Point Guard Littlefield Taking On Scoring Load As Shorthanded PU Women’s Hoops Starts 1-3
By Bill Alden
Carlie Littlefield sees herself as a pass-first point guard for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.
Last winter in her freshman campaign, Littlefield had 84 assists, second on the team to senior star Leslie Robinson, and averaged 8.3 points a game.
But with Robinson having graduated and rising sophomore shooting guard Abby Meyers away from school this year and junior star and reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Bella Alarie out with a broken arm, Littlefield is shouldering more of the scoring load this winter.
“It is a lot different this year; I am more naturally a facilitator and coach [Courtney] Banghart has talked to me and she wants me to take 15 shots a game,” said Littlefield, a 5’9 native of Waukee, Iowa. “So that is stretching myself; she keeps challenging me and I keep trying to answer that challenge.”
Last Wednesday, Littlefield scored a career-high 22 points as Princeton rallied from a 50-32 deficit to take a 66-59 lead with 2:15 remaining in regulation before the Pirates fought back to pull out a 70-66 win.
“I don’t know how to pace myself; I just try and give it my all every time,” said Littlefield, who chipped in three steals, four assists, and five rebounds in 38 minutes of action.
“I try to help these young guys along by huddling with the girls. We didn’t do that as much last game and that was on me so that was one of my focuses tonight, to bring everybody together with the experienced guys so we could make that comeback.”
In Littlefield’s view, the Princeton comeback was the product of increased defensive intensity.
“We just stick together; we just kept telling ourselves all we needed to do was get stops and the offense would take care of itself,” said Littlefield. “We really locked into the scout in the second half; we got deflections. We kept our energy high and I think that is what powered our comeback.”
Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart liked the energy she saw from her players in the rally.
“Defensively, we just had to get to be way more active with our hands,” said Banghart.
“We got a lot more deflections in the second half. We got stops, which led to more offense. We outscored them in the whole second half (36-26). Obviously we were a bit undermanned; these guys show great fight. They could have thrown the towel in when we were down 18.”
Banghart acknowledged that inexperience played a key role in the Tigers squandering their late lead.
“The last two minutes, the game was in our hands but we had a lot of youthful mistakes,” said Banghart.
“We had two offensive boards and went for the shots instead of pulling it out. The ball doesn’t go into Carlie on a press break. We had two fouls to give; they were instructed to foul and they had a tough time doing that.”
Littlefield is doing well with the offense in her hands, averaging 14.3 points and 3.5 assists a game.
“She is having to shoulder a lot and it is going to make her better in the long run,” said Banghart of Littlefield who got 11 points as Princeton lost 79-71 to Penn State in overtime last Sunday to drop to 1-3.
“It is hard; she is our floor leader and we are asking her to stretch herself. A lot of people are playing out of position right now so I give Carlie a lot of credit because a lot of what we are are having to do right now is to work through that. She is being patient, aggressive, and cooperative.”
The Tigers got some aggressive play from seniors Gabrielle Rush and Sydney Jordan in the loss to Seton Hall as Rush scored 18 points and Jordan contributed 13 points and five rebounds.
“They are playing like seniors, they are also a little bit out of position,” said Banghart
“They are most comfortable as key pieces, not carrying the load. They are playing like seniors that are not going to come in here and let anybody run all over them.”
While Banghart isn’t comfortable with losses, she believes the Tigers made progress notwithstanding the result.
“We felt we took a major step back on Sunday at George Washington (a 64-49 loss on November 11), we just didn’t do what we do,” said Banghart.
“I asked for a very quick turnaround, we didn’t give then a day off. So they were fatigued and they had a great turnaround. It is not the wins and losses this early in the year; it is about how much better are you getting and we got a lot better today.”
Littlefield, for her part, is confident that Princeton will keep getting better and better.
“It is just more of a learning experience with all of the young players and we are undermanned,” said Littlefield. “It is just getting more comfortable with those late game situations and learning along the way.”