'Must-win' time has arrived earlier than anticipated for women's basketball. Expecting to compete for the Ivy League title at the beginning of the season, the Tigers (3-14 overall, 0-3 Ivy) have floundered and need two wins against Brown and Yale this weekend if they are to have any chance of winning the crown.
Princeton enters the weekend with three losses in Ivy play. This season, the top teams in the league are so evenly matched — much like last season — that three losses do not preclude a team from winning the title. Dartmouth and Princeton tied for the championship last year with identical records of 11-3. The Big Green won a playoff game to advance to the NCAA tournament.
A fourth Ivy loss, however, would essentially knock the Tigers out of the championship chase. Currently, Harvard and Penn sit atop the Ivy ladder with spotless conference records.
Needing a victory, Princeton could not have scheduled fellow cellar-dweller Brown (5-13, 0-4) at a better time. The Bears, also winless in Ivy competition, are in the midst of a seven game losing streak, having last won Jan. 3 against Rhode Island. Furthermore, Brown will enter tonight's game at Jadwin with an 0-7 record in away games.
Yale (6-11, 2-2), on the other hand, stands in stark contrast to the slumping Bears. The Elis are on a four game win streak, having defeated Brown twice, Hartford and Navy within the past two weeks. Yale currently resides in the middle of the pack in the Ivy standings.
To win, Princeton will have to improve its defensive play, as both Brown and Yale like to push the ball upcourt. The Tigers have played well offensively as of late, but not well enough to make up for their sloppy defense. Porous play in its own half has caused Princeton to lose ten out of its last eleven games, with its lone win against Rider during Intersession.
"We need to tighten up our defense," head coach Liz Feeley said. "Against Penn we scored 82 [points] but gave up 92. Rider was a high scoring game, even though that was a win."
To knock off the Bears, Princeton must shut down the inside-outside tandem of sophomore center Rachel MacDonald — who, at six-feet four inches, is two inches taller than the biggest Tiger — and freshman guard Barbara Maloni. The two are the Bears' leading scorers — averaging 11.8 and 13.6 points per game respectively.
Yale has relied on its younger players and its tremendous depth throughout its torrid streak. The Elis have several players averaging over five points per game, while their leading scorer has yet to start a game all year. Freshman guard Maria Smear is averaging 10.6 points per game while coming off the bench.
Playing against these fast paced opponents, it will be important for Princeton to try to slow the flow of the game. If either game turns into a shoot-out, the Tigers' weak transition defense will surely be its undoing.
"We need to control the pace of the game more," senior center Brooke Lockwood said. "We're tending to run with the ball more."