Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 2
 
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
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FLYING START: Princeton University women’s basketball freshman star Lauren Edwards flies up the court in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Edwards made an impressive Ivy League debut as she scored a game-high 16 points to help Princeton to a 64-49 win over Penn in the league opener for both teams.

Edwards Comes Up Big in Ivy Debut as PU Women’s Hoops Whips Penn

Bill Alden

Exuding physical grace and a low-key demeanor, Los Angeles native Lauren Edwards personifies the image of the laid back Southern Californian.

But as the Princeton University women’s basketball team got ready to host Penn last Saturday in the Ivy League opener for both teams, Tiger freshman forward Edwards was not feeling mellow.

“I think we all came out more excited about this game than we have before any other game because it was the first game for the Ivies and it was on our home court,” said Edwards. “We came out with a lot of intensity and that was good for us.”

Princeton’s intensity in the early stages of the game manifested itself on the defensive end of the court as the Tigers held the Quakers to three free throws in building an 18-3 lead over the first 8:36 of the contest.

As the game went on, the Tigers’ motion offense kept clicking as Princeton pulled away to a satisfying 64-49 win and improved to 6-9 on the season.

For Edwards, Princeton’s defensive effort set the tone that resulted in the rout.

“We were all working really well together,” said Edwards, reflecting on a night when the Tigers held the Quakers to a measly 32.7 percent from the floor as they hit on just 17-of-52 shots. “We knew who their scorers were and stopping them stopped the entire team.”

On the offensive end, Edwards produced another eye-popping effort, scoring a game-high 16 points with four rebounds and two assists.

The willowy 6’0 Edwards said she is developing a comfort level with Princeton’s offensive scheme.

“I am just trying to work into the team system,” said Edwards, who came into Saturday averaging 9.2 points a game and having already been named the Ivy Rookie of the Week twice.

“I am starting to understand it. Our motion offense is working out really well for us; it helps me set up my teammates and they set me up as well.”

Edwards has been forced to speed up her game in order to keep pace with the college game.

“College ball is a lot faster; no matter what team you are playing,” asserted Edwards. “It is faster paced than high school and the athletes are better as well.”

The bond Edwards has developed with her four classmates on the team has helped aid her adjustment.

“I love our five freshmen,” said Edwards, referring to Devona Allgood, Laura Johnson, Angela Groves, and Beth Binkley.

“We get along really well; we are all really good players. We work well together on and off the court.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart certainly loves the contribution she is getting from her crew of freshmen.

“We have good chemistry on our team, we were razzing the freshmen all day about hey it’s your first Ivy League game,” said a grinning Banghart, who got 12 points and six rebounds from Laura Johnson in 14 minutes off the bench with Allgood chipping in eight points, two rebounds, and two blocked shots.

“So I think they were really excited. The seniors have told them how important it is. They are a talented group, they are tenacious.”

Edwards’ increased tenacity in recent games has impressed Banghart. “We knew what we were getting with Lauren in that we knew she was going to be really talented for us,” said Banghart.

“The thing about Lauren is that she is so Californian, she is really laid back. After we inserted her in the starting lineup, she knew we needed a little bit more from her. The way she competes hard and how she plays on both ends as a rookie is really impressive.”

The Tigers got some impressive work from two senior stalwarts in the win over Penn as tri-captain Julia Berger scored nine points and had five rebounds while point guard Jessica Berry had seven points and just one turnover on the evening in running the Princeton offense.

“You guys are seeing tonight that Julia is a really fun player to watch; she plays as hard as humanly possible on every possession,” asserted Banghart.

“She’s pivotal on the boards and she understands our offense really well. We told Jess that her main job is to set our tempo. We have so many young kids and they don’t understand tempo; they barely understand how to get to the gym on time. She has to run the tempo and that’s what she has done; she allows them to make plays.”

It was important for Princeton to play well against Penn as the game marked the Tigers’ final game before going on exam break.

“We needed it; you have to protect your home floor if you hope to do anything in this league,” said Banghart, whose team continues Ivy play when it hosts Dartmouth on January 30 and Harvard on January 31.

”For the next two weeks these kids are going to be tied into their academic work and to know that we are on a mission is going to help them.”

In Edwards’ view, the performance against Penn showed that Princeton has the weapons to accomplish that mission.

“I think we did,” said Edwards, when asked if the Tigers made a statement to the league with its convincing win over Penn.

“I didn’t know the team last year but everyone keeps saying we are a different team this year. I hope this game showed it.”

And with Edwards becoming less laid back, it looks like the Tigers could make a difference in the Ivy title race.

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