With teams a few short weeks away from actual games, here is a collection of off-season stories to catch up on before the start of the 2018-2019 season.
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.
Princeton last faced Maryland at College Park in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, losing to the Terrapins for its first and only defeat of the year. Playing at a neutral site in North Carolina, the No. 12-seeded Tigers not only entertained thoughts of a revenge victory against Maryland, but a possible second round win against N.C. State or Elon. Unfortunately for the Orange & Black, the No. 5-seeded Terrapins (No. 16 nationally) had other ideas, ending the Tigers’ season for the second time in four years with a convincing 77-57 victory.
The Tigers could not control the tempo or the boards against the Terrapins, especially in the early parts of both halves. In the opening 10 minutes, Maryland only shot 27 percent from two and 38 percent from three, but the Terrapins outrebounded Princeton by 52 percent and got seven more attempts in the quarter to open a 17-11 lead. The Tigers, who got pushed away from the basket through most of the first half, finally broke through in the second quarter, hitting five of 10 two-pointers while their defense held the Terrapins without a three to go into the locker room only down 31-26.
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)
1. Princeton (5-2)
Win – vs Delaware, 78-60
Win – at Lafayette, 53-45
After a close loss to #24 Villanova, the Tigers bounced back with two victories this week. Tia Weledji had 22 points to lead Princeton over Delaware. The Blue Hens kept within two early in the second quarter, but a 19-5 run to close out the frame gave the Tigers a 16-point halftime advantage. Delaware cut the lead to seven late in the third quarter, but that would be as close as they would get. In addition to Weledji’s career night, Carlie Littlefield scored 15 points and Leslie Robinson had a double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds).
1. Princeton (2-1)
Win – at Seton Hall, 85-83
Loss – vs Georgia Tech, 67-56
Bella Alarie had double-doubles in both games, this week, and is leading the Tigers with 15.3 points and 10.3 boards a game. Tia Weledji is averaging 14.7 points a contest and had her first career double-double against the Pirates. Carlie Littlefield has been named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week for the first two weeks of the season. Starting wing Sydney Jordan left the Seton Hall game after four minutes with an injury and did not play against Georgia Tech. Her absence from the lineup will, most likely, increase the playing time for the highly rated first-year, Abby Meyers.
1. Princeton (1-0)
Princeton opened up the season with a 72-52 victory over George Washington at Jadwin Gym on Friday night. After jumping out to a 10-point lead in the 1st quarter, the Colonials got the lead down to 3 at the half. The Tigers started the second half on a 13-0 run and outscored GW by 18 in the 3rd quarter to pull away. Coach Courtney Banghart started first-year Carlie Littlefield at the point, who responded with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in 38 minutes. Tia Weledji led four Tigers in double digits with 18 points, while Leslie Robinson had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Orange and Black were typically strong on defense, allowing only 3 three-pointers and 33% overall shooting, while holding a 10% rebounding advantage on both sides of the ball.
Next Games: 11/16 at Seton Hall 7 pm (Pirate Sports Network); 11/19 vs Georgia Tech 1 pm (ILN, ESPN3)
4. Brown Bears (‘16-’17 record: 17-13, 7-7 Ivy; tied for fourth; Ivy Tournament semifinalist; lost in second Round of WBI)
Coach Sarah Behn (fourth season; 19th season overall)
Captains: Megan Reilly (senior guard) and Erika Steeves (junior forward)
Key Returning Players:
Justine Gaziano (sophomore guard) – 22 starts, 16.5 ppg, 47.5 percent field-goal percentage, 80 percent free-throw percentage, 35 made three-pointers
Shayna Mehta (junior guard) – 30 starts, 15.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 39.2 percent three-point percentage, 62 made three-pointers, 58 steals
Abby O’Keefe (Guard) – five starts, 17.7 mpg, 4.6 ppg, 19 made three-pointers
McKenna Dale (guard) – Connecticut Gatorade POY; 1,792 points, 747 rebounds, 264 steals, 162 blocks in career
Dominique Leonidas (Guard) – first team all-state (Ga.); 1,000-plus career points
IHO Brown schedule breakdown here
Gaziano and Mehta were both in the top five in scoring and named members of the All-Ivy second team. In her rookie season, Gaziano was in the top 10 of five offensive categories, while Mehta, the 2015-16 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, was in the top 15 for eight offensive and defensive statistics. Steeves, the league’s top total rebounder, was in the conference’s top 15 for six offensive and defensive categories. Will was in the top 10 for five statistics.
After a historic 2015-16 season that saw the Princeton women’s basketball team become the first Ivy League team to secure at at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the team graduated four of its top rebounders, as well as 71 percent of its offense. Despite those huge losses, the Tigers were still projected for second place in the preseason Ivy media poll. With four new starters, including a first-year and a sophomore, as well as a schedule that had the squad facing 10 2017 postseason participants, the Orange and Black ended the year second in the conference’s regular season, runner-up in the Ivy Tournament and selected to the NIT Tournament. With another challenging schedule on tap for 2017-18, Princeton aims to improve upon its various records (16-14 overall, 9-5 Ivy, 6-7 nonconference and 5-10 vs postseason teams) to secure a return ticket to March Madness.
Oni impresses at Nike Skills Academy
Yale’s Miye Oni was one of 21 college players selected to compete at the prestigious Nike Skills Academy in late August. Among the attendees were Grayson Allen, Trevon Duval and Marques Bolden from Duke, Nick Ward and Jaren Jackson from Michigan State, Tony Carr from Penn State, and Amir Coffey of Minnesota. The sophomore guard, who was named a second team All-Ivy in 2016-17, certainly impressed those in attendance. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman tweeted, “One college player who has stood out to NBA guys at the Nike Camp has been sophomore Miye Oni. Guys love his ability to score.”
Ivy women excel in international hoops
Princeton sophomore Bella Alarie and Harvard sophomore Jeannie Boehm helped USA Basketball secure a silver medal at the recent FIBA U-19 World Cup. Alarie, who was a late addition to the team’s tryout roster, earned a starting spot and finished the tournament averaging 7.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 21.2 minutes a game. Boehm averaged 3.2 rebounds and 8.8 minutes per game. Team USA dominated the group stage and the quarterfinals. In the semifinals against Japan, USA was up 22 at the end of the third quarter and appeared to hit a wall, allowing its opponents to get the lead down to seven by the end of the contest. In the finals, the Americans were up six at halftime, but could not contain Russia’s two frontcourt starts, World Cup MVP Maria Vadeeva and Raisa Musina. With the 86-82 defeat, the U.S. missed its chance to secure its seventh straight title.