Guru's College Report: Princeton Tigers Roar Over Lafayette Leopards
EASTON, Pa. -- Monday night's trip up here to Lafayette's Kirby Sports Center near the rise of the Pocono Mountains had all the potential for becoming one of those so-called "trap" games for Princeton, the two-time defending Ivy champions.
The Tigers had opened back home in Jadwin Gym on Friday night crusing over St. Joseph's, one of the better Atlantic 10 teams, for their first-ever win in 10 tries over the Hawks.
Ahead on Saturday afternoon is a visit from what appears to be a revitalized Villanova team from the Big East and Philadelphia Big Five, the latter of which also has St. Joe's among its members.
But before thinking about going 3-0 Princeton needed to take care of its business and return back to central New Jersey at 2-0.
Trailing 9-8 with 13 minutes, 58 seconds left in the first half, Princeton's Lauren Edwards hit consecutive three-pointers to propel the Tigers to a 14-3 run and eventual 87-47 victory.
Lafayette, having early season trouble scoring, fell to 0-2 including Friday night's 64-56 loss at Rider in Lawrenceville, N.J., which coincidentally is only minutes away from the Tigers' home.
"We'll take the win," Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said afterwards. "Any win on the road is a good win. They put a zone on us right from the start.
"A zone (defense) requires you to score with a combination of things -- poise, attack, screen, cut, and I thought we used a good healthy mix of all them," she continued.
"We challenged our kids to get in passing lanes and get deflections and I was pleased with the amount of turnovers (27) they caused, wreaking havoc on (Lafayette's) sets. With their size, that's the only chance we had."
Junior guard Niveen Rasheed, the 2009 Ivy rookie of the year who suffered a season-ending knee injury last December, showed she has completely recovered, scoring 22 points paced by an 8-for-13 effort from the field, She also had four steals and blocked three shots while dealing three assists.
Nicole Hung scored 11 points off the bench while Alex Rodgers in the same situation added 10 points to Princeton's total.
Lauren Edwards also scored 10 points and early in the contest became the 19th person in the Tigers' women's program to reach 1,000 career points,
Princeton, defensively, also held Lafayette to 30.5 percent shooting from the field. Danielle Fiacco scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Leopards while Emily Homan of Upper Darby, Pa., in the Philadelphia western suburbs, and Brya Freeland each scored 10 points.
Banghart spoke of the caution to avoid being ambushed by Lafayette, whose coach Dianne Nolan is a Gloucester Catholic graduate from South Jersey near Philadelphia and was a longtime women's coach at Fairfield.
"It's such a short turnaround and we had a big win Friday night," Banghart said. "These kids have a lot on their plate so it's not the only thing on their agenda. So to come in and stay focused and play the way they did and have all of them contribute, I was pleased with all of them."
Banghart said Princeton has the luxury of depth and in doing so wants to force an upbeat tempo to cause the opposition to wear out quickly in terms of having more talented players.
"And it's just who we are. We're very long, athletic and willing to defend. Defensively, that's always going to be our anchor and on offense it's just fun to watch and it was fun to watch them tonight."
Princeton in the still relatively new Banghart era has become arguably the best Ivy team of all time in terms of how the Tigers handle opponents from other conferences.
The only other comparable squad is the Harvard team with then-future WNBA player Allison Feaster which, as a 16-seed, upset No. 1 Stanford in the Cardinal's arena in in an NCAA first-round tournament game in March, 1998.
One reason the Tigers are fun to watch and also a reason Princeton could become the first Ivy team to earn an Associated Press women's ranking is the play of Rasheed, who appears fully recovered.
"It wasn't easy (being sidelined), but it's good to be back from my teammates and contributing," Rasheed said. "It's been fun so far."
Banghart added, "Clearly, she's back. It can't be understated how or overstated either how much she put into her rehab. There are not a lot of kids (with similar injuries) who are back so soon and playing with dynamic energy. She put a lot of time in for it."
Nolan spoke of the problems Princeton presents to Tigers' opponents such as Lafayette.
"They can score from every position and I think that's what makes them so dangerous," Nolan said. "Rasheed can create her own shot at will and playing from that three-four spot is going to cause problems.
"Each kid knows her role and (Devonna) Allgood and (Megan) Bowen are very decent inside," Nolan explained.
"I just think they're so efficient and can score. Defensively, they switch out and are athletic enough where they can cover a lot of ground."
Lafayette, which travels to Syracuse Saturday, also visits Penn on Nov. 30.
Former La Salle coach John Miller, who now coaches Mount St. Joseph Academy, attended the game with his wife Emily and switched sides between halves in Army-Navy style because he has a former player on each team in Lafayette senior Sarah McGorry and Princeton senior Laura Johnson.
Many players on both sides competed in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women's Summer Basketball League.
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