Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 1
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010
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SUDDEN IMPACT: Princeton University women’s basketball freshman star Niveen Rasheed looks to pass the ball in recent action. Rasheed has been a star from day one for Princeton, averaging a team-high 17.2 points as the Tigers have gotten off to an 11-2 start. This Saturday, Rasheed will make her Ivy League debut as Princeton plays at Penn in the league opener for both teams.

With Freshman Rasheed Off to Blazing Start; PU Women’s Hoops Primed for Ivy Opener

Bill Alden

Precocious freshman Niveen Rasheed has been a revelation for the Princeton University women’s basketball team, starring from the first game of her college career.

The 6’0 native of Danville, Calif. scored 18 points in her debut against Stony Brook on November 13 and came into last Saturday’s game against visiting Fordham leading the Tigers with 17.2 points a game.

In the early going against the Rams, though, Rasheed didn’t look like much of an offensive threat, scoring just two points as Princeton jumped out to a 43-24 halftime lead.

Rasheed was unfazed by her lack of scoring. “I was more of a role player with rebounds and just playing solid defense,” said Rasheed, who contributed four rebounds, four assists, and two steals in the half as Princeton seized the momentum.

Finding her shot in the second half, Rasheed poured in 15 points to spark the Tigers, who built their advantage to 62-30 and then held on for a 75-61 win as they improved to 11-2 on the season.

In Rasheed’s view, her late scoring surge was dictated by the flow of the game. “In the second half, it just so happens that the ball came into the post more,” said Rasheed, who ended the game with 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals.

“They started closing off the shooters more because we were killing them on three-pointers and the guard play. If I have two points and seven rebounds or 18 points, it doesn’t matter as long as we win.”

The cool-headed Rasheed is a bit taken aback by her fast start which has seen her earn the Ivy League Rookie of the Week honor five times already this season.

“I am most definitely surprised; I didn’t know what I was coming into,” said Rasheed, who originally planned to stay on the west coast for college but changed her mind after she and AAU (and now Tiger) teammate Lauren Polansky came for a visit to Princeton.

“I didn’t expect to start; I didn’t expect to be the role player that I am but I take it as it is. As long as I am helping my team, that’s all that matters.

Rasheed believes the Tigers are clicking on all cylinders as a team. “We are just playing really well together,” said Rasheed.

“We are going for the open looks. If it doesn’t come in the post, then the guards find a way to make their shot. It’s really awesome to have a team where four people are averaging double figures. If they stop one, we have another person that scores 18 points a game. All 12 players can play. It’s tough on the opposition, they just can’t stop one person.”

With the Tigers starting Ivy League play with a game at Penn on January 9, Rasheed is hoping to make things tough on the opposition.

“It’s exciting,” added Rasheed, who said she has never set foot in the Palestra, Penn’s storied arena.

“The older girls say all this has been great, the non-conference play, but this is where it all matters. Every game counts; every game, you go out like it’s 0-0.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was excited by her team’s offensive execution in the first half of the Fordham game.

“I think offensively we showed that we can score in a variety of ways,” said Banghart, whose team shot 58.1 percent (18-of-31) from the field in the first half including 5-of-8 from three-point range.

“Inside out, we were moving the ball. We really wanted to push the pace on these guys and create offense from defense on a make and a miss. I thought we did a really good job of that at points in the first half.”

The Tigers have been doing a great job of sharing the wealth all season as Rasheed, Lauren Edwards, Addie Micir, and Devona Allgood are all averaging in double figures.

“This team is really unselfish,” asserted Banghart, who got 20 points from Micir in the win over Fordham with Edwards adding 16 and Krystal Hill chipping in 12 off the bench.

“I think that all teams like to talk about it and it is pretty clichéd to hear it but this team truly is. Some games you have Devona with 24 and other games she might have eight. Addie might have 18 shots in one game and six in the next. It doesn’t really matter to them. We just want to get the best shot that we can; we don’t really care who hits it.”

While there is clearly excitement in the air with Ivy action around the corner, Banghart believes her team doesn’t have to raise its intensity level for league play.

“I haven’t sensed more intensity,” said Banghart, whose club was slated to play at LaSalle on January 5 in its final tune-up before the Penn game.

“I think the identity of this team is that every game is a new game and no game is any more important than any other one. They were as focused for today’s shoot-around as they were for the shoot-around against Houston or the home opener or the road opener. I give a lot of credit to the leadership; I don’t see much in terms of picking and choosing when they are going to play hard.”

Rasheed, for her part, is determined to keep up her hard play. “I don’t like to lose; I go all out in every drill in practice and if I lose I am mad,” said Rasheed with a smile.

“In the game, I know what we can accomplish. I go out every game and play my hardest.”

And it looks like Ivy League foes are going to have a hard time stopping Rasheed and her teammates.

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