Women's Basketball: Princeton's upset bid falls short against No. 19 UCLA
The women’s basketball team traveled to sunny Southern California for Thanksgiving weekend to take on UC-Riverside and No. 19 UCLA. The Tigers prevailed against Riverside 72-68 on Friday night but fell to the Bruins 65-52 on Sunday after holding a lead at the end of the first half.
The Tigers (3-2 overall) started out red-hot at Riverside (3-2), leading by a score of 41-29 after the first half. The Tigers shot 54 percent and held Riverside to an unimpressive 37 percent from the field in that first period. However, Riverside roared back, outscoring Princeton by eight points in the second half to keep the game competitive. Ultimately, the Tigers withstood momentum shifts and the Highlanders’ comeback attempts on the road and held on to win.
Two days later, Princeton’s matchup at UCLA (3-1) was a similar story, with the only difference being the result: a loss instead of a win. The Tigers came out strong, taking a 12-4 lead early on and leading the Bruins 32-31 at halftime. UCLA took over in the second half, outscoring Princeton by 14 points and ultimately running away with a victory. Princeton’s strong start and ability to play with a nationally ranked opponent was an encouraging sign of the Tigers’ depth and talent, however.
One big story this weekend was the superb play of Princeton’s leader and last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year, senior guard Niveen Rasheed, who dazzled her home-state crowd with a spectacular performance. Rasheed led the Tigers in scoring in both games, scoring 19 points and adding 12 rebounds against Riverside and tallying 17 points against UCLA.
Rasheed’s strong play was significant, given her shaky start to the season. The star senior shot very poorly from the field in her first two games, but after shooting better against Rider and on the West Coast trip, any questions about Rasheed’s scoring may be put to rest. As the season wears on, her play will be crucial to this team’s success.
Another important and very promising point from this weekend’s games is the impact that freshmen are having on this Princeton team. In particular, guard Michelle Miller and forward Alex Wheatley have played significant minutes and produced positive results.
Miller, a Southern California native, scored nine points against Riverside but only three against UCLA before fouling out in 13 minutes. Wheatley played impressively this weekend, scoring a total of 19 points and adding 13 rebounds between the two games.
Princeton also received strong performances from sophomore guards Blake Dietrick and Mariah Smith when they were freshmen last season; now they are Princeton’s first two players off the bench, showing the importance of rookie experience.
One oddity from the weekend is how much better the Tigers played in the first half than in the second — a problem that was also present in an early loss to Marist, in which Princeton led at halftime but was outscored by 14 points in the second period.
Princeton will return home to face another tough opponent, Rutgers, at 7 p.m. Thursday.
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