The Princeton women’s basketball team won its first two games of the season by double-digit margins this past weekend, topping both Pittsburgh and Duquesne on the road. The Tigers beat the Pittsburgh Panthers (1-1 overall) on Friday by 16 points, 59-43, and the Duquesne Dukes (0-1) on Sunday by 17 points with a final score of 79-62. The Tigers (2-0) opened the season with a strong offense and a newly fortified defense, taking control of both games with impressive runs to begin the second halves of 16-0 and 19-7 against the Panthers and Dukes, respectively.
Junior guard Michelle Miller led the team in both victories, earning both Ivy League Player of the Week and CollegeSportsMadness.com Mid-Major Player of the Week honors for her play. Miller picked up the season where she left off in last season’s finale when she posted a career-high 34-point performance against Seton Hall. She led the Tigers in scoring in both games of the new season, registering 16 points against the Panthers and 20 against the Dukes.
The game against Pitt remained close throughout the first half, with the Tigers ahead until the final minute of the period when a Panther three by Brianna Kiesel gave Pittsburgh a 20-19 lead. The game had opened with the Tigers quickly establishing a 4-0 lead. The second half began with an impressive 16-0 run by Princeton, regaining the momentum to push past the Panthers. A Miller field goal opened the second half and marked the start of her push to a game-high 16 points in only 36 minutes. In addition to Miller, the 16-0 run featured points from junior forward Alex Wheatley and sophomore guard Vanessa Smith.
Miller finished the game with 16 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Blake Dietrick finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists, shooting five-for-10 from the field. Junior Taylor Williams finished the game with eight points, six rebounds and tied her career-high five blocks. With six rebounds, junior guard/forward Annie Tarakchian also had a personal best five assists. Freshman forward Leslie Robinson scored her first two collegiate layups back-to-back over a span of only 13 seconds, one on a put back off the offensive boards.
The game against Duquesne saw Miller continue to dominate offensively, shooting eight-for-16 from the floor and four-for-eight from behind the arc, leading the team in scoring for the second game in a row with 20 points. Miller also had four rebounds and three assists. Junior guard Amanda Berntsen went seven-for-10 shooting while matching a career-high 14 points, which she scored against Navy in December 2013. Berntsen additionally had a personal best of six assists in Sunday’s game against the Dukes. Wheatley also scored in double figures, finishing the game with 12 points and eight rebounds. Dietrick finished with eight points, eight rebounds and four assists while Tarakchian managed a career-high with six assists for the second straight game.
The Tigers fought to stay in the lead for the first half of the game against the Dukes, netting six of the first eight points of the game before the Dukes pushed to take the lead. With just under 12 minutes left in the first half, trailing 18-14, the Tigers made an impressive run, outscoring the Dukes 20-6 over the next eight minutes. Smith started the run before a Dietrick three brought the Orange and Black back into the lead. Princeton gained a double-digit lead on a Tarakchian jumper and managed to hold to a 10-point lead at halftime, 36-26.
The Tigers began the second half continuing to dominate with a 19-7 run, netting eight of their first 12 shot attempts while going 3-5 with three-pointers. The Dukes fought to keep pace, but the visiting offense proved too strong, fending it off for the rest of the game. Maintaining a roughly 20-point lead for over 10 minutes, the Dukes closed the gap slightly over the last four minutes of the game. The Tigers shot an impressive 49.3 percent on the night, including 40 percent from the three-point range while their defense held the Dukes to 39.3 percent shooting and only 22.2 percent from beyond the arc.