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.)

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Bella Alarie looking ahead to bright future with Dallas Wings

New Dallas Wing Bella Alarie looked ahead to her future in the WNBA in an interview with Ivy Hoops Online. (WNBA)

Ivy Hoops Online caught up with all-time Princeton great and new Dallas Wing Bella Alarie to see how she’s been doing since she became a WNBA draftee last week.

She may be turning pro, but she’s still got her senior thesis to finish.

“I am getting there,” Alarie said. “But I admit the week of the draft was distracting. Now that I have a little breather I can finish it up. It’s due in a few days and I’m going to make it.”

Alarie played primarily in the post as a college player. She sees herself as a stretch four, and the Wings staff agrees.

“I played guard as a teenager and didn’t reach my full height until I got to Princeton,” Alarie said. “I was very comfortable handling the ball and running the floor. The Wings expect me to shoot threes and play at a fast pace. I am really looking forward to the whole thing.”

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No. 21/No. 17 Princeton women defeat Columbia as Alarie and Littlefield make history

Princeton (AP No. 21, Coaches No. 17) pulled off another patented second-half runaway at Levien Gym Friday night and made history in the process.

The Tigers looked like they could be in for their first real fight of Ivy League play as the Lions trimmed their lead to 36-31 1:56 into the third quarter.

But Princeton outscored Columbia 19-8 the rest of the quarter en route to a 77-52 win to stay unbeaten in conference action.

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Depth comes up big for No. 25 Princeton in impressive win at the Palestra

The long awaited and eagerly anticipated showdown between the Penn and Princeton women to open the Ivy season was played at the Palestra Saturday. The two teams came into the contest with a combined record of 22-2, each with but one blemish. First-year Tiger coach Carla Berube stated that she was thrilled to make her Ivy debut in one of the most iconic venues in all of college basketball.

Read moreDepth comes up big for No. 25 Princeton in impressive win at the Palestra

Penn can’t get by on potential versus No. 25 Princeton

Turns out it takes more than potential to beat Princeton.

The season’s first meeting between the two most highly regarded women’s teams in the Ivies lived up to its billing for exactly 20 minutes, as Penn played the nationally ranked Tigers about even at the Palestra. But Princeton dominated inside and played better defense — something that almost never happens to the Penn women — to pull away in the second half and coast to a 75-55 win Saturday afternoon.
Penn (10-2, 0-1 Ivy) had a monumental turnout of talent. Unfortunately for the Quakers, much of that was in the stands — among them ballhandlers and playmakers like Meghan McCullough, Kasey Chambers and Anna Ross, a dominant frontcourt player in Michelle Nwokedi, and the versatile Katy Allen and Lauren Whitlatch to drive to the basket or sink threes.They’re all alums, and they weren’t in superhero mode, ready to toss off their street clothes to reveal their old uniforms underneath and come to the rescue.

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What each Ivy women’s team’s fans should be thankful for this Thanksgiving season

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, which means it’s time to take stock of what followers of each Ivy women’s team should be thankful for at this point of the season:

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Ivy women’s hoops roundup – Nov. 20, 2019

Princeton (4-0)

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

Read moreIvy women’s hoops roundup – Nov. 20, 2019

Princeton defeats FGCU, Alarie and Littlefield leave with injuries

Two days after surviving a furious Seton Hall comeback, the Princeton women welcomed Florida Gulf Coast to Jadwin Gym for a Sunday afternoon matchup between two top-10 mid-majors.  The Tigers, ranked No. 9 by CollegeInsider.com (No. 6 by ESPNW), easily dispatched the No. 5 Eagles, 67-53 (No. 7 by ESPNW), despite losing both Bella Alarie and Carlie Littlefield to injuries.

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Bella Alarie out for Princeton’s win at Seton Hall

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.

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“We really own that bullseye”: Princeton looks for second three-peat in seven years

Shortly after Princeton’s season ended with an 82-77 defeat in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Kentucky, Tigers head coach Courtney Banghart recounted how her newly elected captains, Bella Alarie and Taylor Baur, informed her that they desperately wanted to get their team to the Sweet 16.  With the new season less than a week away, the Orange & Black still look to aim high.

“After that game, we talked a lot about what the future holds for our team.  We want to make history,” Alarie said at the Tigers’ Media Day on Monday afternoon. “We have high expectations for ourselves, but we know we can reach them.”

Read more“We really own that bullseye”: Princeton looks for second three-peat in seven years