December 7, 2016

With Robinson Adding to Family Tradition, Tiger Women’s Hoops Rolls Past Seton Hall

FAMILY TRADITION: Princeton University women’s basketball player Leslie Robinson, left, goes in for a lay-up in recent action. Last Wednesday, junior forward Robinson contributed 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists to help Princeton defeat Seton Hall 94-67 and post its third straight win. Robinson, the daughter of Princeton men’s hoops legend Craig Robinson and the niece of  President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama (nee Robinson), is averaging 9.1 points and 7.3 rebounds a game and leads the Tigers with 20 assists. Princeton, now 3-4, hosts Lafayette on December 7 and plays at Fordham on December 10. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Craig Robinson enjoyed a legendary career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team, scoring 1,441 points and getting named the Ivy Player of the Year in both 1982 and 1983.

Inspired by her father, Leslie Robinson is looking to make her mark on the Princeton women’s hoops program.

“When I came in, it was in the back of my mind to wear my dad’s number,” said Tiger junior forward Robinson.

“He has been a coach for me in my life. He has taught me a lot of the things; my court vision, I almost inherited that. It is definitely something I have been proud of, to be able to follow in his footsteps.”

Last Wednesday against visiting Seton Hall with her father in the stands, the junior forward did the Robinson name proud, scoring 17 points with five rebounds and five assists as the Tigers pulled away to a 94-67 victory over the Pirates before 656 at Jadwin Gym, winning its third straight game and improving to 3-4.

“I definitely felt like I was in a good groove, finding what was good for me and then finding what was good for my teammates as well and being able to assist them,” said Robinson, reflecting on a strong first half effort which saw her score 11 points with three rebounds and two assists.

The Tigers found a groove right away against Seton Hall, jumping out to an 11-0 lead on the way to building a 45-37 halftime advantage. “We set a tone right from the beginning, it was something that we came into the game wanting to do,” said Robinson.

“We were moving together and working together really well. I think it is just a product of us working well on defense and transitioning into the offense.”

In the second half, Princeton broke the game open by outscoring the Pirates 29-13 in the third quarter.

“We definitely had a little chip on our shoulder, coming off of their making the 3 at the end of the first half,” said Robinson.

“We came out knowing that we had to come back and throw the first punch of the second half and that is what we did.”

Getting the chance to start this year after riding the bench in the first two years of her Princeton career, Robinson is looking to add some inside punch.

“I think my shot has gotten a lot better and I have gotten better at being able to rebound and look for shots for other people,” said the 6’0 Robinson, who is averaging 9.1 points and 7.3 rebounds a game and leads the Tigers with 20 assists.

It has always been something that I have had my court vision. To have people who can knock down 3s like we do helps a lot.”

Robinson also helps the Tigers with her outgoing personality. “I have been able to use my voice and my competitive edge to get this team going on defense and offense,” added
Robinson, the niece of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama (nee Robinson).

“I definitely see myself as a motivator, a key competitor and someone who is always looking to bring along the rest of my teammates.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart is thrilled with the contributions she is getting from Robinson on and off the court.

“Leslie is the best; she is our team’s heart and soul,” said Banghart. “As a basketball player, she is a kid who everyone wants to play with. She can find you. She makes you look good as a coach. She gets the ball in the right place. She is a coach’s dream and off the court, even more so.”

Freshman standout Bella Alarie is establishing herself as one of Princeton’s best newcomers in years, posting her second career double-double with a season-high 26 points and 15 rebounds in the win over Seton Hall.

“It is special when you have a freshman who is able to contribute so early,” said Banghart of Alarie, who was later named the Ivy League Co-Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week in the wake of her performance against the Pirates.

“I give a lot of that credit to the seniors and Leslie in terms of really elevating her, celebrating her, encouraging her, and making sure that she keeps getting better. They are taking care of everything else so what she has to do is play the game she knows how to play. Bella is allowed to be Bella and everybody else is making sure that she knows that they want her to shoot. They want her to rebound, they want her to run.”

After a slow start, senior point guard and co-captain Taylor Brown has gone on a shooting tear, scoring a career-high 13 points in a 69-58 win over UMBC on November 27 and then exceeding that with 18 points against Seton Hall.

“I think she so wants our team to win that in the first few games, she was trying to set other people up,” said Banghart.

“For three years, she was on a team where we didn’t want her to shoot. We had all the great shooters around her. Now she is on a team where we need her to contribute offensively and I think she is obviously doing that. It is helping us a lot.”

Banghart is excited about the growth she is seeing in her team. “I am happy that they are getting a sense of who we are,” said Banghart, whose squad will look to keep on the winning track as it hosts Lafayette on December 7 and plays at Fordham on December 10.

“I think they are getting a sense of who they are individually as players and who they are together. As I have said all along, it is a really fun team to coach. They are totally locked in to getting better. So we have a whole week with them now before a game and I can promise you that they will be a week better.”

Robinson, for her part, believes that the Tigers are going to keep getting better and better.

“I think we are coming out of a hole that we were in,” said Robinson.

“We are a young team and now we are finding what is right for us. We are working together to get these wins.”