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At long last, the Ivy League Conference Schedule has begun. The Tigers opened Ivy League play with a hard-fought game against Penn. Despite a strong effort, the Tigers fell to the the Quakers, 62-57, at Jadwin. As Princeton rests and practices for the upcoming Ivy League games, let’s take this moment to look back on their non-conference schedule and preview their upcoming conference games:

The Tigers started their non-conference play in early November with plenty of variables and excitement. Princeton fielded what was one of its youngest teams in recent history and prepared to make a run at its second league title in three years. Head Coach Courtney Banghart, who early in the year called this team “one of the most interesting and fun teams I have ever coached,” came into the season knowing her team would be “the hunted,” the one that teams wanted to play against and beat. However, players embraced her idea of taking one step at a time — “winning the day” as the players have coined it — and working one day at a time forming their own place in Tiger history.

The start of the season was a tough early roadblock for the Tigers. Looking to start strong out of the gate, they stumbled, losing their first four games of the season. The defense — the focal point of the successes of the past few years — was struggling to find its rhythm. The Tigers were being out-rebounded, something that was a rarity throughout the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons, while the team struggled to defend shots. Meanwhile, the mix of senior leadership and younger talent looked to establish chemistry. This process had to happen game by game, quarter by quarter, as the Tigers began to find where each player fit best and began to hit their stride on offense.

Then the next four games hit. The Tigers found their groove on defense. The chemistry continued to evolve. They started outrebounded opponents. And the wins that everyone knew were coming began to flow. Princeton rattled off a four-game win streak and set records on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. They set the record for most 3-pointers ever in a game against UMBC. They broke a 30-year winless streak against in-state rival Seton Hall in emphatic fashion. Their defense held Lafayette to only 27 points total, and only two in one quarter of play, which accounted for one of the best defensive performances in recent history. The Tigers were becoming natural trailblazers.

As the non-conference schedule continued, the Tigers turned their attention away from establishing rhythm and towards playing their style against tournament quality teams. Highlighted by a road game against a tough Georgia Tech squad and a game against Kansas State — a revenge game of sorts from 2012, when the Wildcats knocked Princeton out of the NCAA tournament — the Tigers final five non-conference games featured a mix of talent similar to that they will face in the Ivy League. The Tigers learned how to manage adversity, especially on the road against quality opponents. The Tigers faced plenty of different emotions over the final five games, including a massive comeback that fell just short in Fordham, and a record-setting offensive day at home against Wagner, breaking school records for points in a game (107), points in a half (60), and points in a quarter (34). They followed up the stellar Wagner performance by stealing a win on the road against the Bison, capping off the 2016 calendar year and the non-conference schedule on a high note.

The non-conference slate exposed the Tigers to a gauntlet of emotions. From highs to lows, the Tigers faced plenty of adversity and success over the first six weeks of the season. Sitting at 6-7, the Tigers look to use what was a valuable non-conference experience to run the table in Ivy League play.

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