Hannah Montana once told me that nobody’s perfect. She clearly never met this Princeton women’s basketball team. They capped off what has been a season for the ages, defeating the Penn Quakers in Philadelphia on Tuesday to obtain the coveted undefeated status in the regular season.
The Tigers (30 — 0 overall, 14 — 0 Ivy League), despite winning by double digits, had one of their harder games of the season in this one. Penn (20 — 8, 11 — 3) came into this final game ranked No. 2 in the Ivy League. While they were out of contention for the league title, they could still look to play the role of spoiler and put a slight damper on an incredible season.
Both halves featured a tight struggle between the two. In the first, the Tigers were unable to break away from their foe, never leading by more than seven points. As the buzzer sounded, they would head into the locker rooms up by just 5 points — a notable difference for a team who defeated their last two opponents by an average of 26 points.
The first part of the second half was just as intense a battle as the first. The Quakers would get off to a quick start, scoring four straight points to start the half and bring them to within one point. The Tigers, in turn, would respond with an 11 — 4, seeming just on the cusp of breaking away from the home team, as they had done in so many previous games.
However, the point differential would not rise to exorbitant heights, as has happened quite often with this team. Princeton’s lead would remain around 12 points for the remainder of the game, and would finish with a victory of 55 — 42, their 4thsmallest margin of victory in the regular season. The score is even more remarkable knowing that this Princeton squad has averaged 75.8 points a game in Ivy League play this season.
A look at the box score highlights how the Tigers had to earn every point they got. The Tigers have shot 49.3% from the field and 40.6% from the three point line in league play – they were held to 39.3% and 21.1% respectively in this one. They also had difficulty getting to the line in the game, with only 4 free throw attempts for the entire team.
Of course, no Princeton women’s basketball game is without its bright spots. As has been the story all season, the Tigers’ rebounding effort was excellent, beating out Penn 42 — 34 on the boards. In particular, junior forwards Annie Tarakchian and Alex Wheatley cleaned the glass all night. Each finished with a double-double, with Tarakchian putting up 10 points and 12 boards, Wheatley 17 points and 12 boards. Wheatley would make her presence felt on defense, as she picked up two steals and swatted a season high four shots.
Senior guard Blake Dietrick would also shine in this one. Despite a rough night shooting wise (35.7% on the day, compared to 49.1% in league play), she still stuffed the stat sheet, putting up 11 points, 5 boards, and 7 assists on the game. Sophomore guard Vanessa Smith would also contribute to the victory, putting up 10 points on the game.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the victory was the Tigers’ ability to maintain their lead without much rest for the key players. Four of the five starters played for 35+ minutes – junior guard Michelle Miller played all 40 minutes of the contest.
With an astonishing regular season finished, the Tigers now set their eyes on the biggest prize of all – NCAA Championships. The Tiger’s seeding for the tournament (along with their overall bracket) will be revealed on Monday, March 16th.