Blake Dietrick misfired when the Princeton University women’s basketball team lost to Harvard last month.
The junior guard hit just 3-of-15 shots as the Tigers fell 78-68 to the Crimson, suffering their only Ivy League loss of the season and just their third league loss since the end of the 2008-09 season.
After the setback, Dietrick made a promise to herself. “I was extremely frustrated after the Harvard game with my own performance and the team’s performance,” said the 5’10 Dietrick, a native of Wellesley, Mass.
“That kind of flipped the switch for me; I am not going to let this team down. I am going to push everybody in practice. I think we have brought a fire and intensity we didn’t have that day.”
Last weekend, Dietrick displayed her fire and intensity, scoring a career-high 27 points in an 81-70 win over visiting Brown on Friday and then bettering that with 28 points a night later as Princeton routed Yale 96-75, improving to 15-6 overall and 6-1 Ivy.
While everybody in Jadwin Gym could see that Dietrick was lighting up the scoreboard, the stat line wasn’t her focus.
“I don’t think about it that way, I am just trying to get better every day,” said Dietrick, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for her big weekend.
“I don’t like to know how many points I have during a game. I don’t want to think about it. There were a lot of things that I did wrong in those two games and a lot of things I can still improve so I am focused more on that than the good stuff.”
When Dietrick gets the hot hand, she sees it as an opportunity to set up her teammates.
“I am a point guard and I like to pass the ball as well,” said Dietrick, who had 25 points in the first half against Yale and is now averaging 16.0 points a game, third-best in the league.
“So if I have a lot of points in the first half, obviously they are going to be concerned about me which is going to create opportunities for my teammates so that was what I was looking for in the second half. I was trying to get other people involved and keep playing our game. I wasn’t trying to take over or anything like that.”
Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was more impressed with Dietrick’s overall floor game than her gaudy scoring stats.
“I looked at the stats after the game last night and I was like wow she had 25 points and then at halftime today I was like oh my god she has 25,” said Banghart.
“I think that says a lot about Blake, I don’t even notice when she is scoring. I notice how she is managing our game, how she is really taking leadership on the court and being the lead guard we need her to be. Scoring is great and she is great at it but it doesn’t paint the whole picture for her. She has emerged into our floor leader. We need her to score so I can’t have her thinking she is just a point guard because then she starts to distribute. She is a scoring lead guard.”
Banghart has seen her team emerge from the Harvard loss with a new identity.
“The Harvard game was such that we were totally out of rhythm and I think they doubted themselves during the game and that is just not us,” said Banghart.
“The team is becoming theirs, they know they can be beaten and it is don’t be afraid of it, whatever. It is us doing our thing.”
With Princeton playing at Dartmouth (3-19 overall, 0-8 Ivy) on February 21 and at Harvard (17-5 overall, 7-1 Ivy) a day later, Banghart has little doubt that the Tigers are primed for a big weekend.
“Michelle Miller and Alex Wheatley, the sophomores who were like deer in the headlights, are starting to take on some ownership of the game plan and ownership of the personnel,” said Banghart.
“Our seniors (Kristen Helmstetter and Nicole Hung) have buoyed the ship, they have asked their younger teammates to step up. It is February now, you are not young any more.”
Dietrick, for her part, is ready to step up in the rematch with Harvard. “Being mad about that Harvard loss just makes me want to fight harder everyday,” said Dietrick.
“We are back in the swing of it. Every day at practice, we look better and better so I think we are ready to go. I think from here on out, we are going to be really tough to beat.”