It was announced this week that the Princeton women’s basketball team was the first Ivy League squad in history to crack the top 25 of both the USA Today coaches and the Associated Press polls. The unprecedented ranking comes after the cagers held their most recent opponents, the Montana Institute of Technology, to single digits in a 107-8 victory. This margin surpasses their defeat of Lake Forest earlier in the season; during this 95-20 contest, the Tigers blocked every single second-half shot taken by their opponents.
Princeton, now at 16-0 on the season, is one of just four NCAA women’s basketball teams currently to hold a perfect record this far into the season and has experienced the best start ever for an Ivy League team.
“The national spotlight on us right now is unbelievable,” head coach Courtney Banghart said. “People care about college basketball right now, and it’s not even March. It’s a lot of pressure.”
Though the Tigers sit way at the top of the Ivy League rankings right now, Banghart’s biggest concern is that the Ancient Eight commission will rank them below Harvard next week in one final nod to grade deflation. The Crimson is just 6-7 right now, but even a sub .500 record equates to a top spot in Boston.
Before the season started, Banghart said she was concerned about the Tigers’ ability to win based on their potential willingness to lose.
“Was this team really going to hate to lose?” she recently asked ESPN. "The answer isn't totally clear, considering they're so unfamiliar with the feeling."
In an effort to prove to their coach that the majority of Division I athletes do, in fact, like to win games, Princeton thrashed the other MIT 107-8. But it was not at all clear from the beginning which team was going to emerge victorious. Down 7-0 in the first nine minutes of the game, the Tigers decided to show that teams like to win and kicked up their performance, outscoring the Engineers 107-1 for the remainder of the game.
“It’s encouraging that, before we start our Ivy season, we confirmed we want to do well,” said senior Blake Dietrick, who, after sinking her 20th three-pointer of the game, was asked by the opposing team to play with her lacrosse stick instead of her hands.
Sophomore Vanessa Smith and junior Michelle Miller picked up a combined 30 rebounds, answering the question of whether Princeton would rebound from last season’s heartbreaking loss to Penn.
Reports claim that the Tigers practice on a net-less hoop most days in Jadwin Gymnasium, as the net has already run away in anticipation of being cut for the fifth time in six years.
Ahead of this weekend’s sure to be tense rematch against the Quakers, Banghart said she is concerned that some players have not been getting a good night’s rest because they have been trash-talking so much in their sleep.
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