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Feaster, Harvard pose litmus test for young but maturing women's hoops

Pssst, have you heard? There's this basketball team down at Jadwin Gym that's playing some pretty good ball. Four-for-four in Ivy League games in 1998. The top-ranked scoring defense in Division I, allowing 53.4 points per game.

And no, this group of Tigers does not have its highlights shown on SportsCenter or a No. 11 national ranking.

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I'm writing about Princeton's women's hoops team (10-7 overall, 4-1 Ivy League), which has quietly matured and taken hold of second place in the Ivies. Not too shabby, especially considering that last year's team overflowing with freshmen and sophomores managed just three wins in its first 21 games.

As the season drew to a close, however, something very interesting started to happen – the young team's efforts translated into wins. The Tigers went 4-1 down the stretch of last year's Ivy slate, which combined with an identical 4-1 league start this year gives head coach Liz Feeley's squad eight wins in its last 10 Ivy contests.

Picked to finish fourth in the preseason Ivy poll, Princeton has taken advantage of the lesser teams in the league, winning all four games from squads in the bottom half of the Ivy standings. The true litmus test for this team, however, comes this weekend, when the Tigers face Harvard and Dartmouth.

Taking a page from the Princeton men's team, Feeley's squad relies on a strong defensive effort to lead its assault on the upper echelon of Ivy teams.

"I'm really proud of the way this team has come together defensively," Feeley said. "They set their own standards in practice."

But Saturday at Jam Jadwin Night, the nation's best scoring defense will run into a player who sets her own standards, seemingly every time she steps onto the court – Harvard's Allison Feaster. She averages an astounding 29.1 points per game, tops in Division I women's hoops.

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Last weekend in games against Lehigh, Brown and Yale, the five-foot, 11-inch Feaster surpassed both the 2,000-point and 1,000-rebound barriers. She became just the second player in Ivy League history to reach both milestones.

The other? Some guy named Bradley.

And Feaster might have even more in common with 10-year NBA veteran Bill Bradley '65 after she graduates in the spring. Feaster is considering a career in professional basketball, and for good reason. In addition to her scoring, the senior forward also averages better than 10 boards and three steals a game.

When asked if there is any way the Tigers can stop or even slow down Feaster Saturday, Feeley responded with a simple and concise, "No."

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Pessimistic, but true. During her career, Feaster has feasted on Tiger meat, leading the Crimson to a perfect 6-0 mark against Princeton. Overall, Harvard has won 31 straight Ivy contests, including a 79-34 win at Jadwin last February – the Tigers' worst loss in 17 years.

And so Princeton's litmus test comes Saturday. Whether Feaster will make the test come back black and blue remains to be seen.

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