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Vol. LXIV, No. 12
 
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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OFF TARGET: Princeton University sophomore forward Lauren Edwards puts up a shot in a game earlier this winter. Last Saturday, Princeton suffered its worst shooting game of the season, going 17-for-60 from the field for a 28.3 percent mark, in falling 65-47 to St. John’s in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Edwards contributed eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds as the Tigers finished the season with a sparkling 26-3 mark.

PU Women’s Hoops Shows Toughness in NCAAs; But Poor Shooting Results in Loss to St. John’s

Bill Alden

Courtney Banghart had a good feeling about her Princeton University women’s basketball team after its last practice before facing St. John’s in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

“On Friday, we had an hour on the main court and then went to the community college for the closed practice,” said Princeton head coach Banghart, whose 11th-seeded Tigers were taking on the No. 6 Red Storm in Tallahassee, Fla. “They were very focused; they executed really well. I had a lot of confidence going into Saturday.”

The Tigers showed some good execution in the clash against St. Johns as they stuck with the game plan crafted by Banghart and her staff.

“We knew that we had to be able to rebound and we did,” said Banghart. “We knew that we had to take care of the ball and we did. We knew we couldn’t let them get going in transition and we stopped that. We knew we couldn’t settle for the outside shot and we didn’t.”

But suffering its worst shooting game of the season, going 17-for-60 from the field for a miserable 28.3 percent clip, the Tigers dug an early 30-16 hole and could never get out of it in falling 65-47 to St. John’s.

While Banghart was disappointed by the outcome, the result didn’t outweigh what Princeton accomplished in making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA and setting a program and league mark for single season wins with a 26-3 record.

“I am proud of the seniors and how far this team has come,” said Banghart, whose team went 14-0 in Ivy play and brought a 21-game winning streak into the tourney.

“If you had told me in September that we wouldn’t have our third loss until March, I would have signed on for that.”

The Tigers never lost their fight as they battled St. John’s to the end. “We got to exert our toughness right away and we did,” asserted Banghart, who got 11 points and eight rebounds from freshman star Niveen Rasheed in the loss with sophomore Lauren Edwards chipping in 8 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

“We didn’t want to settle for 3-pointers and they kept taking it to the basket. I am proud of that. I am sad for them, they are a better team than that. But give credit to St. John’s, all that matters is the scoreboard and they beat us.”

In Banghart’s view, her core returners have the toughness to get back to the Big Dance.

“I talked to the young kids in the locker room afterward and told them all you can do is fight like hell to get back here,” recalled Banghart, whose club fought hard on the boards as St John’s held a slight 42-41 edge in rebounds.

“I told them to remember this feeling; I hope it catapults their workouts. We need to get better in the spring, summer, and fall.”

Banghart won’t soon forget the many great memories arising from her team’s magical ride this winter.

“I will remember the consistency of this team, coming through the back-to-back 14-game Ivy grind and a 28-game season,” said Banghart.

“The seniors (Tani Brown and Cheryl Stevens) gave us energy; they were our heart and soul. I will think about working so hard and how the outside world was proud of what we did.”

The third-year head coach is proud of what she accomplished personally. “Coaching in the NCAA tournament is something that so few people get to do, no one will be able to take that away from me,” said Banghart.

“No matter whether you are 31 or 91, it means so much. I am only one part of this and I want to do my part well.”

With such returning All-Ivy performers as Rasheed, Edwards, Devona Allgood, and Addie Micir, Banghart is confident her team will benefit from the experience of last weekend if it does make a return trip the NCAA tourney.

“The second year makes a big difference,” said Banghart, who competed in two NCAA tournaments during her playing career at Dartmouth and appeared in two others as an assistant coach at her alma mater.

“At Dartmouth, we lost by 18 in my first tournament as a player and then we lost by three the next year. As a coach, we lost by 45 and then lost by three the next time. You have to feel it’s an important 40 minutes of a lifetime and you can’t play only 30 of them.”

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