Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 45
 
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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TALK OF THE LEAGUE: Princeton University women’s basketball head coach Courtney Banghart fields questions last week at the program’s annual media day. Last winter, the Tigers were the talk of the Ivy League, producing the best season in program history as the team went 26-3, including a 14-0 mark in Ivy play and its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament. Princeton will tip off its 2010-11 season on November 13 when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson and holds its “Raising the Banner Night.”

Coming Off Record-Breaking 26-3 Campaign, Tiger Women’s Hoops Embracing Bull’s Eye

Bill Alden

Courtney Banghart laughs when she recalls that her Princeton University women’s basketball team was picked seventh in the Ivy League media preseason poll prior to her debut season as head coach in 2007-08.

“We were picked seventh and finished seventh,” said Banghart at the program’s recent media day. “They haven’t gotten it right since then. In my second year, we were picked seventh and finished third. Last year, we were picked third and finished first.”

In ascending to the top of the league last year, Princeton produced the best season in program history as the team went 26-3, including a 14-0 mark in Ivy play and its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament.

With the 2010-11 season tipping off this weekend as the Tigers host Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU) on November 13, Banghart is hoping that the preseason poll is finally right again as her team is a nearly unanimous pick to win a second straight title.

The feisty Banghart embraces the favorite’s role. “We’ve earned the bull’s eye; we have been fighting for three years to earn the bull’s eye,” said Banghart, a former Dartmouth star and assistant coach who brings a 47-40 record into her fourth year guiding the Tigers.

“Now that we have it, we have to just continue to do what we did to get there which is to look ahead and look to each other. If you do that, you don’t need to see each other’s backs so you don’t know how big the bull’s eye is.”

And while last year’s record-breaking campaign was full of highlights, ending the season with a disappointing 65-47 loss to St. John’s in the NCAA tournament has fueled the team’s motivation coming into this year.

“I think it was the best thing that could have happened to a team that won 26 of 28 games,” said Banghart.

“The excitement of that brings a lot of confidence but defeat is the last feeling they had. That bitter defeat is the catalyst to bring everybody back in such good shape. Physically, they are stronger across the board; their skill has improved.”

The Tigers will need to show their strength early as they open with FDU on their “Raising the Banner Night” and then play at perennial national power Rutgers on November 18.

“FDU at home is going to be an emotional night with the banner raising and then you go to Rutgers,” said Banghart, noting that five of her team’s first six games are on the road with the Tigers playing at defending Patriot League champion Lehigh on November 21 before competing in the Vanderbilt Tournament on November 26 and 28.

“That’s going to be a very physical game; it is at their place and they will have come off Cal and UCLA on the road. They will be ready to go.”

Banghart believes that sophomore star Niveen Rasheed is ready to be even better than last year when she scored 15.6 points a game with 8.8 rebounds on the way to being named Ivy Rookie of the Year and earning first-team All-Ivy recognition.

“Niveen found her left hand which is very exciting,” said Banghart. “With her athleticism and ability to elevate over people, she was able to hide that she didn’t have a left hand. She has also increased her range. I think she was kind of hesitant to shoot it from the perimeter the first year because she is so selfless. She is hard not to like because of the way she competes. If you say Niveen, ‘your left hand is no good,’ guess what, it will be good in no time. If you say ‘you don’t shoot well from the perimeter,’ that’s what she will do until she gets better at it.”

Junior guard Lauren Edwards figures to be a force from the perimeter for the Tigers.

“Her being the only guard named first team All Ivy shows you what the league thinks of her,” said Banghart of Edwards, who scored 13.2 points a game last winter.

“What is uncomfortable for Lauren is that she is such a team player, she doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. But that is what you have to do sometimes to be great. We are still working with her on realizing you are a next level player and if you play like that, we are a really special team. Part of that is maturity and part is recognizing that you are helping the team, not hurting it, by striving to be
better.”

Towering 6’3 junior center
Devona Allgood should hurt Princeton’s foes this winter in the paint.

“Devona has worked hard on being more physical; she is a finesse post in a big body,” said Banghart of Allgood, who averaged 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a contest last winter.

“She really put in a lot of time in being comfortable scoring right and left and to be a force down there. That’s the big thing with Devona, she has to demand, not ask, for the ball down low.”

The Tigers will be demanding more of sophomore point guard Lauren Polansky.

“It is important that she can run our team; she did a great job of that last year at both ends of the floor,” added Banghart.

“I think she has put a lot of time into her perimeter shot so she is more confident in that but if she can run the team like she did last year, we’ll take it. In your sophomore year, you now have more responsibilities and expectations. What that does to her, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Banghart believes that senior guards and co-captains Addie Micir (12.3 points a game in 2009-10) and Krystal Hill (4.9 points) will be up to the responsibility of leading the team as they follow in the footsteps of last year’s captains Cheryl Stevens and Tani Brown.

“We have found that you don’t replace them, you find new ones,” said Banghart, referring to Stevens and Brown.

“Addie has shown leadership on the floor; she has led us in minutes every year she has been here. That kid is really valuable to our team. Part of what she is teaching the young kids is the urgency that seniors have. Krystal’s work ethic has been great, there is not a kid who has worked harder in her four years.”

In Banghart’s view, the team will need to show a collective work ethic if it is to repeat as Ivy champs and have some success in the NCAA tourney.

“Every game we went into last year, it was you’ve got to find a way to win; you’ve got to grit it out,” said Banghart.

“I think that is how we are going to approach this year. This group is willing to do the same thing and grit it out one at a time. We don’t time to waste, our goals are so high. I like the fight of this team; we just have to get better. What matters is that by January, we know who we are, we know our rotations, and we know what we are good at.”

If the Tigers can figure those things out, they could be around for a while come March.

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