Tiger Women’s Hoops Starts Berube Era 2-0 As Junior Point Guard Littlefield Doing it All
ON POINT: Princeton University women’s basketball player Carlie Littlefield looks to pass the ball last week as Princeton hosted Rider in its season opener. Junior point guard Littlefield scored 10 points and had a career-high seven assists in the November 5 contest to help the Tigers prevail 80-47. Last Sunday in a 75-50 win at George Washington, Littlefield nearly recorded a triple-double, scoring 22 points with 10 steals and eight rebounds. Littlefield was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week. In upcoming action, Princeton, now 2-0, plays at Seton Hall on November 15 before hosting Florida Gulf Coast on November 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As the Princeton University women’s basketball team took the court for its season opener last week against Rider at Jadwin Gyn, it was more than just the start of another season.
With Carla Berube taking the helm of squad after Courtney Banghart having headed south to guide the University of North Carolina, the November 5 contest marked a new chapter in the history of the Princeton program.
Tiger junior guard Carlie Littlefield and her teammates were ready to turn the page as they faced the Broncs.
“We were all just super excited for this new era and this new season to kick off,” said Littlefield.
“It was just getting a chance to all be wearing the same colors; not going against each other in practice and getting a chance to play together. We were all super amped up about it, so it was just settling in and doing what we do.”
It took a while for the Tigers to settle in as they trailed 8-6 in the early going and were clinging to a 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter. But breaking the game open by outscoring Rider 27-11 in the third quarter, Princeton pulled away to an 80-47 win before a crowd of 650.
“Coach always says to use our defense to fuel our offense and we really did that, especially in the third quarter,” said Littlefield.
“We kind of stomped on them, that is when we made our big run because of our defense.”
Littlefield is on the same page with Berube, who has emphasized tough play at the defensive end.
“I wanted to get after it on defense because personally I know I don’t like pressure,” said Littlefield.
“I know how annoying it can be so I think I just try to be as annoying as possible and try to get into their heads so they can’t do what they want to do.”
On the offensive end, Littlefield did a lot, scoring 10 points with a career-high seven assists.
“I was focused on trying to get us settled down and get everybody involved,” said Littlefield, a 5’9 native of Waukee, Iowa. “We kind of had a slow offensive start, so then I was trying to move the ball around. Neenah [Young] did get hot, and it was finding her for threes. I was just trying to get everybody confident in this first game and get everyone involved.”
Berube, for her part, was excited for her first game at Jadwin. “I really enjoyed it; I thought the energy in Jadwin was great,” said Berube.
“It was a great first game and a great way to kick off the season. That is a very experienced Rider team. It was back and forth and they were making some big shots and making plays. I just think we needed to settle in. We were really excited for the first game and just wanted to play the way we are capable of playing and play smart basketball.”
Berube liked the energy the Tigers displayed on defense. “I thought they did a really good job, knowing the scout and their personnel and know what they are good at and trying to take those things away,” said Berube.
“I was really pleased with the rebounding effort. Rider is a very good offensive rebounding team; they have some real athletes who get on the board. They got one offensive rebound the whole game so I thought that was key, limiting them to one shot. They got to the rim a few times so we are definitely going to watch some film. But the overall effort and the rotations and the communication and the things that we have been working on and harping on were there. I thought we really did a good job.”
The Tigers also showed depth as 11 players scored in the win with senior star Bella Alarie tallying 22 points and sophomore Julia Cunningham contributing 14 and sophomore Neenah Young chipping in 11 off the bench in 18 minutes.
“It was a total team effort, we saw that we go pretty deep,” said Berube,
“I am really confident in everybody that gets in there. I thought we got some really great contributions off the bench. It sparked us in a lot of ways throughout the whole game.”
Young definitely gave the Tigers a spark as she hit on 3-of-5 three-pointers and grabbed five rebounds.
“Neenah can really shoot the ball and did some great things defensively and overall,” added Berube. “She runs the floor really rally hard. She is a really good athlete.”
Berube credited Littlefield with making big contributions at both ends of the court.
“She had seven assists and no turnovers; that is what you want out of your point guard,” said Berube of Littlefield, who scored 22 points with 10 steals and eight rebounds in a 75-50 win at George Washington last Sunday and was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week.
“The way she just settled us down. In the second quarter, we had some trouble scoring and she was making some pull up jumpers and finding her teammates. I think the way she makes the most contribution is defensively. She is that first line of defense, picking up that point guard, wreaking havoc and being annoying.
While Alarie didn’t wreak havoc offensively, she came on strong in the second half, scoring 15 of her 22 points on the evening in the last two quarters.
“She had a quiet first half; it was something coming out of halftime, we wanted to get her the ball,” said Berube.
“She worked at it and her teammates found her really well. She made some big shots, she went to the free throw line and hit her free throws. It was a little quiet but we know how important she is to our success.”
With Princeton playing at Seton Hall on November 15 before hosting Florida Gulf Coast on November 17, Berube knows her team has plenty of work to do.
“I think the execution of our offense needs to be better; we missed some easy knock-down threes as well,” said Berube.
“It is just us working on execution and getting in the gym and getting shots up and feeling good about our shots. The goal is to just keep getting better every single day. So we just said let’s get back to work on Thursday and we will work on ourselves.”
Littlefield, for her part, will be looking to sharpen her execution in feeding Alarie.
“Any time we can play a two-man game, good things happen,” said Littlefield of her on-court connection with Alarie. “She is a great player so I love any chance I can to get the ball to her.”