Preview: Women’s basketball takes on Florida State in NCAA opener

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Co-captains Niveen Rasheed ’13, right, and Lauren Polansky ’13 at the NCAA Tournament press conference in Waco, Texas, March 23. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

When asked to describe Princeton’s style of play in a March 23 NCAA Tournament press conference, co-captain Lauren Polansky ’13 talked about the team’s depth, defense, and offense before adding a simple summation.

“I think the best way to describe us is very determined, and we’re a bunch of fighters,” she said.

The Tigers, making their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, hope that determination and fight will carry them to the first postseason win in program history.

Led by a talented and dynamic senior class, Princeton earned the Ivy League title with a 13-1 record. The league championship, combined with a 9-5 mark against a very strong slate of nonconference opponents, landed the Tigers in the NCAA field with a No. 9 seed and a first-round matchup against Florida State.


Princeton (9) vs. Florida State (8)
March 24, 5:10 p.m. ET, Waco, Texas
TV: ESPN2/ESPN3/WatchESPN

Co-captain Niveen Rasheed ’13 said the team sees the opener as “the biggest game of our lives,” and head coach Courtney Banghart said Princeton is well past the point of being just happy to reach the tournament. But Banghart also stressed the need to keep emotions in check when the game begins:

“We talk about playing with execution first and emotion second, and I hope that after preaching the two that in some way it sticks in their heads. … Part of my job tomorrow is to manage the game and part of that is to manage the emotions that the athletic mortality of my seniors brings.”

Read more about the Tigers and Seminoles below.

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Co-captain Lauren Polansky ’13 (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

About the Tigers (22-6, 13-1 Ivy)

Do-everything guard/forward Niveen Rasheed ’13 leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals — and was the unanimous choice for Ivy League Player of the Year. She’s also a co-captain, with point guard Lauren Polansky ’13. The two friends played on the same AAU team in California, came to Princeton on the same recruiting trip, and have been mainstays in the lineup since freshman year. Polansky has won Ivy Defensive Player of the Year honors for three consecutive years. … The three other starters — Megan Bowen ’13 (second-team All-Ivy), Kate Miller ’13, and Kristen Helmstetter ’14 (second-team All-Ivy) — combined to average 22.7 points per game, but scoring-wise, the Princeton bench has been just as important. Reserve guards Blake Dietrick ’15 and Michelle Miller ’16 are the team’s top 3-point shooters (making 36 percent and 39.8 percent of their attempts, respectively). Forward Alex Wheatley ’16 leads the Tigers in field-goal percentage (55.6 percent); Mariah Smith ’15 contributed 5.2 points per game and 1.4 assists (second-best among reserves, behind Dietrick). … All six of the teams that beat Princeton this year reached the postseason (five are in the NCAA field; Harvard is in the WNIT). The Tigers also defeated six teams that are playing in the postseason (St. Joseph’s, Navy, Illinois State, Drexel, Harvard, and Penn). … In three previous NCAA appearances, Princeton has lost its first-round matchups to St. John’s (65-47 in 2010), Georgetown (65-49 in 2011), and Kansas State (67-64 in 2012).

About the Seminoles (22-9, 11-7 ACC) 

Four Florida State starters — Leonor Rodriquez, Alexa Deluzio, Chelsea Davis, and Natasha Howard — each average 13 points per game or more. The fifth starter, point guard Morgan Toles, dished out 3.9 assists per game. Backup guard Yashira Delgado averages 4.5 assists but also leads the team in turnovers with 3.5 per game. … Florida State plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which ranked No. 5 among Division I leagues this year. Eight of the Seminoles’ nine losses were against ACC teams. … The fast-paced Seminoles rank in the nation’s top 10 in field-goal percentage (45.9 percent, fifth) and scoring (76.2 points per game, seventh). They are 21-2 when they score 70 points or more, and they’ve topped 90 five times. … The Seminoles reached the NCAA quarterfinals in 2010 and advanced to the second round in 2011. Last year, they did not receive an NCAA bid.

More at PAW Online:

Four for four: Women’s basketball wins Ivy title on Senior Night

Taking care of business with an eye toward March

Top forecasts buoy men’s, women’s hoops

Bond of longtime teammates gives women’s basketball a bounce