The women’s basketball team returns from the 2014 Cancun Challenge sporting a seven-game winning streak and the Mayan Division crown after wins over Wake Forest, Montana and Charlotte. The Tigers (7-0) are off to their best start in program history, surpassing their previous best of six consecutive victories at the beginning of the season that the Tigers most recently notched in 2011-12. The Tigers played dominating basketball at Cancun with three double-digit wins against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 72-55, the University of Montana Lady Griz, 80-55, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers, 73-43.
The Tigers trailed for a grand total of 47 seconds over the course of the three games, with at least three players scoring in the double digits in each game. Junior guard/forward Annie Tarakchian earned tournament MVP honors, averaging 14.3 points and 10.0 rebounds in the three games, shooting 66.7 percent from the field, 61.5 percent from three-point range, and 91.7 percent from the free throw line. Senior guard Blake Dietrick also earned a spot on the all-tournament squad, averaging 10.7 points, 3.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent on threes.
In the game against Wake Forest, the Tigers took down the previously undefeated Demon Deacons, keeping them to 20 points below their season scoring average, holding them to 34.8 percent shooting and forcing 24 turnovers. The Tigers shot 50 percent in the first half and 55 percent in the second half against Wake Forest. They also matched a season-high six blocked shots, 10 steals and 34 rebounds, significantly outrebounding the Demon Deacons, who managed only 23 boards. The Tigers started the game down 2-0 in the first minute of play, but quickly evened the score and managed to pull and stay solidly ahead through the first half, leading at halftime by 17 points. With 6:15 left on the game clock, Wake Forest began to rally and, with a quick pair of Nicole Floyd free throws, managed to come within eight of the Tigers. A Tiger rally brought Princeton out of reach again to reclaim their 17-point lead at the end of the game. Four tigers scored in the double digits, with 13 points by junior forward Alex Wheatley, 11 points by both Tarakchian and sophomore guard Vanessa Smith and 10 points by junior guard Amanda Berntsen.
Against Montana, the Tigers never lost the lead gained in the first minute of play, shooting off a 13-4 run during the first 4:22 of the game. The Tigers managed a 21-point lead by the end of the first half, and during the second half, Montana never trailed by less than 13 points. Tarakchian set career highs with 23 points and 14 rebounds, surpassing her previous personal best of 18 points against VCU in the first round of last season’s Women's National Invitational Tournament. Dietrick finished the game with 15 points, while junior guard Michelle Miller finished with 10 points. Princeton shot 44.3 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three-point range, while Princeton’s focus on strengthening its defense has clearly paid off, holding Montana to shooting 29.1 percent. Princeton also outrebounded Montana 45-30, while also forcing 15 turnovers, posting 10 steals and blocking four shots.
The UNC Charlotte 49ers witnessed the Orange and Black win the Mayan Division with another outstanding performance complete with strong defense and even stronger shooting. Wheatley finished the game with 12 points and three rebounds, while Berntsen had 12 points, five rebounds and five assists. Smith, the only other Tiger to score in double digits in the game, finished with 11 points. Other major contributors to the win included Tarakchian, with nine points and eight boards, and Dietrick, with eight points, five assists and three rebounds. The Tigers quickly pulled ahead against the 49ers, although the 49ers managed to stay on the Tigers’ tail during the beginning of the first half, even pulling ahead by one point for a brief moment six minutes into the game. The Tigers got into gear and were 20 points ahead by halftime, maintaining a solid lead of 20 to 30 points for the majority of the second half, even pulling ahead by 35 points with less than five minutes left in the game. The Tigers shot an astounding 64.0 percent in the first half and 40 percent in the second, but only had a slight lead in rebounds with 36 boards to Charlotte’s 35. The 49ers shot only 28.3 percent in the game with a low 16.7 percent from behind the arc.