March 7, 2018

With Robinson Producing Historic Performance, PU Women’s Hoops Earns Top Seed for Ivy Tourney

LES IS MORE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Leslie Robinson puts up a shot last Friday against visiting Brown. Senior forward Robinson produced a historic performance in a 79-44 win over the Bears, scoring 10 points with 15 rebounds and 10 assists to achieve the first triple-double in Princeton history. A night later in her Jadwin Gym finale, Robinson contributed nine points and six rebounds as Princeton topped Yale 64-53 to finish the regular season at 22-5 overall and 12-2 Ivy and clinch the outright league title. The Tigers will now compete in the Ivy postseason tournament in Philadelphia for the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tourney. Princeton is seeded first and will face fourth-seeded Yale on March 10 in the semifinals. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Leslie Robinson took the court at Jadwin Gym last Friday evening to start her final home weekend for the Princeton University women’s basketball team, her mind was racing.

“It is a lot of mixed emotions,” said 6’0 senior forward Robinson, a native of Corvallis, Ore. “It is excitement, it is sadness, it is nostalgic. It is a little bit of everything.”

While Robinson only scored one point in the first quarter as the Tigers jumped out to a 23-7 lead over visiting Brown, she laid the foundation for one of the most exciting nights of her career. The 6’0 senior forward piled up six rebounds and six assists, putting her in position to achieve a triple-double.

“When the team is shooting well, it is easy to celebrate my passes,” said Robinson.

“It is good to get them shots and get us going early, especially coming off the loss last Saturday. It was super important to bounce back, showing who we are and how we play and how we fight.”

Robinson, who nearly recorded a triple-double, chipping in 15 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds to help Princeton defeat Dartmouth 79-67 on February 23, knew she was on track for the feat.

“At halftime, they announced the stats and I heard it,” said Robinson. “I was right there with the rebounds and assists and then it was getting a couple of shots and making my free throws.”

As Princeton pulled away from Brown and extend its lead to 64-33, Robinson found herself sitting on the bench to start the fourth quarter, three points and one assist shy of the triple-double. With 4:06 remaining in the contest, Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart put Robinson back into the game.

Robinson hit three free throws to reach 10 points and increased her rebound total to 15 but still needed one assist for the triple-double. With 36 seconds left, she fired a pass to Gabrielle Rush in the corner, who proceeded to drain a 3-pointer, giving Robinson her feat and setting off a raucous celebration on the Princeton bench.

In reflecting on her triple-double, which is believed to be the first-ever on Princeton hoops history, men or women, Robinson was thankful to her coach and teammates.

“I was grateful that she did [put me in] and I am grateful that I was able to have this moment on this floor,” said Robinson.

“It was amazing; when Rush put that shot up, I know she wanted it as much as I did. It definitely means a lot and I think it goes to show how close our team is and how proud we are of each other’s achievements; the fact that they were so happy for me. I am as happy on those 10 assists that I had. I am excited for them making those shots too, it is two-fold.”

The excitement was heightened as Princeton’s 79-44 win over the Bears clinched a share of the Ivy League regular season title, prompting the cutting down of the net by the Tiger players, coaches, and managers.

For Robinson, starting her final home weekend with such a memorable evening had her thinking about the bonds she has established with her fellow seniors on the squad, Kenya Holland and Tia Weledji.

“We have had our ups and downs as a class and being on this team,” said Robinson, with the net draped around her neck.

“We have grown; we are the three best friends we could ever ask for. We are sisters at this point. We are really lucky to be on this team and having this be our final season.”

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart was thrilled to see her team come through with the title in the wake of the loss to Harvard.

“I just thought that we had a really good week; we had to dial in,” said Banghart. “They knew what was at stake. They earned it fall winter, spring, summer; it was a chance to finally just close it.”

In reflecting on the victory over Brown, Banghart credited Robinson with being the catalyst for the Tigers.

“Leslie just wants to win and she will do whatever it takes,” said Banghart of Robinson, who had nine points and six rebounds as Princeton topped Yale 64-53 on Saturday to finish the regular season at 22-5 overall and 12-2 Ivy and clinch the outright league title.

“She is an elite passer and has a great basketball IQ. She also knows that getting the other guys shots is important.”

The Tigers played some great basketball collectively as they routed the Bears.

“We said it is about us, it is about what we do, it is about our standard,” said Banghart. “We are still building, it is not over.”

Banghart was overjoyed to see Robinson accomplish the triple-double, highlighting a superb senior campaign that has seen her average 10.3 points, 4.4 assists, and 7.1 rebounds a game.

“It is first time ever, it might be the first time, male or female,” said Banghart.

“Usually we don’t care about stuff like that but with it being a triple-double and it being senior weekend. Her dad [Craig Robinson ’83] being a two-time Ivy Player of the Year and he never got a triple double. It is kid that you can’t possibly not root for. It meant a lot to her, she said coach can I go back and play. I held her out for a lot of it; I wasn’t going to give her all day to do it. She said basically can I go and I said you have earned it.”

The senior group of Robinson, Holland, and Weledji has earned the respect and affection of Banghart.

“I couldn’t be prouder of them; we have one all league player in the senior class and they win the Ivy title,” said Banghart

“Seniors win championships here; to say our seniors have blown me away with their ability to lead this group would be an understatement. They have been through so much. They knew they can’t always do it on the court but it is what they can do in practice, in our culture. This is the seniors’ championship without a doubt.”

With the Tigers now competing in the Ivy postseason tournament this weekend in Philadelphia for the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tourney, Banghart is looking for her squad to keep getting it done.

“You never really know, you are dealing with college kids,” said Banghart, whose team is seeded first and will face fourth-seeded Yale on March 10 in the semifinals with the winner advancing to the title game on Sunday to play the victor of the Penn-Harvard semifinal. “We just want to play well one game at a time. I thought today we played great.

Robinson, for her part, believe the Tigers are primed to raise the level of their game with the NCAA bid on the line.

“We are really excited,” said Robinson. “Hopefully we can emulate what we did today and just carry that into the tournament and play Princeton basketball and not shy away from who we are.”