Nicole Hung doesn’t try to do anything complicated when she comes off the bench for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.
“I just focus on immediately bringing a spark and energy, whether it be offensively or defensively, whatever we are lacking at the time,” said sophomore guard Hung.
Last Saturday against visiting Yale, Hung achieved that goal, scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds in 22 minutes to help Princeton top the Bulldogs 72-47 and improve to 15-4 overall and 5-0 in Ivy League action.
Coming into the game, Hung had a feeling that she could get to the hoop against Yale.
“Their style of defense is conducive to my style of play, which is driving to the basket,” said the 5’11 Hung, a native of Los Angeles.
“With them climbing all over us and pressuring us, it opened up driving angles and a lot of lanes. It allowed us to push the pace and run which our team likes to do.”
After producing a subpar effort Friday in a 57-45 win over Brown in its first action since a 19-day hiatus for exams, Princeton was looking to pick up the pace collectively in a showdown with second place Yale, who brought a 4-1 Ivy record into the contest.
“We just wanted to show that yesterday was just us having to brush off some rust,” said Hung.
“Today was a very important game because it was essentially for first place. With this win, we gave ourselves some breathing room. We really wanted to execute today.”
The Tigers displayed some sharp execution in the second half, outscoring Yale 37-21 to turn a tight game into a rout.
“I think everyone started being more aggressive and I think we locked up the boards better,” said Hung, reflecting on Princeton’s second half effort.
“I think we doubled them; I think we had 60 something to 30 something (61-30) so I think giving ourselves multiple looks on the offensive end helps us a lot. We really got out and ran more in the second half.”
Hung is showing an increased aggressiveness in her second college campaign. “I really think it is confidence, not necessarily in games but in everything,” said Hung, who is averaging 7.2 points and 17.4 minutes a game this season, up from the 3.1 points and 8.9 minutes she posted as a freshman.
“I have a role and I know what my role is on this team. Last year, everything was new and you don’t know where you fit. With one year under my belt, it is giving me confidence knowing what my role is.”
Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart liked the mentality her players displayed in pulling away from Yale.
“That was a good game; we just blew it open later,” said Banghart. “You always hope that when Niveen [Rasheed] doesn’t play her best how are we going to play when teams are pushing us around. We had 61 rebounds and I thought we defended for 40 minutes, the best I’ve seen this year. Although not everyone played equal minutes, there wasn’t a dropoff in toughness. When they pushed us in the face, we pushed back so that was great.”
Banghart is proud of how Hung has toughened up after one season under her belt.
“This is a good game for her; she came in early today because she didn’t like how she played yesterday and I appreciated that,” said Banghart.
“I think what Nicole is trying to do is to mix up her athleticism and talent with toughness. She was that talented last year, she was that fast last year but she wasn’t as tough. She is investing into it. She is not a sixth man; she is an important part of our team. We don’t really have a sixth man and starters. It is who can help, how, and in what way. She was huge tonight.”
The Tigers could really help themselves in the league race if they could produce a road sweep when they play at Dartmouth (3-16 overall, 1-4 Ivy) on February 10 and at Harvard (11-8 overall, 4-1 Ivy) a night later.
“It is a big weekend; it is on the road and there is a lot of competitive fire in the league,” said Banghart.
“It is a big separation if we can get two more. If we can get Harvard with another loss so that everyone else below us has two losses not even one way through the league, that is pretty important.”
In Hung’s view, the superb performance against Yale was important for the Tigers.
“I am glad it was our performance today on a Saturday as opposed to yesterday because that would have been kind of a dampener on what we are trying to do next weekend,” said Hung.
“I think it is really good because it gives us a lot of momentum, especially going on the road. We have tomorrow off and then Monday we are going to start with Dartmouth.”