The women’s basketball team kicked off its Ivy League season with an 84-53 leveling of Penn on Saturday. The win marked Princeton’s (10-5 overall, 1-0 Ivy)11th-straight successful meeting against the Quakers (8-3, 0-1), as well as the Tigers’ largest margin of victory of the season.
After missing their first three shot attempts, the Tigers trailed early before capturing their first lead four minutes into the game and never looked back. A pair of jump shots from junior guard Blake Dietrick and sophomore guard Michelle Miller sparked a 16-0 run that left Princeton on the right side of a 21-7 split.
During the hot streak, Princeton shot seven-of-nine from the field and connected on both of its three-point attempts. After a three-pointer from Miller put her team up 24-12 with 9:46 remaining in the first half, the Tigers would hold a double-digit lead until the final whistle.
While Princeton dominated the rebound battle 48 to 37, perhaps the most significant contributor to its success was the ability to control possession of the basketball. Prior to Saturday’s matchup, the Tigers had struggled with an average of 16.1 turnovers per game. At Penn they committed only nine, while forcing the Quakers to cough up 17.
Senior forward and co-captain Kristen Helmstetter, who led all scorers with 17 while adding a team second-best nine rebounds, noticed a difference in her squad’s composure that she thinks led to improved ball security.
“We were patient yesterday and were poised on offense, which I think kept our turnovers at a minimum,” she said.
The Tigers supplemented their sound offensive performance with a stifling defensive effort, holding the Quakers to a dismal 30.5 percent shooting day.
“Defense has become a priority for us, and I think that we were able to maintain the scout really well,” said Helmstetter. “[Sophomore guard] Amanda [Bernsten] did a great job defensively locking down their best player [Alyssa Baron].”
Baron, who had entered the game averaging 13.7 points per game, shot four-of-13 from the field and missed all four of her shots from downtown en route to a 10-point total.
During the victory, head coach Courtney Banghart allocated double-digit minutes to nine different players in her rotation. Helmstetter cites the team’s deep bench as a key source of its season-long success.
“One of the reasons that our team has been so successful is that we have more than one contributor,” she said. “Each player on our team is a threat, and that's what makes us hard to guard.”
Dietrick posted her first career double-double during the game, finishing with 16 points and 11 rebounds. The junior shot an impressive six-of-nine from the field and hit four of her five three-point attempts. Sophomore forward Alex Wheatley joined Helmstetter and Dietrick as the only double-digit scorers of the game for the Tigers, chipping in 11 points and three assists.
Although Saturday’s game was one-sided by nearly all statistical measurements, Helmstetter said the Tigers remain hungry. Her team is fueled by Banghart’s constant reminders that the rest of the conference has not taken kindly to the four-time consecutive Ivy League champions’ sustained success.
“As Coach says, the only people rooting for Princeton are us,” said Helmstetter. “We have a target on our backs, and we use that as motivation. We are a young team and have a lot to prove.”
The Tigers will resume that process after exams, when they will host Harvard in their first home Ivy League matchup of the year.