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Vol. LXV, No. 46
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BOUNCING BACK: Princeton University women’s basketball star Niveen Rasheed dribbles up the court last Friday in Princeton’s 79-62 win over Saint Joseph’s in the season opener for both teams. Seeing her first action since suffering a knee injury last December, junior guard Rasheed scored 17 points with six rebounds and three assists. Last Monday, Rasheed scored 22 points and had seven rebounds as the Tigers routed Lafayette 87-47. Princeton, now 2-0, hosts Villanova on November 19 and Marist on November 21.

Rasheed Makes Happy Return From Knee Injury; Leading PU Women’s Hoops to Victory in Opener

Bill Alden

There is a large scar on her right knee but there was an even bigger grin on Niveen Rasheed’s face last Friday night.

After being sidelined since last December due to a torn ACL, Rasheed was back on the court for the Princeton University women’s basketball team as it hosted Saint Joseph’s in the season opener for both teams.

“There were a lot of emotions going through my mind when I put my jersey on,” said the 6’0 junior guard, a native of Danville, Calif., who averaged a team-high 16.4 points a game last season before her injury.

“It was the first time in 11 months that I had done that. Once the game started, that went away.”

Rasheed acknowledged that she was a little rusty in the early going against the Hawks.

“It took me awhile, I didn’t want to spaz out,” said Rasheed, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2009-10.

“I was trying to do too much in the first three minutes. I was trying to get into the swing of things and once that happened I felt more comfortable.”

Displaying her intensity and skill, Rasheed found a rhythm, scoring 17 points with six rebounds and three assists as Princeton pulled away to a 79-62 victory before 816 at Jadwin Gym.

For Rasheed, taking several tumbles and coming away unscathed was as important as filling up the stat sheet.

“When I fall and get up, that is reassurance,” said Rasheed. “If I couldn’t dive for the ball, then I am not able to play basketball. I wanted to be able to do everything and if I couldn’t, I wasn’t going to play. I felt like I did everything 100 percent.”

After suffering a tough defeat at the hands of the Hawks last season, Rasheed and her teammates were happy to break through with Princeton’s first win in the series between the schools.

“It was a great win after losing to them last year in overtime,” said Rasheed.

“It was a great feeling for us to all play together and feel like we really grew from last year.”

Several Tigers showed growth Friday with Kate Miller setting a career-high with team-high 18 points and Meg Bowen contributing 12 points and three rebounds in 16 minutes of play off the bench.

“It shows how deep we are,” said Rasheed. “Kate Miller played really well; I think she deserved player of the game honestly. She was amazing. Meg [Bowen] coming off the bench and Nicole [Hung]; it shows how our rhythm doesn’t fall back, it just keeps going with everyone else.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart liked the way her team got going as it opened the 2011-12 campaign.

“That was a good team we just beat,” said Banghart. “They brought all five starters back. They added Ashley Robinson, she was one of the best players in the regions before she was out for a year with an injury. It was a good win, forcing 28 turnovers.”

It was good for Banghart and her players to see Rasheed return to action.

“To see her back on the floor, I know everyone is happy,” said Banghart, whose team topped Lafayette 87-47 last Monday with Rasheed scoring a game-high 22 points and chipping in seven rebounds. “She battles; she is back. She took three charges.”

While there were some gasps as Rasheed hit the deck on several plays, Banghart wants her star to go full throttle.

“We have gone into it, thinking we can’t worry about it,” added Banghart. “What is meant to be is going to happen.”

Banghart sees some good things happening with such members of the team’s supporting cast as Bowen and Miller.

“I told Megan before the season started that she is not a backup center any more; she is an amazing contributor and she showed that tonight,” said Banghart.

“And then there is Kate Miller, is there a more rugged player than Kate Miller? She played most of the second half with four fouls and had 18 points in 24 minutes. We see that everyday in practice.”

Banghart believes that Princeton’s fans are going to see an up-tempo style from her squad this winter.

“I think what this shows is that we don’t care what their pace is, we are going to play ours,” said Banghart, whose squad hosts Villanova on November 19 and Marist on November 21.

“We were able to do that tonight against a team with a lot of experience. This was not a scheduled win by any means, this was an earned win and I am really happy for the kids.”

In Rasheed’s view, opening with a win helps a team earn respect. “If you start off with a loss, that sets the tone for the rest of the season so you really want to start off with a win,” said Rasheed.

“The first game of the season shows who you are and how hard you worked in the offseason and what you have done for a whole year in preparation.”

And Rasheed certainly showed that she worked plenty hard to be at full speed as she came back from her knee injury.

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