Women's Basketball: Rookies, reserves add to Tigers’ arsenal in victory
The women’s basketball team opened the 2012-13 season with a return to its winning ways on Sunday, taking down St. Joseph’s 69-59 for its 18th straight regular-season victory. Though the Tigers lost three seniors and two starters from last year, the game saw three players reach double digits, including a new freshman, guard Michelle Miller.
The Tigers had a solid first half, but they gave up a 6-0 run to end the period with the score tied 30-30. Emerging from the locker room in the second half, Princeton surged out with a 13-3 run and never looked back. The Tigers held off the Hawks, making key free throws to maintain their advantage.
Leading the scoring was senior forward and co-captain Niveen Rasheed with 14 points, followed by junior guard Nicole Hung with 12 and Miller with 10. Rasheed’s characteristically strong performance did not quite overshadow what was a depth-based win for the Tigers.
Hung was pleased with the team’s start to its 2012-13 campaign. “I think we got a quality road win over a really good team,” she said.
Sunday marked the first of several early road tests for Princeton, which travels to Marist on Saturday and to No. 11 Delaware in December.
Head coach Courtney Banghart has emphasized the need for less experienced players to contribute if the team wishes to continue its previous success. Getting double-digit scoring from Hung and Miller underscored the team’s depth, despite its relatively young composition.
“This game showed how deep we are and how many different options we have on the floor. Everyone contributed,” Hung said.
In her first start since last December, Hung stepped into a larger role than she had last season, doing so while shooting 4-for-7 from the field and drawing five free throw attempts.
In the type of performance that fans have come to expect from her, Rasheed led the Tigers with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals in 35 minutes. Veteran leadership from their co-captain will be an essential part of the Tigers’ formula as Banghart’s squad looks to continue its regular-season winning ways.
Rookies followed Rasheed and Hung as the third and fourth-leading scorers, as freshman forward Alex Wheatley added nine points on 3-for-5 shooting and made all three of her free throws, following her classmate Miller.
“Our freshmen did great,” Hung said. “They didn’t seem nervous at all for it being their first game. They did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Perhaps most importantly, the team demonstrated its ability to win with a balanced team performance. The Tigers out-rebounded the hosts 44-35 and forced 19 turnovers, which led to 18 points. They never trailed by more than one possession throughout the game.
Following the graduation of key members from last year’s Ivy League championship squad, the Tigers will need to continue to develop and mature as a group, led by established starters like Rasheed and senior point guard and co-captain Lauren Polansky. The team’s strong performance in its opener bodes well for success this season.
While the Tigers remained in control with relative ease against St. Joseph’s, Marist will present a stiffer test this weekend. The Red Foxes are coming off of a 66-45 win against Vermont, which included an 18-0 run to open the second half.
Another strong offensive showing will greatly aid the Tigers against Marist as they continue a grueling nonconference schedule. Continuing to rely on veteran leadership will be essential, as will the continued improvement of players like Hung, junior forward Kristen Helmstetter and sophomore guard Blake Dietrick. Helmstetter grabbed seven rebounds against St. Joseph’s while Dietrick added four points and two assists in 22 minutes of play.
Princeton and Marist will tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.