In the first season of head coach Carla Berube’s tenure, Princeton women’s basketball has put together an impressive non-conference resume.
The Tigers have won 12 of their first 13 games, good for the 24th best RPI in the country. Princeton is also ranked No. 24 in the USA Today/WBCA Coaches’ poll, the first time the Tigers have been ranked in a national poll since 2015.
Princeton is currently on a eight-game winning streak following the team’s sole loss to Iowa in November. The Tigers won each of the four games they played over winter break by double digits.
On Dec. 14, junior guard Carlie Littlefield scored 25 points, and senior forward Bella Alarie scored 23 to help Princeton beat Penn State 72–55 at home. Princeton followed that win with a successful road trip to the Midwest, with a 68–33 over Missouri on Dec. 18 followed by a 66–50 win over St. Louis on Dec. 20.
Princeton’s most recent win was a Dec. 29 domination of New Hampshire, in which the Tigers outscored New Hampshire 24–3 in the first quarter and ultimately won 77–37. Alarie led Princeton in scoring in that game with 18 points in 21 minutes, and Princeton held New Hampshire to just 23.5 percent shooting from the field.
The Tigers have been dominant on defense, holding opponents to 49.7 points per game on the season and 43.9 points per game during their eight-game winning streak. Princeton’s opponents have shot just 34.2 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from three, and the Tigers have forced 19 turnovers per game.
Several of Princeton’s wins came without Alarie, the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, who was sidelined with lower-body injuries on two different occasions during the non-conference schedule. Despite the injuries, Alarie has remained effective, leading Princeton in points per game with 16.9 and rebounds per game with 8.4 in her nine games played.
Princeton has received other important contributions throughout its roster. Littlefield has continued to improve after being named to the All-Ivy first team last season, as she’s scored 15.6 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting to go along with 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Sophomore guard Julia Cunningham has become a regular in the starting lineup and has scored 9.8 points per game, and first-year forward Ellie Mitchell has provided valuable minutes down low, especially with Alarie injured.
The strong showing during non-conference play will put Princeton into a position to contend for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fail to win the Ivy League’s automatic bid. Given the quality of competition in this year’s Ivy League, that could come in handy. Penn boasts a 10–1 record, with its only loss against Duke, and Yale is 10–3 with a win over a UNC team led by former Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart.
Princeton will open its Ivy League schedule Saturday, Jan. 11, against Penn at the Palestra before it begins a three-week break for finals.