The Tigers continued their perfect seasonon Saturday, winning their first round matchup against the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay 80-70 in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship tournament.
After picking the Tigers to be in the Final Four in his March Madness bracket, President Barack Obama was in attendance for the Tigers’ dominant victory.
The stands were a sea of Orange and Black as Head Coach Courtney Banghart led the Tigers to today’s win, the first in an NCAA tournament in program history and the second in Ivy League history.
Princeton received a No. 8 seed for the Spokane region of the tournament, lower than anticipated for an undefeated team ranked 13thin both the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll. This was attributed to the Tigers’ difficulty of schedule, as Princeton was the only school in the tournament not to face off against another top-25 team during the regular season.
Both Princeton and the no. 9 seeded Green Bay Phoenix are very physical teams, playing man-to-man, which resulted in a thrilling game that only saw the Tigers begin to pull away in the last 13 minutes of play.
Five Tigers scored in the double digits, led by junior guard Michelle Miller with 20 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Junior guard/forward Annie Tarakchian and junior forward Alex Wheatley, who both posted double-doubles, notched 17 points and 16 rebounds and 15 points and 10 rebounds, respectively. Tarakchian also had five assists, while Wheatley had two. Senior guard and co-captain Blake Dietrick scored 11 points with three rebounds and five assists, and sophomore guard Vanessa Smith rounded out the group with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.
The game began with Princeton winning the opening tip and scoring the first point on a Miller three from the right. Green Bay got on the board not long after, with a jumpshot from Lexi Weitzer and a layup from Kaili Lukan separated by a Dietrick three. Green Bay pulled ahead for less than thirty seconds off of a three from Mehryn Kraker before Miller took the lead again with a shot from behind the arc.
The Tigers and Phoenix traded layups before a pair of freethrows from junior guard Amanda Berntsen, a long distance three from Tarakchian and a Vanessa Smith layup offset the balance and put the Tigers up by seven.
Princeton and Green Bay remained close, with the Phoenix closing in every time the Tigers tried to pull ahead to bring Green Bay within three with6:30left in the first half. Green Bay played with an exceptional turnover margin, which explains the mere three point Tiger lead despite the incredible shooting that the Tigers are known for.
A Wheatley jumpshot tried to pull away, but the Lukan sisters worked together for a layup before Green Bay’s Weitzer netted a jumper that brought the Phoenix within one point of the Tigers, 31-32.
After a scoring drought of nearly two minutes, Green Bay scored again to take the lead 33-32.
A fierce battle ensued for the last minute of play in the first half, but Green Bay’s Tesha Buck scored a second basket in a row to bring the score up to 35-32 before a Miller jumper brought the Tigers within one, leaving the Tigers trailing at halftime 35-34 despite a significant rebounding advantage.
The second half opened with Wheatley finding an open shooter in Tarakchian, passing for a three that put the Tigers in the lead right away. Phoenix Mehryn Kraker put in another three to pull Green Bay into the lead again, but another exciting Tarakchian three allowed the Tigers to regain the lead, solidifying her 11thdouble-double of the season.
Again, the Tigers and Phoenix traded shots, alternating which team led until a Wheatley layupat 13:44gave the Tigers the lead they held onto for the rest of the game.
The Tigers continued to increase their scoring margin in pursuit of perfection, with another Tarakchian basket and Wheatley jumper after a freethrow from Greenbay’s Allie Leclaire pushing the Tiger lead up to five points. A great block shot from the center and pair of free throws in succession from Smith left the Tigers up by 10, 58-48, and gave the Tigers more momentum, with which they rolled over the Phoenix.
With just six minutes in between the Tigers and their victory, Princeton was on an offensive blast as Wheatley and Tarakchian scored a pair of free throws. Buck then scored a three and Smith traded free throws with Kaili Lukan, leaving Green Bay down by six as the clock counted down and less than three minutes left in the period.
The game started to take a turn, and it looked as though Green Bay was putting together a rally with another two points with just over two minutes left, but the Tigers were not going to relinquish their lead, and pulled ahead again with a Wheatley layup. After Kaili Lukan tugged on Dietrick’s jersey in an attempt to keep her from breaking away, a pair of Dietrick free throws put the Tigers up by eight points with just a minute left. A basket from behind the arc scored by Green Bay’s Sam Terry came with just 48 seconds left on the clock, to put the score at 68-73.
The last minute was intense, with a pair of Miller free throws and Kaili Lukan coming back with a pair of her own before Dietrick and Tarakchian combined to score another three points with just 17 seconds left on the clock, with the score at 80-70.
The Tigers will returnonMarch 23at6:30p.m.to face off against the winner of the game between no. 1 seeded Maryland and no. 16 seeded New Mexico State.