Tiger Women's Hoops Earns Ivy Road Split, Looks to Build Momentum in Homestand
By Bill Alden
In recent seasons, the Princeton University women's basketball team seemed almost resigned to its fate when it came to clashes with the top teams in the Ivy League.
Posting an 8-20 mark in league contests over the last two seasons, Princeton hadn't earned a road win in Ivy play since a victory at Yale in the 2002-03 season.
The discouraging template would see the Tigers get behind early, put up a frantic fight before falling short, and then trudge sadly into the dressing room with another defeat.
Coming into this season's Ivy opener at Brown last Friday, Princeton brought a six-game winning streak and a new attitude into the contest.
Princeton's new resolve got an early test as the Tigers fell behind 25-10 in the first half. Rather than fold, the Tigers clawed back to trail just 29-27 at intermission.
The second-half turned into a seesaw affair which saw the teams knotted at 51-51 and 62-62. A Brown free throw in the closing seconds provided the margin of victory as Princeton fell 63-62.
The Tigers, though, didn't take this setback lying down. "It was a different feeling in the locker room," recalled Princeton head coach Richard Barron. "There was a lot of emotion, disappointment, and frustration tied to a sense of hope and purpose. In the past, we've accepted losses like that and let them define us."
The emotions expressed included a heavy dose of anger. "They were mad about letting one get away that they thought they should've won," said Barron, who got 19 points and eight rebounds from Becky Brown with Katy O'Brien chipping in 12 points and four assists and Meagan Cowher scoring 11 points. "We outplayed them most of the game. They were mad and ready to do something about it."
A night later at Yale, the Tigers took out that anger on the Bulldogs as they jumped to a 35-22 halftime lead. Overcoming a lapse midway through the second half, Princeton held on for a 56-52 win.
The evening was not only notable since it marked a road breakthrough for the Tigers, but Brown passed a major milestone as she passed the 1,000-point mark in her Princeton career.
"It was a good win in that we held them off," said Barron, whose club improved to 9-6 overall and 1-1 in Ivy play with the triumph. "We had a pretty good letdown in the second half. We were up by 15 and they made a 12-2 run. We missed five lay-ups and started settling for things."
With Princeton hosting a critical three-game homestand this week, Barron believes his team won't settle for mediocrity.
"Our resiliency is better this year," said Barron, whose club was slated to host Penn on February 1, Dartmouth on February 4, and Harvard on February 5 with the latter game culminating the school's annual celebration of National Women and Girls in Sports Day.
"We are able to come back from defeats and able to withstand runs. This stretch is huge in terms of league standings and implications. We need to keep pace. If we are able to knock them off, everyone will have a league loss and there will be a logjam at the top of the league."
If Princeton can come up big, it will take a major step in changing its Ivy fate.