As this Ivy non-season progresses, we thought it’d make sense for us to do an Ivy Hoops Online contributors’ roundtable looking ahead to next season, assuming there is one:
The 2019-20 Princeton women’s basketball team was by no means a “one-hit wonder.”
It was the product of a process begun more than a dozen years ago. Successful coaches do more than win games; they build a program, an organization that can produce highly competitive teams year after year. Successful programs are designed to withstand graduations, injuries, and the inevitable clash of egos and personalities in groups of a dozen or more highly competitive and talented individuals. To achieve success in college basketball over time is incredibly difficult. To achieve credibility on the national scene with a mid-major program and no athletic scholarships defies belief. Princeton has done that.
In 1970, the 225th year of Princeton’s existence, school administrators decided to adopt the revolutionary idea of coeducation, not coincidentally, I have always believed, in the year following my graduation. One year later, varsity basketball was introduced as a women’s intercollegiate sport. The Tigers enjoyed early success, winning the first four Ivy titles following the launching of a women’s postseason tournament in 1975. (The women played a postseason tournament until 1982. In 2017, the present tournament format was adopted. The top four men’s and women’s teams compete at the same site over the same weekend to determine the league’s NCAA representatives.)
No Abby Meyers against Rider (#3 preseason MAAC) – no problem
No Meyers and Bella Alarie for the 4th quarter at GW – no problem
No Meyers and Alarie for the entire game at Seton Hall (#3 preseason Big East) – no problem
No Meyers and Alarie for three quarters and Carlie Littlefield for the second half against FGCU (#1 preseason ASUN) – no problem
With 2019 All-Ivy first-teamer Bryce Aiken and 2018 Ivy Player of the Year Seth Towns yet to see action for Harvard this season, will the Ivy League add another star to the conference’s injured list?
Completely in command against George Washington with just over seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s contest in D.C., Princeton’s Carlie Littlefield drove the lane, dishing the ball at the last moment to Taylor Baur standing to the right of the basket. As Baur went up for the layup to extend the team’s lead to 20 points, she was met by GW’s Faith Blethen and Alexandra Maund, a Yale graduate transfer.
Blethen, who came from behind, fouled Baur and fell out of bounds. Maund, meanwhile, went straight up against the Tiger forward and was knocked backwards. As the former Yale forward came crashing down, she hit into Alarie’s lower right leg with both players hitting the ground and writhing in pain.
The No. 11 seed Princeton women’s basketball team gave No. 6 seed (and national No. 17) Kentucky all it could handle but came up just short in its first-round game at the Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.
The Tigers were up by as many as nine points in the second quarter and up four at the half, but a 28-15 third quarter propelled the Wildcats into the lead and gave them enough of a cushion to withstand a late Tigers rally to claim the first-round victory.
Greensboro Regional – First Round (Reynolds Coliseum, Raleigh, N.C.)
No. 11 Princeton (22-9 overall, 12-2 Ivy – Co-Champions, Automatic Bid) vs No. 6 Kentucky (24-7 overall, 11-5 SEC – 4th, At-Large Bid) 11:00 a.m. ESPN2
In a tight game between the regular season co-champions that featured 10 lead changes and six ties, Princeton’s stars took control down the stretch to defeat Penn and win the Tigers’ second consecutive Ivy League Tournament title Sunday.
With the victory, the Tigers (22-9) secured the Ancient Eight’s automatic bid and await their opponent for the NCAA Tournament on Monday night’s selection show. Penn (23-6), meanwhile, will have to wait and see if it can secure the Ivy League’s second-ever at-large bid or be chosen for a second straight WNIT appearance.
Cornell (8-10, 2-5 Ivy) 65 at Brown (9-14, 1-6) 53
The Big Red limited the league’s most prolific offense to only 17 second half points, as it came away with a 65-53 victory over Brown in Providence. With the Bears holding a 42-37 lead four minutes into the third quarter, Cornell finished the frame on a 13-2 run to take a six point lead. A Justine Gaziano layup made the score 57-53 in favor of the Big Red with 3:38 to go, but those would be the last points of the night for the Bears. Cornell then went on an 8-0 run, including a 6-6 performance from the free throw line, to close the game.
Princeton (0-2 This week; 1-3 overall)
vs Seton Hall 66-70
at Penn State 71-79 (OT)
Even with their starting lineup absences, the Tigers just missed sweeping two major conference foes this week. Against Seton Hall, Princeton came back from an 18 point third quarter deficit to hold a 66-59 point advantage with 2:15 left in the game. Unfortunately, the Orange & Black went scoreless the rest of the way, as the Pirates finished on an 11-0 run. The Tigers were also up 7 against Penn State with 2:42 left in regulation, but the Nittany Lions went on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 63. In the extra session, Princeton could only manage 1 field goal in 10 attempts as they went down to their third straight defeat.
Despite the losses, Princeton received improved play from first-year starters Grace Stone (13 points and 7 rebounds in 36 minutes vs PSU), and Kira Emsbo (6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks in 12 minutes vs PSU), a 6′ 5″ forward who missed her senior season due to a ACL tear. A Thanksgiving tournament in Cancun against DePaul (#15), Syracuse (#18) and Kansas State should continue to give the younger Tigers more experience and make the whole team stronger by the time Bella Alarie, Taylor Baur and Qalea Ismail return from the DL.
The Princeton women’s team finished the 2017-2018 season 24-6 overall and 12-2 in the Ivy League. They opened up conference play with a 70-55 victory at the Palestra over two-time defending champion Penn and never looked back on their way to the regular season title. They dominated Yale and Penn in the Ivy Tournament to claim the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, their seventh appearance in the last nine years. Their magical season ended in a first round loss to the University of Maryland, the nation’s #16 team.
The Tigers had the Ivy League Player of the Year in sophomore forward Bella Alarie, who averaged 13.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 assists per game. Alarie, the league’s Rookie of the Year and a first team All-Ivy member in 2016-2017, was joined on this year’s first team by senior forward Leslie Robinson. Robinson, who was selected to last year’s second team All-Ivy, finished the season averaging 10.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per contest.
Courtney Banghart was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year for the second time in her career and the first time since she led the school to an undefeated 30-0 regular season record in 2014-2015. The former two-time first team All-Ivy Dartmouth guard completed this year with her sixth regular season Ivy championship, eighth 20-plus win season and eighth 11-plus conference win season in her 11th year at Old Nassau.