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League-title race remains wide open in parity-filled Ivies

In the midst of a 16-day layoff between games, the women's basketball team has done a lot of watching and waiting. Princeton has watched the scores of its other Ivy League opponents, while it waits for the next opportunity to right its own season's wrongs on the court.

Despite the Tigers' atrocious non-conference record, Princeton (2-12) is currently tied for third in the league standings at 0-1, and is by no means out of contention for the Ivy championship and the corresponding NCAA tournament bid.


In what many predict will be a wild, parity-filled league season, whoever survives on top could have as many as four league losses. Having faced a trial by fire in their strong early-season schedule, the Tigers could make a run against the consistently smaller lineups of the Ivy League.

If Princeton rolls off a few wins in the coming weeks, it could start a landslide that secures the Tigers' first outright league title since 1978. Next up among Ivy opponents for Princeton are Cornell and Columbia, who come to Jadwin Gym Jan. 28 and 29.

"Is everybody else in the league playing Vanderbilt, Hawaii, Arkansas, Northwestern, Providence College?" head coach Liz Feeley asked. "I think our players have that perspective."

If the Tigers are to have any chance at a remarkable turnaround, they will have to improve their shooting. Entering the season, shooting was supposedly one of the team's strengths, yet Princeton has connected on only 37 percent of its shots from the floor and 29 percent from three-point range.

Cold shooting – combined with an average of 20 turnovers per game – has left the Tigers surprisingly susceptible to the opposition's big scoring runs. This was clearly evident in Princeton's 92-82 loss to Penn Jan. 8, when the Quakers scored the contest's first 13 points on their way to a 27-5 bulge after 10 minutes.

"I keep telling the team, 'We're the same team practically that won the league last year, that tied it with Dartmouth," Feeley said. "The last 30 minutes [of the Penn game] maybe they understood that and they said, 'Wait a minute; wait a minute. We're that same team.' "

In the lead


Penn (8-5, 1-0), meanwhile, is currently tied with Harvard and Cornell atop the Ivy standings. The veteran Quakers – the preseason league favorite – are off to their best start in school history and boast two of the league's top players in forward Diana Caramanico and guard Mandy West. Caramanico is among the nation's leaders in scoring and rebounding – averaging more than 26 points and 10 boards per game – while West has chipped in with 17.7 ppg.

Harvard (9-5, 3-0) has a match for Caramanico in six-foot, five-inch center Melissa Johnson, a transfer from North Carolina. She has acclimated herself quite nicely to Ivy League competition, grabbing more than 10 rebounds per game.

The Crimson had an impressive non-conference victory over Ohio State, 66-52, Nov. 26 and also dominated defending league champion Dartmouth, 73-67, Jan. 7, building a 22-point lead midway through the second half.

Although Harvard appears to have found its rhythm on the court, the rest of the Ivy season will be a struggle psychologically. Crimson head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer in mid-December. She had surgery the week before Christmas and will soon begin chemotherapy. She expects to coach all of the team's remaining games.

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The outcome of traveling partners Princeton's and Penn's road trip to Dartmouth and Harvard Feb. 11-12 will go a long way in determining this year's league champion.

"We feel that we are right there in the running," senior captain Maggie Langlas said.