Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 10
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
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SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT: Princeton University women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart shouts out instructions in a recent game. Banghart’s message has been getting through as Princeton improved 25-2 overall and 13-0 in Ivy League play after sweeping Dartmouth and Harvard last weekend. The wins gave Princeton the Ivy title and extended the team’s winning streak to a program-best 20. The Tigers were slated to end regular season play by hosting Penn on March 9. Next Monday, the Tigers will learn where they are headed in the NCAA women’s hoops tournament as they make their first-ever appearance in the tourney.

PU Women’s Hoops Continues Magical Ride; Rolling to Weekend Sweep and Ivy Crown

Bill Alden

It is a five-hour bus ride from Harvard University to Princeton.

But for the Princeton University women’s basketball team last Saturday night, the long trek back from Cambridge turned into a party on wheels.

Earlier that evening, the Tigers topped Harvard 78-66 to clinch outright the Ivy League title and earn the program’s first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart won’t soon forget the magical evening that saw her team improve to 25-2 overall and 13-0 in Ivy play.

“It was absolutely wonderful, it was beyond my wildest dreams,” said third-year head coach Banghart whose team has won a program-record 20 straight games and posted double-digit wins in every Ivy contest. “The kids played so hard on Saturday night; they were not going to be denied.”

Coming into the weekend, Banghart believed her team was more than ready to play hard.

“We always practice with a deep sense of commitment; we have had 86 practices and I wouldn’t throw any of them back,” said Banghart. “But I did sense a heightened focus all week.”

The Tigers showed good focus Friday night at Dartmouth as they overcame a 26-21 halftime deficit and rolled to a 64-43 triumph. Sophomore Lauren Edwards led Princeton with 16 points with Devona Allgood posting a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“We had to generate turnovers and have quicker possessions,” said Banghart, recalling her halftime message.

“Dartmouth is more than happy to stall. In their first five possessions in the second half, we caused turnovers or had steals. We were all over them.”

A night later, the Tigers were all over the second place Crimson as they broke open a tight game with some manic effort. The contest was knotted at 54-54 in the second half before the Tigers reeled off an 8-0 run to seize momentum. Freshman star Niveen Rasheed scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds with Allgood chipping in 15 points and 13 rebounds and Edwards contributing 17 points, four assists, and four steals.

“There was fire in their eyes,” said Banghart in assessing her players’ mood coming into the contest.

“Harvard is an offensive minded team; they are powerful and can put up a lot of points. We had to make all the hustle plays and we did. We worked hard and crashed the boards. Harvard is a team that goes on runs and we focused on stopping their runs. We stopped all their runs; they would get six but it didn’t turn into 14.”

It was the team’s work ethic that came to Banghart’s mind as she savored the waning seconds of the game and the realization that the Ivy crown belonged to Princeton.

“At seven seconds left, it was ‘we got it,’ there was a sense of joy,” said Banghart, who was a part of four Ivy champions in her days as a player and assistant coach at Dartmouth.

“I thought of the amount of work the staff and kids have put into this. Since the day after last season, we were working toward this. All eight returning players came back better. When I was a player, it was just here’s the next ball game, let’s go. As a coach, you put so much more into it in terms of time and preparation. It is special.”

The coaches and players had prepared something special for the joyous ride back to Princeton.

“We had prepared a highlight video for the players,” recalled Banghart. “The captains had prepared a dance video for the coaches. We had bottles of non-alcoholic sparkling wine and made toasts. It was a five-hour party.”

The Tigers were looking to party one more time at Jadwin Gym when they were slated to host Penn on March 9.

“The biggest thing about the Penn game is that it’s about the players and them having another opportunity to win a game,” said Banghart.

After that, Princeton’s attention will turn to the NCAAs with the women’s tourney selection show taking place on March 15.

“We will give them Wednesday off and then go back to work on Thursday,” said Banghart.

“It’s all fun but we are not going to be happy idiots. This team feels it can win in this tournament.”

Banghart is viewing the NCAA tournament as a platform for the Tigers to make a statement.

“We get to play as an underdog,” added Banghart. “People may have seen our record and know something about that. We are excited to show the world and nation what Princeton basketball is about.”

And based on how Princeton is rolling, its magical ride may have a few more stops.

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