Women’s basketball remains on fire, extending its season-long winning streak to 15 games over winter break as head coach Courtney Banghart passed her 150th career win. The Tigers began break dominating Binghamton University 96-58, the University of Delaware 87-59, Portland State University 104-33 and Monmouth University 84-53 before going on to play in the Holiday Classic, where they beat the University of Hartford 64-51 and Fordham University 67-53. The Tigers (15-0) are not only off to their best start in program history but are also off to the best start in Ivy League women’s basketball history and the second best start in Ivy League basketball history, second to only the 1970-71 Penn men’s 28-0 start. Princeton is also listed on both the AP and Coaches polls, ranking 27th and 29th with 52 and 35 votes, respectively.
Against the Binghamton Bearcats, the Tigers managed to score an impressive 96 points, which was a program record for the most points in a single game until the Portland State game the following week. All 13 Tigers who played against the Bearcats managed to get on the scoreboard, with the bench accounting for an impressive 38 points. The Tigers set a season high in three-point field goal percentage (66.7), shooting 10 for 15 from long distance. Co-captain and senior guard Blake Dietrick and junior guard Michelle Miller each scored 19 points in 25 minutes played, while Dietrick also had six assists and four rebounds and Miller had one assist and four rebounds. Co-captain and senior forward Mariah Smith netted a career-high 11 points with four rebounds and two assists.
“Last year, our team was young. Now, our chemistry together and trust in each other, knowing where people are going to be on the court, makes it a lot easier to play,” Dietrick said on the Tigers’ recent success. “We’ve been practicing more defensive drills, and holding everyone to a higher standard. I think that’s really helped our game,” she added.
With four Tigers netting double digits, the game against the Delaware Blue Hens was no exception to the incredible performance the Tigers have put on this season. The Tigers matched a season-high 11 three-pointers, with junior guard/forward Annie Tarakchian scoring 22 points, made up of seven field goals and five three-pointers, which were both personal-bests, although she was just shy of matching her career-high points per game, set earlier this season against Montana. Dietrick posted the team’s third double-double of the season with 12 points and a career-high 10 assists, the most for any Tiger this season. Miller scored 16 points and sophomore guard Vanessa Smith added 10.
The game against the Vikings of Portland State proved significant for the Tigers, who scored a program-high 104 points to mark the 150th career victory of head coach Courtney Banghart, who has the second-most wins in program history, following Joan Kowalik (163). Portland State’s 33 points were the lowest total points ever allowed by the Tigers under Banghart in an incredible defensive showing. Four Tigers scored in double digits, led by Tarakchian, with 16 points, one assist and 11 rebounds. Dietrick and junior guard Amanda Berntsen each had fourteen points, and Dietrick also had eight assists and six rebounds, while Berntsen had five assists and two rebounds. Miller was the final player to score in double digits, with 12 points, one assist and one rebound.
“Our defense has definitely been a contributing factor to our success, and our focus and commitment to every possession being better has definitely helped us,” Dietrick said.
Tarakchian continued to lead the charge against the Monmouth University Hawks, posting a double-double for the second time in so many games, bringing her season total up to four, scoring 12 points and matching a career-high 14 rebounds. Dietrick also scored 12 points and managed eight assists, while Miller finished with 14 points. Both Berntsen and freshman forward Leslie Robinson netted 11 points, and sophomore guard Vanessa Smith scored 10. The game was the seventh time in the previous eight games that the Tigers had a lead of at least 30 points. For her performances against Delaware, Portland State and Monmouth, Tarakchian was named Ivy League Co-Player of the Week, making Princeton the first conference team to receive each of the first six Ivy League Player of the Week awards of the season.
The final two games of the break were played in the Fordham Holiday Classic, in which Dietrick was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Dietrick scored a game-high 27 points against Hartford and finished with 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds against Fordham. Against Fordham, Miller scored 13 points with two assists and two rebounds, while Tarakchian scored 11 points with four assists and eight rebounds. Miller also earned All-Tournament honors. Junior forward Taylor Williams came close to a double-double in the game against Fordham, posting nine points and 11 rebounds.
With the first league game against Penn approaching next week, the Tigers feel they still have a lot of upside.
“We want to keep getting better every day. We definitely don’t think we’re as good as we can be. I know we have the potential to grow, and it’s easy to get complacent when we are winning, but Penn is still Ivy League champion until the end of the season,” Dietrick said. “During the Ivy League season, we play back-to-back games, Friday and Saturday, and we will really need everyone to contribute. We still have something to prove and something to chase which makes it easy to stay motivated and keep trying to get better.”