Princeton vs. Penn, March 5, 2002
Not over yet
Penn routs Princeton; first three-way tie for title in Ivy League
If there was any question who is the leader of the 2001-02 version
of the Princeton Tigers were answered on Penns campus last
For moments of the history-making game, it looked as though Ahmed
El Nokali 02 was going to will the Tigers to victory against
a much more talented and athletic Penn team, which had beaten Princeton
soundly earlier this year.
Playing in his final regular season game for the Tigers, the senior
guards 19 points, crisp passing and tenacious defense kept
Princeton close. But it was historys night not a surprise
at the Palestra and the Quakers won 64-48, leading to the
first three-way tie for the Ivy League title in the conferences
The Tigers will now play Yale on Thursday in the Palestra for the
right to take on Penn on Saturday at Lafayette College in a battle
for Marchs most desired commodity: an NCAA tournament bid.
For those who have grumbled about the need for a season-ending league
tournament to decide the champion in the Ancient Eight, well: "Weve
got on now, dont we?" said Tiger head coach John Thompson
Thompson now turns to preparing his squad for a Yale game to be
played at the Palestra. The choice of the neutral site may seem
a bit peculiar for Princeton fans, but nothing is simple in the
Ivy League this year.
Simple would have been Princeton (16-10, 11-3 Ivy) beating Penn
(24-6, 11-3) on the last night of the season and sitting around
on Sunday to see where the NCAA gods were sending them. Penn did
it to Princeton in 1999 and 2000, and the Tigers returned the favor
But Penn had the touch this time, hitting 52% from the field for
the game, including a scorching 65% as they pulled away in the second
half. The main factors were the same trio that burned the Tigers
at Jadwin a few weeks ago as Andrew Toole led the Quakers with 19
points, followed by Ugonna Onyekwe with 16, and Koko Archibong with
"Theyre a very good team. "You dont get 24
wins and not be a good unit," said a disheartened Thompson
after the game.
Aside from El-Nokalis inspired performance, which included
steals, several drives, and deep jumpers just when Princeton seemed
to need it to stay close, the Tigers did not have a good night,
connecting on only 37% of their shots. Will Venable 05 scored
10 points to continue the offensive progress hes shown at
the end of the season.
But senior Mike Bechtold, coming off a career-high 25 against Columbia
on Saturday - including a game-winning three-pointer -
went scoreless in 30 minutes.
Thompson said he was surprised by Bechtolds performance. "We
were getting shots, they just didnt fall, and at the end of
the day you have to hit your shots when youre open,"
With Yale on the horizon, the Tigers are once again playing in their
biggest game of the season, which has been a pattern this year.
El Nokali predicts a rough game, but no surprises from Yale (19-9,
11-3). He also did not want to dwell on the Tigers share of
the Ivy title.
"One more game and thats it. Theres nothing else,"
said El Nokali. "All Im thinking about is going to the
tournament. Winning the Ivy League is just the only way to get there."
By Argelio Dumenigo.
You can reach Argelio at email@example.com