The Tigers look to continue their still-perfect season as they take on the Yale Bulldogs and the Brown Bearsthis FridayandSaturdayat Jadwin Gymnasium. Princeton (25-0 overall , 9-0 Ivy League) currently holds the No. 14 ranking in the nation in both the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll, the highest rankings simultaneously held by an Ivy League team.
The Tigers have seen incredible performances from their starters this year. In particular, the play of senior guard Blake Dietrick and junior forward Annie Tarakchian has been absolutely superb. Dietrick has been named Ivy League Player of the Week five times this season and has been stuffing the stat sheet for the Tigers all year. She currently leads Princeton in scoring at points per game (14.8) and assists (5.16), and makes a strong contribution in the rebound department at 4.9 per game. Dietrick is also the only player in program history to be named theUnited States Basketball Writers AssociationNational Player of the Week, receiving her second honor on Jan. 6.
Tarakchian’s play has been excellent throughout the season, averaging 10.2 points and 9.3 boards. However, she has gone to a new level as of late. This weekend, she just missed out on a triple double against the Dartmouth Big Green, posting 11 points, 14 boards and 8 assists. The following day against Harvard, she had a monster double-double of 17 points and 14 boards. Just as impressive, she shot an efficient 66.7 percent during hte weekend. Her great play earned her a second Ivy League Player of the Week award.
However, Tarakchian and Dietrick aren’t the only stars this team boasts. Junior forward Alex Wheatley averages 11 points per game on an insane shooting percentage of 59.8 percent. Michelle Miller averages 12 points a game with lights-out 45.9 percent shooting from downtown. Funnily enough, she’s still second on the team in three-point shooting behind Tarakchian, who shoots threes at a 50.6 percent clip. All these players have helped lead Princeton not just to the perfect record but also to a league-best offense, putting up 77.6 points per game.
Given the stellar play of this team, their opponents this weekend will have all they can handle. However, the Bulldogs (11-11, 5-3), ranked No. 4 in the Ivy League, definitely have reason to maintain hope going into this game. They gave the Tigers their closest game of the season this year, edged out 56-50 in a battle at New Haven.
Early on the season, Yale was neck-and-neck with Princeton for the Ivy League title, despite having lost captain Sarah Halejian to a torn ACL. However, a four-game losing streak caused the Bulldogs to fall out of the thick of the race.
As with the previous matchup, one of the biggest questions facing this team will be whether it can generate any offense against the Tigers. Yale currently ranks seventh in the Ivy League for points per game, at 60.1. Moreover, it will be going up against what’s been the league’s best defense. The Tigers have held their opponents to a league-low 51.5 points per game and have also been taking away second chances from their opponents, grabbing a league-leading 42.4 boards per contest.
Unlike the Bulldogs, the No. 5 Bears (10-14, 4-6) did not put up much of a fight against the Tigers in the previous matchup. Like many teams, Brown fell to Princeton in a blowout, 86-58. However, unlike the Bulldogs, the Bears don’t seem to have a problem scoring. They put up 66.1 points per game, good for second in the league (though still 11.5 points behind league-leading Princeton). However, this team ran into a buzzsaw against the Tigers’ defense in the last meeting.
In addition, the Bears will have to worry about the Tigers’ rebounding prowess. Brown stands last in the league in rebounding, and going against the Tigers could painfully highlight this weakness.
Having already achieved the highest ranking in history of any Ivy League basketball team, Princeton fans might begin to get excited over a probable NCAA tournament appearance. However, the season still moves one game at a time; the Tigers intend to perform the same way they did in the previous meetings against these two teams as the regular season begins to wind down.