Megan Bowen admits to being a project when she joined the Princeton University women’s basketball team in 2009.
“I came in freshman year and I wasn’t ready for the collegiate level,” said the 6’3 Bowen, a native of Bath, Pa.
“It was a learning process for me. I defend Devona Allgood in practice everyday; that’s naturally going to make you a better player. You can only take Devona’s hook shot in your face so many times until you learn to defend it.”
Bowen rarely left the bench that winter, playing 88 minutes in 20 appearances and scoring 33 points. As a sophomore, Bowen proved she could succeed at the college level, getting into 25 games and tallying 136 points.
“I take pride that I have gotten better to help Devona everyday,” said Bowen. reflecting on her progress. “We need people who are going to challenge our starters. I take pride in coming off the bench and having that energy.”
Last Friday in a 53-44 win over visiting Davidson, Bowen provided a spark in 13 minutes off the bench, scoring six points with two rebounds and an assist.
“I am in my junior year so I know what coach wants; she wants you to bring in energy,” said Bowen.
“I think everyone was trying; it was a great team effort. We pulled out the win so that is what is important. We have to just keep growing from it.”
Bowen and her teammates have put in extra effort to help their growth. “I think it is putting the extra time in with coach [Melanie] Moore,” said Bowen, who is averaging 8.5 points a game.
“You do a lot in practice but coach only really has 2½ hours. Getting the extra time is great, I think our whole team has been doing that. Niveen [Rasheed] has been working on 3-point shots. It wasn’t something that was huge in her game when she came here but she puts in the extra time on the shot.”
Missing some time due to a concussion had Bowen fired up to get back in action against Davidson.
“I had a concussion; I took an elbow to the head in practice,” said Bowen, who was sidelined two games as a result of the injury. “I passed the concussion test this morning and got clearance. The doctor looked at it and I was good to go this afternoon.”
Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was happy to have Bowen back.
“It was great; she is a competitive kid,” said Banghart of Bowen, who had another strong game Sunday, scoring 10 points with four rebounds and three assists as Princeton topped Rider 75-55 to improve to 6-0.
“She takes a lot of pride in her position and being a spark off the bench. I think her rhythm was a little bit off because she has been out for a week. She has been a big bright spot for our team, for sure.”
Another bright spot for the Tigers has been the return of junior star Niveen Rasheed from a knee injury in last year’s Davidson game that sidelined her for most of last season.
“I think the greatest part about Niveen is that she always plays at that level with that speed, that pace, that desire, that competitive fire,” asserted Banghart of Rasheed who is averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game.
“Whether at practice or a game, it doesn’t matter. She has always been able to change the game on her own very quickly. When you take that away from her, i.e., put her on the bench, she has had to learn the game. She still has that ability to create and change the game instantly but now she understands the game a little bit better so I think she will just continue to get better.”
Utilizing a high pressure approach, the Tigers have gotten better on the defensive end.
“We are way better defensively because we are way better athletically,” maintained Banghart, whose team is giving up just 50.0 points a game and has held foes to 35.2 percent shooting from the floor.
“We are very versatile; we can switch all over the floor, we can trap. These guys have really bought in to being disruptive, both over 94 feet and the quarter court. We challenge every shot, so defensively, we are just giving people fits. If we can buy into that same poise on the offensive end, we’ll be really good.”
With two-time defending Ivy League champion Princeton now getting votes in the ESPN coaches’ poll and Associated Press media poll, the rest of the country is getting the idea that these Tigers are really good.
“I think the neat thing about that is that it shows that other people are taking notice,” said Banghart, whose team has a chance to turn more heads when it hosts No. 24 Delaware on December 1.
“I told them after the Marist game [a 68-51 win] that we are writing our own story with this group. The people in the room are what matters. It would be great for the Ivy League to have a team in the Top 25. It would be great for this team to to be recognized nationally for their efforts.”
Bowen, for her part, believes the Tigers can make an impact on the national scene.
“Coach gave us a hard schedule but we prepared for a hard schedule,” said Bowen.
“It gives you confidence going into Stanford, DePaul, Delaware, and those bigger games. I think a few years ago, this program would have looked at playing Stanford as a nice way to get another game in where you will have a lot of media and a big crowd. Now we are looking at Stanford saying they are a great team but we want to have a chance.”