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Retooled defense keys w. hoops' sweep through Empire State

Much like a person rummaging through a lost-and-found bin, the women's basketball team has finally felt the euphoria of locating a long-lost item.

This weekend, the team rediscovered its defense en route to its first Ivy League weekend sweep of the season.

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Friday night in New York City, Princeton (6-17 overall, 3-6 Ivy League) knocked off Columbia (4-16, 3-5) in a 62-44 slugfest. The following night in Ithaca, N.Y., the Tigers held on for a 46-42 win over the Cornell Big Red (11-9, 3-5).

"We played great defense," sophomore center Lauren Rigney said. "That was certainly the difference between [this weekend's] Columbia and Cornell games and previous ones."

After playing a sloppy first half at Columbia's Levien Gymnasium, Princeton produced a nearly perfect defensive performance in the second. In an eight-minute, 41-second span, the Tigers dec-lawed the Lions, holding them scoreless.

Sophomore guard Tiffany Scharschmidt, who made her first career start against Columbia, ignited Princeton's big second-half run with a slashing left-handed layup 1:15 into the stanza.

Two minutes later, senior captain and guard Maggie Langlas caught fire and personally incinerated the Lions.

"I found the green light," Langlas said. "Sometimes you just get in the zone."

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In an eight-minute stretch, Langlas buried four three-pointers and had a layup off an offensive rebound. In that time, Langlas personally outscored Columbia 14-2 in helping the Tigers open up a 20-point lead.

With the exception of Princeton's second-half spurt, the Columbia game was among the most unsightly of the season. The match took over two hours to complete. On average, every two minutes of the game featured two turnovers, two attempted free throws, two personal fouls and three missed shots.

The following night in rural Ithaca, however, it looked as if the Tigers had left their sloppy play in the city. Princeton had 15 field goals, 14 of which came off assists, and committed only 10 fouls over 40 minutes.

"We were much more patient with our offense," Langlas said. "We were working the ball around well. It was less scrappy than the Columbia game."

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Behind strong three-point shooting — the Tigers made 10 of 28 threes for the game — Princeton seized a 27-16 lead at the half. The Big Red wouldn't collapse like Columbia did, however, as the home side took the lead, 34-33, with 11:56 remaining.

But Princeton regained the advantage moments later and would not relinquish it for the remainder of the contest. Cornell pulled within two in the waning moments, but senior captain and forward Kate Thirolf calmly drained two free throws to ensure the victory.

Against Columbia, head coach Liz Feeley used a new starting lineup, featuring several younger players. This lineup featured Scharschmidt and sophomore Hillary Reser at guard, Thirolf and freshman Lee Culp at forward and Rigney at center.

"Those players in particular are good about keeping players in front of them [on defense]," Feeley said. "That was a good pressing unit."

These starters and Princeton's deep bench held Columbia to zero points in transition, which was Feeley's primary concern going into the game.

Following a disappointing opening to the Ivy season in which its defense languished, Princeton has focused on its remaining games as a "seven game season." The Tigers are now 2-0 in their 'second season' after a weekend in which they reclaimed their defensive ability.

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