Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 5
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
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KEEPING IN STEP: Princeton University women’s basketball sophomore star Lauren Edwards heads to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last weekend, Edwards scored 15 points on consecutive nights as Princeton returned from a 19-day hiatus to rout Brown 75-44 on Friday and then top Yale 69-48 on Saturday.

With Edwards Providing Energy and Offense, PU Women’s Hoops Rolls Into Ivy Top Spot

Bill Alden

With the Princeton University women’s basketball team riding an eight-game winning streak as it hit the fall exam period and semester break earlier this month, Lauren Edwards and her teammates were determined not to lose their edge during the hiatus.

“We had a real long break with exams and everything; there have been a lot of distractions but we have kept our focus throughout the whole break,” said Tiger sophomore guard Edwards, referring to the 19-day period between games.

“We stressed staying in shape over the break and getting a lot of shots up. We were working on things that we have been struggling with in the preseason. We have been trying to fix all of those things and keeping a really strong work ethic.”

Hosting Brown last Friday night in its first action since a 70-39 rout of Penn on January 9, the Tigers picked up where they left off as they reeled off a 10-0 run to start the contest.

Displaying her fine shooting touch, Edwards fired in four three-pointers as Princeton built its margin to 36-11 and never looked back in cruising to a 75-44 victory.

In reflecting on the win, Edwards said her teammates were fired up to get back into action.

“We were excited to come back and play a game again,” said Edwards, who ended the evening with 15 points, three rebounds, and three assists. “We finally got our chance tonight.”

One of the most impressive aspects of the performance in the win over Brown was the fact that the Tigers rolled despite leading scorer Niveen Rasheed being held without a point.

“It is a really good sign,” said the 6’0 Edwards, a native of Los Angeles. “We know every single person on this team can come in and contribute. We trust every single person on this team and it really helps.”

In Edwards’ view, the team’s positive chemistry stems from the influence of senior co-captains Tani Brown and Cheryl Stevens.

“I think the team dynamics are really different this year,” said Edwards, who scored 15 points again on Saturday as Princeton rolled past Yale 69-48 to improve to 15-2 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play.

“We have a really young team but our captains are great; they are really supportive of everything we do. We have a strong junior and freshman class too. It is a good balance on our team.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart wasn’t surprised by her team’s strong start on Friday night.

“I felt bad for whoever we were going to play after a 20-day break,” said a grinning Banghart, whose team is atop the Ivy standings with Columbia second at 12-6 overall and 3-1 in Ivy play. “The kids have been ready to play and I thought you saw that tonight.”

In Banghart’s view, the way her kids picked up the slack in the wake of Rasheed’s off night showed that the Tigers could be something very special.

“It’s got to be a good lift for our team to know that our leading scorer and a kid that has given us so much every game didn’t have a great night and her teammates are right there to lift her up,” asserted Banghart, whose squad shot 49.2 percent from the floor (29-for-59) in the Brown game with Addie Micir scoring 18 points and Devona Allgood chipping in 14. “That shows the depth of the program, for sure.”

The Tigers are certainly getting a lift from Edwards, who is now averaging 13.1 points and 4.2 rebounds a game.

“Lauren is great in transition,” maintained Banghart. “I thought she gave us a lot of effort and energy for 94 feet tonight. When she is shooting the ball like that and playing with confidence, she is really hard to guard.”

The all-around excellence of junior guard Micir makes things hard for Princeton’s foes.

“For a kid as talented as Addie is, she doesn’t care about anything except winning,” asserted Banghart of the 6’0 guard who scored a game-high 16 points in the win over Yale and is now averaging 12.9 points a game with a team-best 45 three-pointers on the season.

“She doesn’t care about her points. In the first half, we didn’t need her. In the second half, the offense didn’t come quite as easy and she said ‘OK, I am going to have get a few points right now to get us back on track. It is a testament to what Addie means to our program.”

With the program garnering national attention, getting votes in the AP Top 25 Poll and rising to No. 5 in the ESPN Mid-Major Poll, Banghart is looking for her players to keep on track.

“We have to continue to play with confidence and continue to play our game regardless of what the other team is doing,” said Banghart, whose club has a critical weekend coming up as its hosts perennial Ivy frontrunners Harvard (11-6 overall, 2-1 Ivy) on February 5 and Dartmouth (7-10 overall, 2-1 Ivy) a night later. “It is a fun group to watch.”

Edwards, for her part, is certainly having a lot of fun this season. “We all embrace our roles,” said Edwards.

“This year, we have a lot of scoring threats from different places. It takes a little bit of pressure off of everybody. If someone is having an off night, you can always count on your teammates to work hard.”

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