Penn sees postseason hopes dwindle with loss to rival Princeton

Penn sees postseason hopes dwindle with loss to rival Princeton


On a night when the Penn fans sang “Happy Birthday” to the Palestra, Princeton all but blew out the candles on the Quakers’ postseason hopes.

The Tigers hit 14 three-pointers — including six by senior Spencer Weisz — and raced past Penn, 64-49, at the Palestra Tuesday night for an easy win, their seventh straight in the usually hard-fought rivalry (see Instant Replay). Weisz led all scorers with 22 points while junior Darnell Foreman paced the Quakers with 11 points. 

The win kept 13-6 Princeton undefeated in Ivy League play at 6-0 while it dropped Penn to 7-12 (0-6 Ivy) and kept the Quakers mired in last place in the conference. Penn coach Steve Donahue doesn’t want his squad focusing on its record and highlighted the remaining stretch and room for improvement. 

“There's a lot of basketball to be played,” Donahue said. “As much as we lost these games, I think we all feel that, in particular now that Princeton's out of the way, we can compete with anybody else in this league.”

In the first game between these two teams this season, Princeton raced out to a 22-point lead before Penn rattled off a barrage of three-pointers to tie the game before the Tigers pulled away. At the time, Princeton coach Mitch Henderson attributed the Quakers’ unexpected run to their transition offense, which opened up the three-point arc. With a similar double-digit lead at halftime, the Tigers were ready this time around and didn’t let the Quakers back into the game by forcing them into a half-court offense.

“They hurt us,” Henderson said of the first meeting. “We had a nice, big, comfortable lead in the first game and they came back and made some huge shots in transition, so that was a focus. We had to get that squared away.”

Tuesday was the 236th meeting between the two squads (Penn leads the all-time series, 124-112), but it had extra meaning beyond the normal conference implications. Penn celebrated the 90th year of the Palestra at the game as the arena opened on Jan. 1, 1927. The Penn band played “Happy Birthday” for the Cathedral of College Basketball and ticket prices were rolled back for students to 55 cents, the same price for that opening game in 1927.

“It's an incredible event to be a part of,” Donahue said. “Unfortunately, when you're coaching, you don't get to enjoy it as much as the rest of you. But I have an incredible appreciation for the arena and I'm very grateful that I'm the coach here and get this opportunity.”

The special event for the Palestra helped entice 6,215 fans, most of whom were cheering loudly for the Quakers. But the Tigers dominated the game after the first media timeout. Princeton took the lead for good early on with a 13-0 run to turn a 10-9 deficit into a 22-10 lead by holding Penn without a point for over 7½ minutes. Weisz got going in that stretch with two early threes and the Tigers were off from there.

Princeton kept Penn at arm’s length with its three-point shooting. Weisz hit four from deep in the first half while three teammates — Devin Cannady, Myles Stephens and Amir Bell — all made two over the course of the game. A few of the shots banked in or rattled the rim, but the Tigers got all the bounces they needed. After the early 13-0 run, Penn didn’t get closer than nine points and trailed by as many as 20. 

“They have great synergy with those older guys,” Donahue said of the Tigers. “They hadn't shot the ball well from three and I thought we challenged those early ones that got some bounces and the ball starts going in. They got contagious. They shot the heck out of it.”

The Quakers actually held the advantage down low, outscoring the Tigers, 28-14, in the paint. Freshman center A.J. Brodeur scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high six rebounds while sophomore Max Rothschild hit three early shots in the paint.

But Penn’s three-point shots wouldn’t fall as the Quakers struggled to find transition offense. Junior Sam Jones hit two threes in four attempts while the rest of team was 1 for 6 from range. Princeton made only three more shots than Penn but had 11 more treys, a key difference in the victory.

Now the Quakers are left in a situation in which they need to either win out or come close to doing so in order to reach the inaugural Ivy League Tournament, held this March 11-12 at the Palestra, and only includes the top four teams in the league. Donahue, however, has his eyes on Penn’s Friday game with Columbia and played down Penn’s current predicament. 

“I think the tournament stuff is great,” Donahue said. “It’s great for the league, it’s great for you (the media). But for us, it’s pretty simple. We’ve got to get better each day, tomorrow, and figure out how we can compete on Friday.”

NCAA adopts college basketball reforms for NBA draft, agents, more

AP Images

NCAA adopts college basketball reforms for NBA draft, agents, more

INDIANAPOLIS — College basketball players who participate in the NBA combine and go undrafted will be allowed to return to school and play as part of sweeping NCAA reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that its Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors have adopted numerous proposals, including changes to the enforcement process for rules violations and allowing NCAA-certified agents to work with college basketball players who test the waters in declaring for the NBA draft. 

Agents will have at least a limited place within the NCAA structure when it comes to college basketball.

The NCAA's rule changes include allowing players to work with an agent while declaring for the NBA draft. College players would have to request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee on their draft prospects. The rules would also allow elite high school players to work with an agent if the NBA removes its one-and-done rule.

The agent would have to be certified by the NCAA no later than August 2020. Until then, agents certified by the NBA players' union would qualify.

Agents would be allowed to cover minimal expenses such as meals and transportation tied to meetings or workouts with pro teams. The agent's work would stop if the player enrolls in or returns to college.

The changes reflect the recommendations made in April by the Rice Commission.

The Rice Commission, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was formed in response to an FBI investigation into payments from shoe companies to coaches for steering players to certain schools.

The NCAA is also adopting changes it hopes will improve its enforcement process when handling cases of rules violations.

The policies adopted by the NCAA's Board of Governors and Division I Council include the appointment of independent groups to handle and resolve complex cases. That was one of the recommendations from the Rice Commission appointed in the wake of an FBI investigation into corruption within college basketball.

The changes also allow the NCAA to accept during investigations outside information that has been "established by another administrative body or a commission authorized by a school." The NCAA says that will save time since investigators would no longer have to independently confirm information outlined by other agencies or outside investigations.

In addition, school presidents and athletics staff will be required to commit "contractually" to cooperate fully with investigations.

The process to adopt recommendations for NCAA reforms from the Rice Commission was a swift one by the governing body's standards.

In a teleconference with reporters Wednesday, Georgia Tech president and Board of Governors chairman Bud Peterson said those changes would "normally take us about two years through the governance process."

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

USA Today Images

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

Fresh off a second national championship in three years, this was bound to happen. Jay Wright is a hot name. 

And according to the New York Daily News, the Knicks plan on reaching out to Wright about their vacant head coaching job. 

Just don’t expect Wright to be interested. 

The 56-year-old coach has been determined to build Villanova into a powerhouse since he took the head coaching gig way back in 2001 and he’s finally done that. On the surface, maybe some think that would be enough to make him want to take his coaching to the top league in the world. Not so fast. 

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Wright said pretty flatly that he’s staying at Villanova because he loves it there. 

“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright said. “That challenge is appealing but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”

In that interview, Wright talked about his time at Hofstra and quoted Jim Valvano, who once said, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That was true at Hofstra until the Villanova job came around, so maybe there’s a chance the Knicks could blow him away. It just doesn’t seem likely. 

The Knicks just fired head coach Jeff Hornacek after a 29-53 record in 2017. The Knicks haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. 

The New York Daily News cites a source, who said the Knicks believe Wright would be a “perfect candidate for a rebuilding club.” The Knicks might be right, but don’t bet on them getting Wright.