Reserve forward Taylor Williams looks to shake things up when she enters the game for the Princeton University women’s basketball team.
“I am a fighter, I am scrappy,” said Williams, a 6’3 junior from Warren, Ohio. “So when I come in, a lot of my role, even in practice, is to bring energy, to fight, to get everyone motivated, and keep everyone going.”
Last Saturday against visiting Cornell, Williams provided energy and a lot more in 21 minutes of action off the bench as the Tigers cruised to a 75-47 win over the Big Red before a Jadwin Gym crowd of 1,399. Producing a dominant effort in the paint, Williams contributed 10 points, four rebounds, four blocked shots, and two assists, helping Princeton improve to 21-0 overall and 5-0 Ivy League.
“I think as a team, we were revved up,” said Williams. “We knew this was a big game. It was kind of like the butterflies in the stomach, the energy thing. It was a lot of fun to come out and play.”
Williams had fun on defense against the Big Red, picking up a steal to go with her blocked shots and helping to hold Cornell stars Mia Marshall and Nicholle Aston to 14 and 12 points, respectively, as they both shot 6-of-16.
“I don’t try to block shots but something I personally strive for is defense,” said Williams.
“Defense to me is fun so when I can stop girls from having successful games, especially when it is Nia Marshall or Nicholle Aston, who have both been having very successful seasons. For me, it is a personal challenge as well as a team challenge.”
Although Princeton misfired early, scoring only two points in the first four minutes of the contest, Williams and her teammates kept pressing on.
“Sometimes you start off hot and sometimes you don’t,” said Williams. “You just have to come out and play. Some games you win ugly, some you win pretty. You just have to fight through as a team through each one of them.”
Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart thought her team was ready to fight as it faced a Cornell team that came into the evening at 13-6 overall and 4-1 Ivy.
“This is what we live for, the opportunity to play against another really good team, who has shown in the course of the season that they play well together,” said Banghart.
“We knew it was going to be a battle, they are feisty, they have a good inside game, and playmaking guards. It was obviously a fun game and a great crowd tonight.”
Banghart had fun watching Williams displaying her inside game. “Taylor might have been a scratch this weekend, she has had some soreness,” said Banghart.
“She looked me in the eye on Friday and said please let me play coach and we did. She gave us a lot all weekend. We have this mentality on our team that it is next man up. To be as good as we need to be, we need a little bit from everybody. We are getting that.”
Princeton also showed its tough defensive mentality, stifling the Big Red from the opening tip.
“I said this is what we have been waiting for, a good team to come into Jadwin and really defend them well,” said Banghart, whose team held Cornell to 34.9 percent shooting (22-of-63) on the evening.
“This team has been solid defensively all year long and we saw that tonight when offense wasn’t as easy early on as it usually is. Over the course of a 40-minute game we always find our legs. I thought it was a defensive battle with a really talented offensive team. It was a great win.”
With the wins piling up for Princeton, now the only undefeated team in Division I women’s hoops, Banghart is confident her players won’t lose the focus that has gotten them to this point.
“If you had told me a while back that we would be undefeated, I would not have believed you first of all and second of all, I would have assumed that it would been distracting,” said Banghart, whose squad plays at Brown on February 13 and at Yale on February 14.
“This group is so purpose-driven. We focus Monday on ourselves and I just talked to them in the locker room after the game and said these are the areas we focused on and you got better in those areas. I really don’t think it is a team that is focused on the record. They are focused on the Ivy League right now and getting an NCAA tournament bid, which is really a coach’s dream. This could be a distraction and it is really not.”
Williams, for her part, believes that the hoopla surrounding the undefeated record won’t distract the team from its goals.
“It is not extra pressure, after every game, we write what our record is,” said Williams. “That is a motivational thing but now we no longer write 21-0, we write 5-0. We still have to face them a second time. It is one step towards our goal but we know how much more we have to accomplish.”