Upset helps Yale make the grade

Win over Princeton rates among best for underappreciated Bulldogs

National notebook

February 19, 1999|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN STAFF

The most interesting statistic to come out of last Friday's game between Yale and Princeton was not the final score, though the 60-58 double-overtime victory for the Bulldogs over the visiting Tigers was certainly one of the biggest upsets of the college basketball season.

It was the attendance figure.

On the final box score, it was listed as 2,271 in the 3,100-seat Lee Ampitheatre.

"There were more like 3,000 in the stands by the end of the game," said Yale coach Dick Kuchen, "and most of them were on the court after it was over."

Not only was it Yale's biggest win since the Bulldogs beat Princeton six years ago, it might have been Kuchen's biggest win at the Ivy League school since he opened his career at Yale with an upset of Connecticut. That was in 1986. Last week's win also was remarkable considering Yale's RPI at the time: 310. That's out of 310 Division I schools.

"I put zero faith in the RPI," said Kuchen, whose team jumped to 308 after beating Princeton and then losing the next night to Penn, 71-50. "We went out to Notre Dame and lost by two. We've had some close losses in the Ivy League, and the league is probably the strongest it's been in years."

The manner in which Yale beat Princeton -- coming back from 10 points down at halftime -- bespeaks of a team living up to its nickname.

Despite a 4-18 record (2-8 in the Ivy League), Yale has shown some tenacity after losing its two top scorers from last year's team and then team captain Charlie Petit for much of this season.

Petit hadn't practiced all season because of a broken bone in his foot, yet went 31 minutes against Princeton and hit a couple of big threes.

Having lost players for a combined 50 games because of injuries, Kuchen has been going much of the season with two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior in the starting lineup.

"The young guys on this team can build from a game like this," said Kuchen, a former head coach at California who was an assistant on the 1978 Notre Dame team that went to the Final Four. "And for the older guys, it's a game they'll remember for the rest of their lives."

Sophomore point guard Isaiah Cavaco summed up the feelings of his teammates -- and perhaps of Princeton's players as well.

"You can't put it into words," he said. "It's amazing."

Tough Tigers

Duke seems to be a near-consensus No. 1 team in the country, but Auburn has clearly been just as dominating of late.

The Tigers have won their last five games by an average of better than 25 points and their overall margin of victory average this season of 22.5 is second only to the Blue Devils.

Consider what Auburn has done in its recent streak.

The Tigers were up 40 points in the first half of their 102-61 win over Alabama on Feb. 13, led Mississippi by 30 at halftime of a 95-66 win Feb. 9, led LSU by 31 points in the second half of an 80-54 win Feb. 6 and jumped out by 20 at South Carolina at halftime of a 76-48 win Feb. 3.

"Auburn is even better in person than they are on tape," said South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler. "Cliff [Ellis] has done a great job with his team. They are as good as anyone I've seen this year."

Star forward Chris Porter, who recently returned from a three-game suspension, said that he can see opposing teams visibly wilt under Auburn's relentless pressure defense that has reminded folks in the Southeastern Conference of the "40 Minutes Of Hell" Arkansas made famous in its run to a national championship in 1994.

"When we see it in their faces, we just step it up," said Porter, a junior-college transfer who has become one of the most dynamic players in Division I. "We just keep pounding on them."

Valley guys

The battle for first place in the Missouri Valley Conference is an interesting one between Evansville (11-4) and Southwest Missouri State (10-5). Both teams are coached by former Indiana players who were members of two of Bob Knight's NCAA championship teams.

Evansville's Jim Crews played on the 1976 team, and was an assistant coach on the 1981 team, while Southwest Missouri's Steve Alford was the star of the 1987 team.

Both are looking for their first MVC regular-season title. The teams will meet Monday night in Evansville.

Settling in at last

Big East home teams had compiled a 50-43 record going into the week, the worst since 1986-87, but have since won six straight. Included was Syracuse's 71-65 win over Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome on Wednesday, only the third win in eight games at home for the Orangemen.

Stanford women rebound

Once left for dead, Stanford's women's team is breathing quite comfortably, thank you.

Since going 4-7 during a non-conference stretch that included games against Duke, Purdue and Tennessee, the Cardinal (14-9) is renewing its claim to be the top team in the West.

Tara VanDeveer's group is now a lock for the NCAA tournament with a 10-2 record in the Pacific-10, a half-game behind Oregon and UCLA, with a game against the Ducks on March 4 that could determine the conference title.

Et cetera

Temple coach John Chaney, whose Owls play host to George Washington tomorrow, needs two more wins to reach 600. Houston guard Gee Gervin, the leading scorer in Conference USA, has topped 30 points in three games, two more times than his coach, Clyde Drexler, did during his legendary career with the Cougars.

Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

Planting seeds

East South

1. Connecticut 1. Duke

2. Cincinnati 2. Wisconsin

3. Ohio State 3. Miami

4. N. Carolina 4. UCLA

Midwest West

1. Mich. State 1. Auburn

2. Stanford 2. Maryland

3. Kentucky 3. Arizona

4. Utah 4. St. John's

Note: Auburn has moved West as the top seed, and Maryland could be close to getting one in the Midwest if it doesn't slip up and Michigan State does. Connecticut remains the only top seed to beat another Top 5 team on the road, thus deserving to stay in the East and play in nearby Boston.

Pub Date: 2/19/99

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