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)
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.
Yale 77 vs Brown 63
Yale (8-6; 1-0 Ivy) opened up its march to Ivy Madness with a double digit victory over Brown (12-2; 0-1 Ivy) in a Friday matinee contest at the John J. Lee Amphitheater. After a poor shooting first quarter from both teams, Yale entered the second frame up 3 and stretched it to six at halftime. The Bears came out hot at the beginning of the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run over the first 1:36 to take a 39-37 lead. From there, the teams stayed close and were tied at 58 with 6:54 left in the fourth quarter. Two Tamara Simpson steals and layups in nine seconds sparked Yale to a 10-0 run that put the game out of reach.
1. Princeton (6-3)
Win – at Quinnipiac, 60-46
Loss – at Rutgers, 70-50
In the second of a six game road trip, the Tigers visited Quinnipiac on Saturday afternoon and soundly defeated a Bobcat team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Despite falling behind by six and not scoring a point in the first 5:21 of the game, Princeton rallied to take a three point lead after the first quarter. Down 6 heading into the final frame, the Bobcats used a 9-2 run to take a one point lead with 7:13 to go. The Orange & Black responded by outscoring Quinnipiac 17-2 the rest of the way for the victory. Bella Alarie and Leslie Robinson each posted 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way. The Tigers won the game with strong defense, limiting the Bobcats to 19 percent three-point shooting and 36 percent two-point shooting while outrebounding them by 11 percent.
1. Princeton (3-2)
Win – at Davidson, 63-57
Loss – vs. No. 24 Villanova, 62-59
The Tigers traveled down to North Carolina, on Saturday, and earned a six-point win over Davidson. With the score tied at 48 after three quarters, Bella Alarie scored eight of the team’s next 10 points as Princeton opened up an eight-point lead with over five minutes to play. The Wildcats were twice able to get within three points in the last 75 seconds, but could not get any closer. Alarie pitched in 21 points and 11 rebounds for her third double-double in a row, while rookies Carlie Littlefield and Abby Meyers combined for 24 points (6-for-10 from three) and six steals. For her effort, Meyers was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week. But Princeton couldn’t quite avenge its WNIT loss last season to Villanova on Wednesday, falling to the Wildcats again despite a career-high 29 points from Alarie and an 11-4 run to start the game.
Next Game: 12/2 vs Delaware