Tag Archives: Princeton basketball

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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Led by Hummer ’13, Princeton sweeps weekend and takes Ivy lead

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Ian Hummer ’13’s 23-point, 14-rebound performance propelled Princeton to victory against Harvard. The Crimson also lost to Penn, giving the Tigers sole possession of first place in the Ivy League. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)

In basketball, perhaps more than in any other sport, there is an expectation that star players will decide close games. Like most sports clichés, this one contains as much falsehood as it does truth; for every game-winning highlight from Michael Jordan or Christian Laettner, there is another by a player like Robert Horry or Keith Smart, sidekicks who made critical shots.

When the men’s basketball team faced Harvard on Friday night, however, there was no question who the biggest star was — and nobody left Jadwin Gym doubting his influence on the game. In what was effectively a must-win game for the Tigers — a loss would have put Harvard two games ahead with three remaining — Ian Hummer ’13 made the three biggest plays of Princeton’s season, willing the hosts to a 58-53 victory that kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

A second-generation Princeton basketball standout — his father Ed ’67 and uncle John ’70 each wore the orange and black — Hummer added to his already robust legacy in Friday’s game. With an old-fashioned three-point play early in the second half, he passed Doug Davis ’12 for second place on Princeton’s all-time scoring list, trailing only Bill Bradley ’65; he also ranks among the program’s top 10 in rebounds, assists and blocked shots, and he’s one good game from adding steals to that list.

But Hummer’s play down the stretch was even more memorable than his milestone. With the Tigers trailing by one point and two minutes remaining, point guard T.J. Bray missed a medium-range shot, but Hummer crossed the lane from the weak side, rose through traffic, controlled the ball with one hand and laid it in softly off the glass, coming down with a 52-51 lead.

Thirty seconds later, with Princeton down by one point once again, there was no doubt where the ball was going. Coming out of a timeout, Hummer outmuscled Steve Mondou-Missi to get extremely deep post position; the Harvard forward had no choice but to foul Hummer, who made both free throws and gave Princeton another one-point lead.

That margin held until the final seconds, when Mack Darrow ’13 missed the front end of a one-and-one. Hummer rose above Mondou-Missi to tap the rebound back toward the Princeton backcourt; as it neared the sideline, Bray slapped it back in play with a full-extension drive, and Denton Koon ’15 collected it, drawing a clock-stopping foul and making both free throws.

Hummer intercepted Harvard’s last-ditch inbounds pass for good measure, sending a crowd of 4,413 home happy and keeping the Ivy League race alive. Hummer’s final line: 23 points, 14 rebounds, and one Ivy League Player of the Year trophy that can be all but engraved already. “He was a monster,” Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said in the postgame press conference.

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With talent, depth, and Ivy’s top star, women’s basketball sets high goals

When women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart came out of the locker room after Princeton’s game against Rutgers on Thursday night, she couldn’t hide a huge grin on her face. And Banghart had reason to smile — not only had her team just defeated Rutgers 71-55, Princeton’s first win in the New Jersey rivalry since 1978, but after a few shaky games at the beginning of the season, the Tigers seemed to be finding their groove.
 
“If we had played these guys 10 days ago, we would have lost by 20,” Banghart said after the game. “We had a lot of improvements to make.”
 
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Kristen Helmstetter ’14 scored 14 points in her first start, helping the Tigers beat Rutgers Nov. 29. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)
Even during its 12-game head-to-head losing streak, Princeton had given Rutgers plenty of scares over the years, including a fantastically entertaining 54-53 game in 2010 that was decided in the final seconds. This year, the Tigers didn’t put themselves in a position to let another one slip away. Against a team that was still receiving votes in the Top 25 polls, the hosts handled Rutgers’ pressure and rolled to a 26-9 lead out of the gate; Princeton’s advantage reached as many as 25 points in the second half. (“The score doesn’t really tell the story — we crushed them,” Banghart said.)
 
At the beginning of the season, it looked like Niveen Rasheed ’13 would have an even larger role in Princeton’s offense after the graduation of the second- and third-leading scorers from the 2011-12 team, Lauren Edwards ’12 and Devona Allgood ’12. And the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year certainly hasn’t had a bad season, averaging 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while ranking second in the league in assists. But Rasheed is also shooting just 39 percent from the floor — well below her previous average — and has more turnovers than assists for the first time in her career.
 
The bigger story has been Princeton’s secondary scorers — which is a much deeper group than in past seasons. Rasheed is always a central part of the Tigers’ offense, but the other pieces seem almost interchangeable. At UCLA last Sunday, forward Kristen Helmstetter ’14 played a total of three minutes; in her next game, she started in place of injured guard Nicole Hung ’14 and scored 14 key points against Rutgers. Center Meg Bowen ’13 had a forgettable night on Thursday, finishing with one point and one rebound; against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, on Sunday, she notched her first career double-double. “This team has shown that on every night, someone else steps up,” Banghart said.
 

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Familiar trends in Princeton men’s basketball’s sluggish start

By now, fans of the men’s basketball team should know not to worry about slow starts. Last year, Princeton won only one of its first six games — losing to undistinguished foes such as Elon and Morehead State — before going on to post 20 wins. And two years ago, the preseason Ivy favorites started the season 2-3 with a couple of puzzling losses before turning it around to reach the NCAA tournament.
 
So it’s hardly surprising that this year’s Tigers, in what has practically become a rite of passage, have struggled out of the gate. In fact, the start of this season is almost a perfect match for 2010-11: After being picked to win the Ivy League, Princeton won a close opener against a strong team (then Rutgers, now Buffalo) but dropped three of its next four, including a back-breaking comeback (then 20 points vs. James Madison, now 18 points vs. Northeastern) and a blowout loss at a top-10 school (then Duke, now Syracuse).
 
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Ian Hummer ’13 (Photo: Courtesy Office of Athletic Communications)
And these Tigers clearly have the potential to pull it together by the time conference play rolls around, just like their predecessors did. With the league’s best player, forward Ian Hummer ’13, leading a tall and experienced roster, few would be surprised if Princeton fulfilled its preseason expectations and became the last Ivy team standing in March.
 
“[We need to] not get discouraged,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said after losing at Syracuse on Wednesday. “I think we can be pretty good … but we have to bounce back from where we are.”
 
Princeton has shown flashes of that potential several times already this season. The Tigers sped out to a 7-0 lead at Buffalo, a 21-10 lead against Northeastern, and a 12-3 lead against Rutgers in their first three games. But each time, Princeton followed with frustrating stretches to let its opponent back in the game (often with Hummer on the bench — the Tigers have been outscored by 25 points in 39 Hummer-less minutes).
 
At the Carrier Dome on Wednesday, the Tigers instead had their exasperating moments early on. Princeton played the No. 6 Orange even over the middle 20 minutes of the game, but only after starting in a 20-8 hole. “We came out a little flat … I thought we played well at times, but we need to put together a full 40 minutes, and we haven’t done that yet,” Hummer said Wednesday night.
 

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Women’s basketball: In a game of ‘alternating currents,’ Kansas State made the last charge

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While Princeton worked to contain star forward Jalana Childs, pictured, Kansas State’s other forward, Branshea Brown, responded with a career-high 22 points in the Wildcats’ 67-64 win. (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)
Bridgeport, Conn. – Moments before the women’s basketball team’s NCAA Tournament game against Kansas State on Saturday, head coach Courtney Banghart looked much more nervous than usual. Playing not as a long-shot underdog but in the proverbial first-round toss-up game, 9-seed vs. 8-seed, Princeton came in with the highest expectations of Banghart’s seven trips to the Big Dance as a player and coach.
 
And in the opening minutes, the Princeton players seemed tense as well. Showing a lack of poise and patience early on, the Tigers committed sloppy turnovers and gave up open shots, allowing the Wildcats to take a 5-0 lead that could have been twice that. Sitting in nearly the same spot from which I watched Princeton’s previous two tournament games, all I could think was, “Oh no, it’s happening again.”
 
Last March, Princeton brought a team of tournament-tested players to Maryland, where they faced fifth-seeded Georgetown in the first round. After scoring first, the Tigers were blitzed by a 22-3 Hoyas run that virtually ended the game before the second media timeout. Two years ago, in Tallahassee, Fla., Princeton lasted a little bit longer, but a 13-2 run by sixth-seeded St. John’s turned a one-possession game into a comfortable lead midway through the first half.
 
But this year, things were supposed to be different. With the highest seed and first national ranking in Ivy League history, these Tigers were supposed to be tougher to keep down. And, as it turned out, they were: Princeton responded with a 12-2 run on Saturday, taking a five-point lead at the 12-minute mark.
 
“Before the game, Coach Banghart kept reminding us that it doesn’t matter what happens in the first three minutes, we’re going to be out there for the full 40 minutes,” guard Lauren Edwards ’12 said. “It took us a few minutes to get into our rhythm, but when we finally did, we played well and executed our game plan.”
 
After the Tigers loosened up, the contest became, as Banghart said, “a game of alternating currents.” Kansas State scored seven straight points to re-take the lead, Princeton grabbed the advantage back with four points of its own, and so the rest of the game went. The Wildcats held a four-point lead at halftime, but the Tigers flipped it with a 10-2 run, taking the lead when center Devona Allgood ’12 ripped a missed free throw from a defender’s hands and laid it in while being fouled.

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Rasheed ’13 shines but Princeton falls, 67-64 to K-State

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Niveen Rasheed ’13 (Photo: Beverly Schaefer)
Despite 20 points, nine rebounds, and six assists by star forward Niveen Rasheed ’13, Princeton women’s basketball fell just short of its first NCAA Tournament victory, losing 67-64 to Kansas State in Bridgeport, Conn., Saturday afternoon.
 
Senior Devona Allgood scored 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds, while classmate Lauren Edwards also contributed 15 points in her final collegiate game.
 
“This was definitely the best we’ve played out here in the tournament, and we put everything out on the floor today,” Allgood said. “We don’t have anything to hang our heads about. We did what we wanted, except for win.”
 
Kansas State led by four at halftime and started to pull away in the latter part of the second half. But Princeton answered the Wildcats and trailed by four points with the ball at one point in the final minute. When that possession ended with a turnover, the Tigers were forced to foul, and Princeton’s comeback bid ran out of time.
 
Head coach Courtney Banghart praised her team’s resilience. “As I told them, you know you’re going to get a hard fighting Princeton Tigers team,” she said. “They play hard, and they play together. That’s who we are.”
 
Read more about the Tigers in Kevin Whitaker ’13’s Monday column on The Weekly Blog and in the April 4 print edition of PAW.
The Tigers (24-5) have dominated the Ivy League in the last three seasons, winning 41 of 42 league games, including a perfect 14-0 mark in 2012. Allgood, Edwards, and reserve guard Laura Johnson ’12 closed their careers with a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament – and as Allgood noted, the program’s best postseason showing. Princeton had lost by double-digits in its two previous appearances.
 
Kevin Whitaker ’13 contributed to this report.