Turns out it takes more than potential to beat Princeton.
Although missing out on a Ivy League championship three-peat, the Penn women’s team had another great year in 2017-2018. The Quakers (22-9 overall, 11-3 Ivy), which ended the season first in the Big Five, second in the Ancient Eight’s regular season and runner-up in the Ivy Tournament, finished with its fifth straight year of 20+ total wins and 11 or more league victories. While missing out on the NCAA Tournament, Penn beat Albany in the first round of the WNIT before losing 53-48 at St. John’s in the round of 32. The Red & Blue will enter the 2018-2019 season without 3/5th of its starting lineup, looking to reload as it attempts to get to the post season for the seventh straight year.
Penn had one of the top defenses in the nation, holding teams to 54.9 points a game with 35.4 percent shooting from the field and a 31.2 percent three point rate. The team averaged a conference best 5.8 blocks per game and 37.8 offensive rebounding percentage, while having the league’s second best defensive rebounding rate of 69.6 percent. The Quakers outscored its opponents by 10.6 points a game, but struggled with 38.3 percent shooting from the field (7th in the Ivy League) and 33.2 percent from three (4th in the IL). If Penn hopes to dethrone Princeton from the top spot, the team will need to maintain its traditional defensive intensity while improving its offensive efficiency.
On Sunday evening, the Princeton women dominated the Penn Quakers, 63-34, to complete a three-game season sweep of the two-time defending champions, taking the League Ivy Tournament title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Coupled with their strong performance against Yale on Saturday night, Courtney Banghart’s squad left no doubt in showing which team is the Ancient Eight’s best.
Like they did against the Bulldogs, the Orange & Black were aggressive from the start. Sydney Jordan hit a layup 49 seconds into the game and that was the beginning of the end for Penn. The Tigers went out to an 8-0 lead before Michelle Nwokedi hit a three-pointer at the 5:55 mark. Princeton’s Abby Meyers came off the bench to score the next 11 points to open a commanding 19-3 lead at the end of the opening frame. The Tigers defensive intensity led them to a 16-6 rebounding advantage as they held Penn to a 1-for-14 performance from the field.
No. 4 Yale
15-12 Overall (7-5 Home; 8-5 Away; 0-2 Neutral)
8-6 Ivy (5-2 Home; 3-4 Away)
2-4 vs Ivy Tournament Teams (1-1 vs Princeton; 0-2 vs Penn; 1-1 vs Harvard)
RPI #125; Sagarin #135
Preseason Rank: #5
Projected Starters: Jen Berkowitz (Sr, C), Megan Gorman (So, F), Ellen Margaret Andrews (1st Yr, F/G), Tamara Simpson (Sr, G), Roxy Barahman (So, G)
As selected by Ivy Hoops Online’s contributors, here are the IHO 2017-18 All-Ivy Awards:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Bella Alarie, Princeton (So., G/F – Bethesda, Md.)
Alarie efficiently wowed Ivy followers all season, anchoring a stingy Princeton defense while also gouging opponents offensively inside. The 2016-17 Ivy Rookie of the Year’s rebounding and shot-blocking prowess stood out all season, exploding for 13 points and six blocks in the second half alone in a crucial league-opening win at Penn and 29 points against Villanova, establishing herself further as a double-double threat every game despite opposing defenses keying on her.
Fri., Feb. 23
Columbia 90 at Brown 74
Yale 69 vs Cornell 56
Harvard 55 vs Penn 52
Princeton 79 vs Dartmouth 67
Sat., Feb., 24
Brown 85 vs Cornell 59
Penn 79 at Dartmouth 50
Yale 66 vs Columbia 59
Harvard 72 vs Princeton 58
The Princeton women (17-4, 7-1 Ivy) made a strong statement on the first night of league play, when they defeated two-time defending champion Penn (15-5, 6-2) at the Palestra, 70-55. After Tuesday night’s even more convincing 20-point blowout of the Quakers at Jadwin Gymnasium, the Tigers have put the rest of the conference on notice that they are the clear favorites to take the regular season and tournament titles.
Fri., Feb. 2
Penn 88 at Brown 55
Harvard 85 vs Columbia 67
Dartmouth 55 vs Cornell 40
Yale 73 vs Princeton 59
Sat., Feb. 3
Princeton 77 at Brown 62
Penn 69 at Yale 54
Dartmouth 88 vs Columbia 65
Harvard 80 vs Cornell 58
1st – Harvard (5-1 Ivy; 13-6 Overall)
Princeton 75 vs Cornell 54
Cornell (4-11; 0-2 Ivy) challenged the Tigers (13-3; 3-0 Ivy) in the first half, finishing the second quarter down 36-34. Princeton came out of the break on a 17-0 run in the first five minutes, completed the quarter up 22 and coasted in the fourth stanza for a convincing 21-point victory over the Big Red.
Leslie Robinson had 16 points and Bella Alarie scored 13, while Gabrielle Rush continued her hot hand in league play with 75 percent three point shooting and 11 points. Cornell’s Samantha Widmann, from nearby Lawrenceville, led the Big Red with 17 points and seven rebounds.
1. Princeton (9-3)
Win – at Wagner, 58-37
Win – vs St. Joe’s, 63-54 (at Gainesville, Gator Classic)
Win – vs UT-Chattanooga, 59-49 (at Gainesville, Gator Classic)
The Tigers opened up a 17 point lead on Wagner by the second quarter, but the Seahawks got the lead down to five 30 seconds into the second half. An 8-1 run over the next three minutes stretched the lead back to double-digits and the Tigers never looked back. Leslie Robinson, Sydney Jordan and Carlie Littlefield each put up 10 points in the low-scoring contest. Defensively, Princeton held Wagner to a season-low 37 points, including 30 percent shooting and only one three-pointer.