January 17, 2018

With Point Guard Littlefield Making a Difference, Princeton Women’s Hoops Sitting Atop Ivy League

FIELD GENERAL: Princeton University women’s basketball player Carlie Littlefield heads upcourt in recent action. Last Saturday, freshman point guard Littlefield contributed eight points and four assists as Princeton pulled away to a 75-54 win over Cornell. The Tigers, now 13-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy League, are currently on exam break and return to action when they play at Yale on February 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Carlie Littlefield had a quiet first half for the Princeton University women’s basketball team as it hosted Cornell last Saturday.

Princeton freshman point guard Littlefield was held scoreless and had just one assist in nine minutes of action as Princeton clung to a 36-34 lead at halftime.

“We were kind of probing on the first half so that is what I was doing too,” said Littlefield, a 5’ 9 native of Waukee, Iowa.

“I was trying to get others involved rather than being aggressive for myself. At halftime, I told myself that the team needs me to be more aggressive.”

Littlefield made some noise in the third quarter, scoring eight points on four-of-four shooting as the Tigers outscored the Big Red 25-5 in the frame on the way to a 75-54 victory and improving to 13-3 overall and 3-0 Ivy League.

“It is mostly just a feel thing that I have kind of developed; it is really important to the position of point guard,” said Littlefield, who is averaging 9.5 points, 3.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds a game so far in her debut campaign.

“I am definitely more of a pass-first player but there are times, like in the second half, where we needed me to be a scorer first.”

Littlefield acknowledges that she is still developing a feel for the college game.

“The biggest challenges have probably been just the speed of the game and putting other people in positions where they are best and calling the right plays in order to do so,” said Littlefield, who ended up with eight points, four assists, and two rebounds in the win over the Big Red. “I have learned a lot about putting people in the right positions, which is also really important as a point guard.”

Putting the ball in the hands of sophomore superstar Bella Alarie has been one of the key lessons that Littlefield has absorbed.

“Bella is a matchup nightmare, so any time I can get her the ball I try to because she is just a really special player,” said Littlefield. “I can throw it way above the basket and she will get it, so that makes my job easy too.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart believes Littlefield is a special player as well.

“Carlie is really good on her own and she is incredibly coachable,” said Banghart.

“She can read the game on her own and then she can adjust if we see something that can help. It is like Bella, they are both really gifted and they have to understand that with certain lineups we need them to score, and with certain lineups they can facilitate.”

In Banghart’s view, Littlefield is developing that deeper understanding as the season goes on.

“She is coming into a really good team and she is your starting point guard and she is your second-leading minute getter,” added Banghart.

“She is so much wanting everybody else to thrive. As she continues to get better, she is going to become really aggressive and still get others involved.”

With the Tigers heading into exam break, posting a weekend sweep with a 69-47 win over Columbia on Friday to go with the victory over Cornell, Banghart believes her team is in a really good place.

“We don’t play again for a while so it was kind of a three-game series,” said Banghart, whose squad returns to action when it plays at Yale on February 2.

“It was Penn and then it was a home weekend and so far that is three. I really enjoy coaching this team, our senior class has exceeded my expectations in terms of their leadership. Our freshman class is giving us the talent burst that we needed. They have an incredible chemistry off the court, but more importantly on the court.”

The blend of talent and chemistry has Banghart confident that the Tigers could do some great things in February and March.

“This group feels like they could be really good and they want to be good enough when they need to be,” said Banghart.

“I feel like I am coaching on the first day of practice every day. They are not fighting for their life, they are fighting to be really special. They come in wide-eyed every day, like we have got to get better. I give that to my leadership and how Carlie approaches things every day; there is a reason she is so good.”

Littlefield, for her part, is enjoying being a part of the Princeton group.

“I am getting very comfortable, especially with this team. It is so fun to play with,” said Littlefield. “Everybody brings a special piece. I just feel lucky, they make me look good.”