Following a 20-day respite from competition, the women’s basketball team wasted little time in getting back to business this weekend. The Tigers defeated Brown (12-6 overall, 0-4 conference) on Friday and then Yale (11-10 overall, 2-2 conference) on Saturday.
Playing against the Brown Bears, the Tigers were looking to live up to their expectations as the Ivy League favorites following a disappointing conference opener against Penn. Despite leading the Ivy League in scoring and rebounding margins, the Tigers lost that game 48-50 on Jan. 9. Over exam season, the team was able to learn from its mistakes and build up energy for the Ivy League weekend.
“We were really kind of hesitant going off the ball,” senior guard Michelle Miller said, when asked about how her team worked to improve from the Penn game. “We tried to get into our offense pretty slowly, and it was a pretty slow-paced game, so we really worked on pushing the ball, getting into the key and making plays from there.”
“We did a lot of competitive drills in practice,” Miller continued, “to work on our overall competitive accountability and develop that all the way from the starters through all of our bench players.”
Competitive practices helped the Princeton team dive right into action against Brown. A fresh squad started against Brown with a 13-0 run, nine of which came from Michelle Miller. While the Bears reached within six at 3:30 in the first quarter, Princeton quickly took the lead back to double-digits with a layup by senior forward Alex Wheatley and then a jumper by junior guard Vanessa Smith. From then on, the game was solidly in the Tigers’ possession. The final score was 72-53.
Senior forward Annie Tarakchian racked up 17 total rebounds, matching her career high. Miller led the Tigers with 21 points.
“I shot a lot more pull-up jump shots this weekend, which is something I like to do,” Miller said.
Offering a glimpse of the future of the Princeton program, freshman guard Gabrielle Rush posted her first career double-figure game with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
“Shots were falling that don’t normally fall as much as they did on Friday,” a modest Rush said. “My teammates found me when I was open, so I think it was a lot of being in the right place at the right time and my teammates being able to find me where I could make shots.”
Guard Rebecca Musgrove led the Bears with 16 points, followed by guard Jordin Alexander with 14 points. Guard Shayna Mehta contributed seven rebounds for Brown. The Tigers, while shooting relatively weakly at 40.8%, held the Bears to just 29.9% shooting.
Continuing their home-game win streak, the Tigers were back in action on Saturday, defeating the Yale Bulldogs 65-50 at the annual “Play4Kay” night. It was a festive, high-turnout event, with many of the 2,109 fans at Jadwin Gymnasium dressing in bright pink and bidding on a silent auction to raise money for breast cancer research.
Starting with a 6-0 run, Princeton held the lead throughout the game but met some challenges from Yale in the second quarter, as the Bulldogs scored 20 points to pull within five, making the score 33-28.
“At halftime, Coach really emphasized getting the ball inside,” Miller said. “That was something we definitely looked to do — get the ball inside to Alex.”
That strategy helped the Tigers separate themselves from the Bulldogs in the third quarter. Senior forward Alex Wheatley scored 10 consecutive points in the low post to take Princeton to 50-36. A three-pointer by Yale guard Mary Ann Santucci helped restore the visiting team’s rhythm. By then, however, the game was firmly in the Tigers’ control. In the final 15 seconds, the home crowd rose and applauded as Michelle Miller dribbled out the game.
Princeton shot 51% overall while holding Yale to 32% shooting. Four players — Wheatley, Smith, Tarakchian and Miller — gained double figures, each scoring at least 12 points. Wheatley led the rebounding effort with nine, while Tarakchian had a quieter rebounding game than she did against Brown, this time racking up eight.
The win took Princeton to 13-4 overall and 2-1 in the Ivy League. The team will be at Dartmouth on Friday and Harvard on Sunday.