Senior forward and two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Bella Alarie has missed the entirety of four of Princeton women’s basketball’s first nine games due to injuries. The Tigers have won all of them.
Alarie has also missed part of two other games. Princeton (8–1) won both of those as well.
How have they done it?
The answer was on display in Princeton’s most recent win, a 73–42 drubbing of Hartford (0–10) in the third straight game Alarie has missed.
It started with a dominant effort on the defensive end, with Princeton forcing 23 turnovers and holding Hartford to 27.6 shooting from the field. Princeton has been stellar on defense in the first year of head coach Carla Berube’s tenure, holding opponents to 53 points per game.
“If we get stops on defense, everything else will come,” said first-year forward Ellie Mitchell, who had four of Princeton’s 13 steals.
Then on offense, the Tigers again benefited from a deep and balanced scoring attack. Nine players scored for Princeton against Hartford, and four players — Mitchell, senior forward Taylor Baur, junior guard Carlie Littlefield, and sophomore guard Julia Cunningham — scored more than 10 points.
“People are really stepping up,” Berube said. “Everybody’s got the green light, everybody should be feeling confident in their individual games. If we do a good job defensively, then things are going to open up on the offensive end, and if we execute well, then we’ll get those open looks.”
Even without Alarie, the outcome of the game between the one-loss Tigers and winless Hawks wasn’t in doubt for very long. Princeton started the game on a 12–4 run, and after Hartford bounced back with a run of its own, the Tigers scored the final seven points of the quarter to take a 20–11 lead after 10 minutes.
Neither team did much scoring in the second quarter, and the game went to halftime with Princeton leading 31–20.
In the third quarter, Princeton didn’t miss a shot until the 5:08 mark. The Tigers hit their first five field goals and a handful of free throws to take a commanding 20-point lead, and they coasted in the fourth quarter to the 31-point win.
“It took us a little bit to get going,” Berube said. “The first half was not our best, but coming out of halftime I thought we did a much better job. I thought we had great energy and really took control of the game.”
Alarie seemed to be moving well in warm-ups, and Berube indicated after the game that the star forward is on the verge of returning from an ankle injury suffered Nov. 24 against Monmouth.
In the meantime, her replacements — including first-year starters Mitchell and forward Maya McArthur — filled in more than capably. In addition to her 11 points and four steals, Mitchell contributed four assists and seven rebounds, and McArthur had four blocks.
Baur, a senior regarded for her defense, scored 11 points in 20 minutes. She has struggled with injuries throughout her Princeton career but is Princeton’s fourth-leading scorer this season with eight points per game.
“[Alarie’s absence] is getting a lot of people a lot of touches and experience,” Baur said. “It’s definitely a different role than I’ve had in the past, and it’s a good challenge.”
Princeton will remain at Jadwin for a Dec. 14 game against Penn State before going on the road to face Missouri and St. Louis.