Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 52
 
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
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ADDING UP: Princeton University women’s basketball star Addie Micir drives to the basket in recent action. Micir’s all-around play has been a key factor as the Tigers have won nine of their first 11 games. The junior guard is averaging 13.1 points a game together with 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists and leads Princeton with 29 three-pointers.

Displaying Scoring Balance, Competitive Fire, PU Women’s Hoops Turning Heads With 9-2 Start

Bill Alden

Courtney Banghart knows what it takes to win the Ivy League title in women’s basketball.

As a star guard for Dartmouth and then assistant coach at her alma mater, Banghart has been part of four Ivy champions.

Now in her third year as the head coach of the Princeton University women’s basketball team, Banghart has the Tigers looking formidable with the league season around the corner.

Princeton headed into the holiday break with an impressive 9-2 record, posting a solid 71-60 win at Houston in its last action before Christmas.

As her squad winds down its non-conference slate, Banghart is cautiously optimistic about its prospects once it enters Ivy play.

“This is a better team than some of the title teams I was on but the league is different,” said Banghart, whose team returns from its holiday break with a game at Fairleigh Dickinson on December 30 and then hosts Fordham on January 2 as it tunes up for its Ivy opener on January 9 at Penn.

“This is uncharted territory for Princeton, the program has never won the league outright or has been to the tournament. We’ll have to see if our leaders can keep us going in the right direction.”

With a starting lineup featuring one junior (Addie Micir), two sophomores (Lauren Edwards and Devona Allgood) and two freshmen (Rasheed Niveen and Lauren Polansky), the program is headed in the right direction.

In 2008-09, the Tigers went 14-14 overall and 9-5 in Ivy play, good for third place, and a major improvement on the team’s 7-23 record the season before in Banghart’s debut.

“I know that we are a young team,” said the youthful Banghart, 31, who looks like she could still go on the court and drain some three-pointers.

“But when I look on the court, I don’t see a young team. We try to progress even in our wins. We say we’re 0-0 every night and we would like to go to bed with a 1-0 record. We just play hard every night; every game is another chance to play together.”

Banghart is getting some hard efforts every night from the gifted 6’0 freshman Niveen, who is scoring a team-high 18.3 points a game and is pulling down 7.8 rebounds a night.

“Rasheed is really special; when I watched her in playing in AAU, I could see how hard she played,” said Banghart of the Danville, Calif. native.

“She competes so hard, whether it is a drill, practice, or game. She hasn’t played like a freshman.”

Niveen, though, is hardly a one-woman gang as the Tigers boast nice balance, averaging 71.5 points a game with a scoring margin of 16.3.

“The proof is in the stat sheet; we have four players in double figures,” said Banghart, referring to Micir (13.1 points a game), Allgood (10.4), and Edwards (13.4) in addition to Niveen.

In Banghart’s view, junior guard Micir is the glue that holds things together for the Tigers.

“Addie gets overshadowed; she does everything well,” said Banghart of Micir, who is chipping in 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists and leads Princeton with 29 three-pointers.

“She doesn’t standout in any one category; she gets big rebounds and her defense has improved so much. She shoots well and is one of the best passers I have seen. She has the best basketball IQ on the team.”

The Tigers have benefitted from some smart play by Allgood and Edwards.

“Devona is probably our most improved player,” asserted Banghart. “She is really long and has improved her low post arsenal. Lauren is really athletic; she plays up tempo. We asked her to score more in the quarter court and she is doing it.”

The point guard combination of Polansky and sophomore Laura Johnson has also helped the Tigers improve.

“Lauren has played really good defense,” added Banghart. “LJ is a really good scoring point guard. She will be key in our Ivy League run.”

Before the Tigers get into league play, Banghart is hoping that the game against FDU and upcoming contests against Fordham and LaSalle will have the Tigers primed for a title drive.

“Those teams are comparable to what we’ll see in the Ivy League,” said Banghart. “Those will be down in the trenches games.”

In Banghart’s view, her team has the mentality to thrive in the battles ahead.

“What makes this team special is that they set high goals but they are very coachable,” said Banghart. “We have given the players different game plans and they have responded. This team is willing to work; it wants to be good.”

And if Princeton keeps responding, it could be good enough to win a league title.

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