 88-64

Princeton stays tied atop Ivy League with Yale after taking control at Columbia

The Tigers enjoyed a nice bounceback effort against the Columbia Lions Sunday afternoon in New York. Suffering no ill effects from a desultory outing in Ithaca, five Princeton players reached double figures, led by Jaelin Llewellyn (19) and Ryan Schwieger (18), in an 81-74 victory at Levien Gym.

Richmond Aririguzoh made an emphatic statement for the visitors with 16 points and a team-high four assists, after suffering his worst performance of the season against Cornell. Using his great strength effectively, the senior made eight shots in nine attempts.

Jerome Desrosiers and Drew Friberg continued their excellent bench contributions with 10 and 11 points respectively, combining to make nine buckets in 14 attempts.

The Lions (6-16, 1-5 Ivy) quickly gained the lead at 5-0. Fears that the Tigers (10-9, 5-1) might dig themselves into a deep hole as they did the previous day were quickly dispelled by RA. It took the Tigers nearly eight minutes to claim their first lead but after they finally did on a Friberg three-point play, they would not relinquish it for the balance of the afternoon.

The lead was eight at the half. The Tigers managed double-digit leads in the second stanza, but Mike Smith almost single-handedly kept the Lions’ hope alive. The league’s leading scorer burnished his All-Ivy credentials with 30 points, canning 14 buckets in 25 tries.

The Tigers shot 55% from the field and a most satisfying 17-for-18 from the charity stripe. Llewellyn drove to the basket repeatedly drawing fouls in the process. He was a perfect 10-for-10 from the line.

The weekend split matched Yale’s record sending the Ivy co-leaders into a crucial showdown at Jadwin Gym Friday night. Brown’s weekend sweep keeps its title hopes aflame heading into the weekend against the Ps.