NCAA

Instant Replay: Princeton 64, Penn 49

Instant Replay: Princeton 64, Penn 49

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When Penn and Princeton tip off, it’s almost always a close game 40 minutes later. Count Tuesday night as an exception.

Ivy League-leading Princeton blitzed Penn with a bevy of three-point shots and lockdown defense en route to a comfortable win over the Quakers, 64-49, at the Palestra Tuesday night. Princeton senior Spencer Weisz led the way with 22 points on 8 for 14 shooting, while Penn was paced by Darnell Foreman, who pumped in a team-high 11 points.

Sophomore guard Myles Stephens had 16 points on just six shots for Princeton, while junior Amir Bell had eight points and three assists off the bench. Penn's only other double-figure scorers were freshman A.J. Brodeur and junior Sam Jones, who each had 10 points.

With the win, the 13-6 Tigers swept the season series with the Quakers and remain the only team undefeated in the Ancient Eight at 6-0. Penn is mired in last place with its 7-12 record (0-6 Ivy).

Turning point
Like the Atlanta Falcons found out on Sunday, you don't win games just with your offense. Princeton put Penn in a hole with an impressive defensive spurt in the first half, when it held Penn scoreless for over 7½ minutes. Princeton had multiple blocks in the stretch while even forcing a shot-clock violation.

Weisz took advantage on the other end with a couple of threes to move Princeton from down 10-9 to up 22-10.

First half
The matchup between these two teams exactly one month earlier was highlighted by an ugly first half without nearly any assists. While there were 16 combined turnovers in the first half Tuesday, the ball movement on both sides was much crisper.

Princeton took a 39-27 lead at the half through its outside shooting and Penn's lack of makes from deep. The Tigers were 9 for 14 from three in the first half with four makes coming from Weisz, who had a game-high 14 points before the break. The Tigers held the Quakers to just two makes from beyond the arc before the break by effectively navigating screens and playing suffocating man-to-man defense.

Penn's sole advantage came inside, where it led the Tigers, 18-8, on points in the paint before the break. Sophomore Max Rothschild made all three of his baskets before the break, including two before the first media timeout.

Happy birthday, Palestra
The Cathedral of College Basketball officially celebrated its 90th year with the Tigers' trip to the arena. The first event at the Palestra came on Jan. 1, 1927, when Penn took down Yale, 26-15. To celebrate the occasion, student prices were rolled back to 55 cents, the price for students for that Yale game, while other tickets were sold for $19.27 to celebrate the year of the Palestra's opening.

All-time series
This was the 236th meeting between the two programs. Penn leads the all-time series, 124-112. Princeton, however, has now won the last seven and 15 of the last 17 duels.

Implications
The Quakers' loss lessens the chances that they reach the first-ever Ivy League Tournament, held this March at the Palestra. The team would likely need to win out to have a chance at sneaking into the tournament, which includes the top four teams in the conference. Princeton's win means the Tigers are probably going to return to the Palestra for the tournament and increases their chances at the No. 1 seed.

What's next
Both Penn and Princeton host Columbia and Cornell this weekend, resuming Ivy doubleheaders.

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

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USA Today Images

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

It's been 12 days since Villanova's season ended abruptly due to the coronavirus crisis. Jay Wright held a video conference on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics. 

Here are the major takeaways from Wright's session with the media.  

This March is different

Villanova missed out on opportunities to win a fourth straight Big East Tournament and participate in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in the last 16 years. The Wildcats won eight of their final nine games to clinch a share of the Big East regular season title. Not having a chance to shine in the postseason stings. 

"Missing the NCAA Tournament is obviously tough for our guys," Wright said. "We felt like we were playing great basketball, coming on strong. I always say we want to play our best basketball at the end of the year, and I think we were doing that. It is what it is, our guys get it. 

"It's a great example of our mantra 'attitude'. We try to teach our guys that you don't have control over what happens in life. What you do have control of is your response to what happens to you. 

"I don't know if there's even been a March where I wasn't either in (the NCAA Tournament), watching it or recruiting during it. I'm testing myself on what else is there in me? Being a better father, being a better husband. Spending more time with the kids, watching more movies, reading more, trying to be more worldly. I'm not very good at it but I'm trying."

Will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA? 

Arguably the biggest question concerning Wright's team heading into the offseason is will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA or will he return for his junior season at Villanova? Wright mentioned that Bey was especially disappointed when this season was cut short. He realizes that he has a big decision to make on his future. Wright discussed Bey's future plans as well as freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is also considered an NBA prospect. 

"The NBA is still on hold," Wright said. "They don't have a plan yet for what they're going to do with the pre-draft process or the draft yet. Saddiq and Jeremiah probably both will go through that process when we find out what it is. They're waiting on us for information, should they start working out? We're trying to get them as much information as possible. 

"If we were in a normal timeline, they would both go through the process. As we learn what the NBA is going to do there are so many possibilities. Just to take it to an extreme, there's a possibility they might not have a pre-draft process and just have the draft with no workouts, using the evaluations they had during the season. 

"We're communicating with both of them daily. Saddiq is having a tough time trying to find a place to work out in [his hometown] Washington D.C. He just got a gym to get into so he can shoot, he can't find a gym to get into to lift. Jeremiah is trying to find a place around here to get into to shoot."

2020 Summer Olympics postponed

Wright was supposed to spend a portion of his summer as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team in Tokyo. But with this week's announcement that the Olympics are postponed, his plans have changed. 

"It's the right decision," Wright said. "I feel bad for all of those athletes that it's once in a lifetime experience. I really feel bad for them. For basketball guys it's not as difficult. I talked with [U.S. head coach Greg Popovich] yesterday. It's postponed, obviously not cancelled, postponed until some time next spring or summer. There's a lot of questions there. They could do it late spring, when you might not have NBA players. If they did it in the summer maybe you do have NBA players. We have to wait for the IOC to make those decisions. 

"For us personally (at Villanova), it's kind of crazy because we thought we came up with this great plan. I was going to have to leave our offseason program for the Olympics. We had a plan to work around that, and now it doesn't matter. We'll be here in June and July. Now we don't even know if the players will be here. We worked so hard to put this plan in place for me being away and now it doesn't even matter."

Phillies season on hold

A Bucks County native, Wright is a huge Philadelphia sports fan. He had Phillies season tickets as a kid and is a regular at Citizens Bank Park during the summer months. Like all Phillies fans, he's disappointed the baseball season isn't starting this week.

"The end of the basketball season was always sobering," Wright said. "But what always saved us was the start of the Phillies. Opening Day and the start of baseball season in our family is a big deal. 

"We watch the spring training games, we'll even joke, 'Who do the Phillies play tonight?' It's really surreal. Spring time without baseball, especially the Phillies, is bizarre. It's really the way myself and my family get ourselves out of basketball mode. We go to Opening Day, we go to the Phillies games, we love 'Bark in the Park', we always bring the dogs. We're really going to miss it."

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Florida Gulf Coast's massive NCAA Tournament upset in Philly was the Best Game I Ever Saw Live

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AP Images

Florida Gulf Coast's massive NCAA Tournament upset in Philly was the Best Game I Ever Saw Live

I'll be honest. My North Philadelphia roots didn't make room for a lot of in-person sporting events. So as an adult, getting to the games was a must and the NCAA Tournament was always high on the list. Every March, I rooted for the Philly teams and the players I loved. So when the tournament came to Wells Fargo Center in March of 2013, I was all in. 

Thanks to Florida Gulf Coast University I got the complete and full embodiment of March Madness and then some.

The WFC has seen a ton of great basketball, from Allen Iverson's ear cupped encores to the frenzied success of Villanova's second home in South Philly. 

I guarantee you it was never wilder there than when this bracket-busting 15-seed had fans mobbing them in the hallway after an upset over Georgetown.

FGCU had all the swagger of James Brown in a fresh jumpsuit taking the court against the Hoyas. I had no idea what I was about to see.

They called themselves "Dunk City" and by the time the game was over, Georgetown was also calling them Daddy. I actually had Georgetown going to the Final Four in my personal tournament bracket, which as a 2-seed was a pretty mundane pick. That may also explain some of the bitter feelings I have thinking back on the cocktail of emotions I experienced as FGCU turned my "sheet of integrity" into liner for my cats' litter box. 

I'll never forget how those blue and green uniforms flew up and down the court, dunk after dunk. But it wasn't just the fact that they were dunking or hitting important shots, it was the way they were doing it. There were alley-oops, back-door slams, tip dunks, chin-ups on the rim. There were heat check three-pointers from Conshohocken, catch-and-shoot, in-your-face threes. The FGCU Eagles were talking trash and backing it up, the whole. nine. yards.

These kids absolutely knew they could beat Georgetown and then went out and did it with as much bravado and moxie as if destiny owed them a favor. When the weekend was over, I guess it did. They beat San Diego State to reach the Sweet 16. The only 15-seed to ever do it.

For a city that loves a good underdog, this was Vince Papale and Rudy with a little Bad News Bears on the side. Unbelievable. Happy to say I was in the building for a flat-out epic NCAA Tournament game which brought the captivating theater of the unexpected right into my lap.