Like a wave on the sea shore, the Princeton women's basketball team crashed upon its opponents this intersession. But, also like a wave, it could not maintain its hold and two potential Ivy League victories slipped away.
In Jadwin Gym Jan. 24, the Tigers (3-14 overall, 0-3 Ivy League) overpowered Rider (10-7), 77-73, but Friday and Saturday they were beaten by slim margins as they lost to Cornell (10-5, 2-1), 68-66, and Columbia (3-13, 2-1), 63-57.
While the Tiger offense came out strong in all three games, a leaky defense allowed the points to trickle through.
"I'm just not pleased with our defense, whether it's zone or man, whether it's 1-2-2 or 1-3-1," head coach Liz Feeley said. "It's just too easy."
Against the Big Red and the Lions, the Tigers came out strong with early leads. Against Columbia, the Tigers couldn't hold on in a continual ebb and flow that included five lead changes in the first half.
With 12 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the second half, however, the Lions found themselves down, 39-34, after the Tigers opened the half with a 7-0 run.
Princeton took the lead in this rally with 16:10 remaining on a hook shot by sophomore guard Lauren Rigney from the left of the hoop and continued to surge with a layup by senior forward and captain Kate Thirolf. A successful free throw by Rigney created what would be the largest Tiger lead of the game.
But this all began to disintegrate when a foul allowed Columbia forward Shawnee Pickney to sink two free throws at 12:53. A five-minute struggle followed, at the end of which the Tigers found themselves down, 46-45, after a layup by Lion center Shaunte Edmunds.
Princeton never recovered the lead. Though senior guard and captain Maggie Langlas was the game's high scorer with 22 points, Columbia was a victor at Jadwin Gym for the first time since 1986.
Against Cornell, the Tigers came out with a ten-point lead that shrank to three as the Big Red surged. But when freshman guard Allison Cahill sank two three-pointers late in the first half, the Tigers had built an 11-point lead, 37-26.
That lead would not last in the second half, however, as Cornell slowly but surely dissolved Princeton's advantage.
"Any time you let a team stick around for a while, they're going to get some confidence," Feeley said. "I don't think we're good enough to allow them to stick around that long. We need to learn how to build on that lead."
After a series of five lead changes and four ties, senior center Brooke Lockwood sunk two free throws and Langlas scored on a layup to give the Tigers their last lead of the game, 62-58, with 3:02 left on the clock.
Four points by Thirolf in the final three minutes could not match the Big Red's ten, which put the Tigers away.
"I think overall the weekend was a disappointing weekend," Langlas said. "Losing is never any fun, especially to Columbia."
Nevertheless, the intersession break was not without its high points. Lockwood led the team to a four-point victory against Rider and notched her first double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Appropriately, her achievement occurred on what happened to be her 22nd birthday.
"They were just leaving me open up top," Lockwood said. "The shots were there and all I had to do was take them, and they were falling."
After its intersession break, Princeton is gearing up for its next Ivy League matches.
"In the Ivy League, you can't really think about the losses too much," Thirolf said. "I'm thinking about Yale and Brown right now. It's not exactly that we were expecting to lose these games, but we'll get them back when we play there."