As we get closer and closer to conference play, the Tigers are looking more and more like a team ready to compete for a tournament bid.
Princeton heads into the weekend with a record of 4-4 and their sluggish start way back in the rearview mirror. After a 0-4 start that left many questions for the team, the Tigers have responded to the adversity with a bang; they have rattled off four straight wins and suddenly seem like once again like one of the teams to beat in the Ivy League.
The Tigers last win came against the Lafayette Leopards Wednesday night at Jadwin Gymnasium. Princeton defeated the Leopards by a score of 65-27, dismantling the Lafayette offense on their way to a convincing win.
The defense starred once again in the Tiger victory. 27 points is only the second time since 1981 that Princeton held a team to under 30 points (the other being Penn in 2011 also at 27). The defense outrebounded the Leopards 52-31; it was the fifth straight game the Tigers outrebounded the opponent. Rebounding has been critical to the success of the team over the last few weeks, and the Tigers are earning a wider margin in this category with each passing game. Senior captain Vanessa Smith led the way with eight rebounds, and junior Tia Weledji was right behind with seven. The Tiger defense also added 14 steals — a season high for the Tigers. Freshman Bella Alarie proved a force inside, stuffing the Leopards shooters all game and finishing with four blocks. While the Tigers did turn the ball over 20 times, they still won the turnover battle, forcing Lafayette to commit 26.
The offense did not need to do much work in the win, but still recorded an impressive showing. Princeton as a team shot 38.5 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc. These two marks near their season highs. The team also improved from the charity stripe, shooting 61.5 percent from the free throw line which is their best performance in three games.
Three Tigers led the way with double digit point totals. Weledji had a team leading and season best 20 points. Smith added 11, while senior captain Taylor Brown added 14. The Tigers also added 15 assists as a team.
The win gives head coach Courtney Banghart’s 196th career victory. Should the Tigers continue on their pace, her first shot at win number 200 will be December 29th at Georgia Tech. However the Tigers continue to focus on one day — and one game — at a time. Next up for the Tigers is a trip to the city to take on Fordham University. The Tigers will look to get above .500 for the first time this season and will lead on both sides of the ball to continue their great work. Princeton currently is No. 8 in the nation in three point field goal percentage, first in the Ivy League in team assists, and holding opposing teams to only .222 in three-point field goals. They look to continue their success in New York against their foe from the Atlantic 10.
Ivy League play is still a few weeks away. But if this current win streak is any indication, the Tigers look prime to make a run at the Conference Championship and a tournament berth.