(Photo by Bill Allen/NJSportAction)
Last Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher engineered one of the biggest NFL playoff upsets in years as he guided his club to a stunning 21-18 win over the Indianapolis Colts, moving to within one win from the second Super Bowl appearance of his tenure.
But the square-jawed coach will have to share the athletic limelight in his household as his eldest daughter, Meagan Cowher, put together the best weekend of her career with the Princeton University women's basketball team.
On Friday, the sophomore forward poured in a career-high 32 points to lead Princeton to a 78-62 win at Columbia. A night later, the 6'1 Cowher hit for 27 points as the Tigers outpointed Cornell 94-80 in a high-powered offensive battle.
In assessing Cowher's big weekend on the court, Princeton head coach Richard Barron said his star took advantage of the opportunities that came her way in helping the Tigers to improve to 12-4 overall and 3-0 in Ivy League play.
"I think that teams are going to key on Becky Brown a lot and that was part of it for Meg," said Barron, whose team has now won six games in a row. "Becky got in foul trouble on Friday night and Meg became our main weapon in the post. She took a lot of shots and was certainly impressive. It wasn't the game plan but it's the way the games went."
While Cowher's numbers earned her the Ivy League Player of the Week award for the second time this season, she was just one of the stars as Princeton got off to its first 3-0 Ivy start since the 1998-99 season.
"We have so many weapons that if you stop one, we have others who will step up," asserted Barron. "Ali Prichard had a great weekend. Ariel Rogers had a great game Saturday. Casey Lockwood has been so consistent and Jessica Berry really handled the ball well."
On Friday, the Tigers handled themselves well after falling behind Columbia 24-12 as the Lions went on a shooting tear. "They got off to a fast start, they hit five or six shots that they don't usually make," said Barron, noting that Princeton hadn't won at Columbia since 2000.
"Our defense really picked it up. We tightened things up to better contest the shots they were getting and then we beat them on the boards."
Against Cornell, the Tiger defense wasn't as stifling but the offense more than picked up the slack as it came within four points of breaking the team's single-game scoring record. Princeton shot a sizzling 60.7 percent from the floor with seven players reaching double figures, including Cowher and Brown (13 points) as well as Berry, Lockwood, Prichard, Rogers, and Katy O'Brien, who each scored 10 points.
"It was our transition offense that was so good, particularly on the two big runs we had," said Barron. "We didn't do good things on defense. Part of that was the flow of the game; it was fast-paced. With all the foul calls, we were backing off a bit in the post."
With his club now on a 19-day exam break, Barron is hoping that his team won't back off from its hot play. "I want them to be rejuvenated by the break," said Barron. "The other teams keep playing so we need to stay sharp. We'll have some short, intense practices through exams. It's good for them to get a break from sitting all day."
The fifth-year head coach is depending on his veterans to keep things on track. "It's up to the captains," added Barron, referring to O'Brien, Lockwood, and Ali Smith. "They know what it's like to be a student here and they know that we've come out sluggish after exam breaks in other seasons."
With Princeton currently in first place in the Ivy standings ahead of Dartmouth (1-0 Ivy) and Brown (1-0 Ivy), Barron is confident that his team will not lose its edge.
"They see where we are," said Barron, whose club resumes play with games at Yale on February 3 and Brown on February 4. "They have so much invested in the season. We have a lot of goals to accomplish. We haven't had a winning record in the league or a winning record overall. We want to accomplish those things before we start thinking about a title."
If Cowher and her mates can keep up the hot play, there could some special additions to the trophy case in a certain home in the Pittsburgh area.
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