Princeton-St. John’s women’s basketball preview

Princeton (26-2, 14-0 Ivy) vs. St. John’s (24-6, 12-4 Big East)

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(Photo by Beverly Schaefer)

March 20, 12:21 p.m.

Donald L. Tucker Center, Tallahassee, Fla.

TV: ESPN2, ESPN 360 (online)

Radio: WPRB, 103.3 FM

For Princeton, 2009-10 has been a record-setting season. The Tigers have won more games (26) and scored more points (71.6 per game) than any women’s basketball team in school history. Their current 21-game winning streak is a program best. They are the first Tiger team to post a perfect 14-0 record in Ivy games, and their NCAA Tournament seed — No. 11 in the Dayton Region — is the highest in league history. Not bad for a team that was picked to finish third in the Ivy’s preseason poll of media and sports information directors.

In the NCAA first round, Princeton will face another high-scoring team that outperformed expectations this season. St. John’s flipped its 4-12 Big East record in 2008-09 to a 12-4 finish this year, tying for fourth place in the conference and posting the program’s best record in 26 years. Five of its six losses this year were against NCAA Tournament teams. (The two teams that beat Princeton, Rutgers and UCLA, also reached the tournament.)

History

Twenty-eight years have passed since the Tigers and Red Storm met on the hardwood. (In fact, the last meeting, in 1981-82, predates the Red Storm nickname by more than a decade.) St. John’s holds a 3-0 advantage in the all-time series. St. John’s has played in the NCAA Tournament five times, advancing to the second round twice (1988 and 2006). Princeton is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance. Ivy League teams have played 18 NCAA Tournament games, winning just once — in 1998, when Harvard, a No. 16 seed, shocked top-seeded Stanford in Palo Alto.

Strengths and weaknesses

Both Princeton and St. John’s appear in the national rankings in several team categories. The Tigers had the No. 5 defense in Division I and ranked No. 41 in scoring offense. Starters Devona Allgood ’12, Niveen Rasheed ’13, and Lauren Edwards ’12 were each among the country’s 50 best shooters, based on field-goal percentage. Even in its weakest categories, Princeton ranks among the top third of Division I teams. The Red Storm is in the top 50 for scoring offense, scoring defense, fewest turnovers, assist-to-turnover ratio, and 3-point defense. Their most prominent flaw is free-throw shooting (61.5 percent, which ranks 316th among 332 Division I schools).

Princeton in the postseason

While the Princeton women are playing their first NCAA Tournament game, this is not the first Tiger team to compete in the postseason. In 1996, Princeton won one game and lost two to finish seventh in the eight-team Women’s NIT in Amarillo, Texas. The Tigers also won the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Women’s Athletics Small College Tournament in 1976 and advanced to the 16-team National Small College Tournament.

Round two

The winner of the Princeton-St. John’s game will advance to play the winner of Florida State (No. 3 seed, 26-5) and Louisiana Tech (No. 14 seed, 23-8). The second-round game will also be played in Tallahassee, on Florida State’s home court, March 22.

Players to watch

Princeton sophomore guard Lauren Edwards

For much of the year, opposing defenses focused on Rasheed, the Tigers’ top scorer, but Edwards, who joined Rasheed on the All-Ivy first team, has the same sort of athleticism as her freshman counterpart, along with a deadly long-range jump shot. She ranked third in the Ivies in 3-point field-goal percentage (43.3 percent), fourth in scoring (13.4 points per game), and averaged 18 points per game in the last two weeks of the season.

St. John’s sophomore forward Da’Shena Stevens

Stevens, the 2009 Big East Freshman of the Year, improved her scoring and rebounding output as a sophomore, leading St. John’s in both categories. The 6-foot-1-inch forward does most of her damage inside — she made only one 3-pointer this season — and has a knack for scoring on offensive rebounds. She is one of four Red Storm players who had 50 or more offensive rebounds this season.

Probable starters

Princeton

 

St. John’s

3 – Lauren Polansky ’13

 

3 – Da’Shena Stevens

23 – Addie Micir ’11

 

31 – Shenneika Smith

30 – Lauren Edwards ’12

 

5 – Nadirah McKenith

24 – Niveen Rasheed ’13

 

25 – Joy McCorvey

44 – Devona Allgood ’12

 

1 – Sky Lindsay

Final quote

“All I hope is that they enjoy every second, and that when we’re on the court, for practices and for games, they do what they did all year, which is play their hearts out. When we’re not on the court, I want them to smile a lot and laugh a lot, because they deserve it.”

– Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart

More about the Tigers:

Women’s basketball to play St. John’s in NCAA Tournament (The Weekly Blog, March 16, 2010)

Sports shorts: Basketball teams sweep Penn (The Weekly Blog, March 10, 2010)

Women’s basketball wins 18 straight (PAW, March 17, 2010)

Sports shorts: Basketball updates (The Weekly Blog, Feb. 23, 2010)

Women’s basketball dominates in 13-2 start (PAW, Feb. 3, 2010)

Sports shorts: Winter updates (The Weekly Blog, Dec. 8, 2009)

Princeton women’s basketball preview (The Weekly Blog, Nov. 13, 2009)

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