SACRAMENTO — The difference between the sports film and life is monotony. The mundane. The monthly, weekly, daily and minute-by-minute routines, the things you force yourself to do until you no longer dwell, the menial tasks you train yourself to accept. A college basketball career is full of them. It’s practically made of them. Shootaround, walkthrough, weightlifting, running, ice tub, film study, class. Ball screen, hedge, drop, close out. Slide your feet. Make 100 free throws. Make 1,000 3s. Repeat.
If you’re doing it right, at the moment of asking, when it would be easiest to let something slip, the habits are still there for you. You’ll know what to do.
Matt Allocco knew what to do. He might have been the only one. The arena around him had tilted off its axis; fans huffed and heaved; the colors bled. Over in the corner, Arizona guard Courtney Ramey was on the floor, already crying, being consoled by his coach. Princeton coach Mitch Henderson ran halfway up the sideline. The other Wildcats glared at the scoreboard and chewed on their shirts. Princeton players hopped around in uncertain directions. Arizona had missed several shots on its penultimate offensive possession of the game; Princeton had the rebound. The Wildcats fouled. The Golden 1 Center howled.
And then Allocco — the last sane man in a place gone feral — put his hands over his head and screamed. “HUDDLE!” Princeton players snapped out of their fugue. Allocco brought them together.
On the cusp of a historic upset over No. 2 seed Arizona, Allocco had his moment to deliver one final piece of stirring commentary, one last monologue as the strings crescendoed and audience dabbed at tears. What did he say?
“Honestly? Just coverages,” Allocco said. Who guards whom. “If we’re up three, what’s the coverage? If we miss here, what do we do? Do we switch on defense? Does everybody know?”
And there it is. This is why Princeton won, 59-55.
(Photo: Kyle Terada / USA Today)
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