How Princeton women’s basketball clawed its way to the top of the Ivy League

The 2019-20 Princeton women’s basketball team’s campaign ended all too quickly due to COVID-19, but not before demonstrating the enduring strength of the program under a new coaching staff. (Princeton Athletics)

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.)

Read moreHow Princeton women’s basketball clawed its way to the top of the Ivy League

Littlefield and Alarie lead the way for Princeton over Penn State, 72-55

Two of the Ivy League’s brightest stars shone bright as Carlie Littlefield and Bella Alarie combined for 48 points as the Tigers tamed the Penn State Nittany Lions, 72-55, at Jadwin Gym Saturday afternoon.

Penn State (5-5) used a strong performance on the offensive boards to jump out to a quick 8-2 lead, but three baskets by Alarie helped Princeton (9-1) tie the game at 11.  An Abby Meyers layup gave the Tigers the 15-13 advantage at the end of the opening quarter.

Read moreLittlefield and Alarie lead the way for Princeton over Penn State, 72-55

Princeton women’s basketball unveils six-member recruiting class

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.

Read morePrinceton women’s basketball unveils six-member recruiting class