Princeton Still Claiming Milestones Wth Win Over Alabama of the SEC
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Princeton University women’s basketball team has higher goals than just reaching the NCAA tournament or winning the Ivy League for the fifth straight year. Don’t get it twisted, those accomplishments are awesome, it’s just the Tigers won’t be satisfied with playing one game this year in the tournament.
That’s why experiences like Saturday’s surprisingly easy 79-59 victory over the University of Alabama in the opening round of the Cavalier Classic hosted by the University of the Virginia was another step in the right direction for a program accustomed to success.
The Tigers (8-4 overall) got an opportunity to flex their collective muscles against a program from the Southeastern Conference, which is something the Tigers have been looking forward to since losing to Oregon on Dec. 1.
Princeton will get another chance to compete against a school from a Big 6 conference when it meets Virginia, a 70-45 winner over Coppin State, in the Cavalier Classic championship Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Alabama will battle Coppin State in the consolation contest starting at noon.
Virginia has won its own tournament nine straight times.
In extending its winning streak to a season-high five games, Princeton was as sharp as neatly pressed suit, finishing with 22 assists on its 29 baskets.
Offensively, Princeton was led by its junior dynamic duo of Kristen Helmstetter and Blake Dietrick.
Helmstetter had another outstanding effort with a game-high 21 points, 10 rebounds and tying her career high with seven assists. It was Helmstetter’s third double-double this season.
Dietrick added 17 points and six assists for the Tigers, who outscored Alabama, 44-29, in the second half. Vanessa Smith had 10 rebounds for Princeton, which decisively won the battle of the boards, 54-35.
“If Kristen had her way, she would rather pass the ball every time,” Dietrick said. “She’s a pass first player and it doesn’t look that way with her statistics.
"She understands that she has to score, but if she didn’t need to, she would rather get 100 million assists and very few points.We love to compete against big teams, big names these are the games you live for and we love to compete. It’s a great win for us.”
Princeton really did the job defensively.
The Tigers knew they were facing a challenge in containing Alabama junior Daisha Simmons, the reigning SEC Player of the Week who was coming into the game off a 37-point performance in her last outing.
Simmons never got untracked as she was held scoreless in the opening half. Alabama’s leading scorer was Ashley Williams, who scored 21 points.
Helmstetter was familiar with Simmons’ ability entering the game because they played against each other in high school.
“We were able to execute our game plan, which was to go under screens of their non 3-point shooters and over on 3-point shooters,” Dietrick said. “I think we defended (Simmons) pretty well as a team. Our goal was to make it a five-on-five game because Alabama is a good one-v-one playmaking team. We were ready with help defense and our rotations were good.”
The Tigers are getting strong at the right time as conference play looms with the traditional opener against travel partner Penn on January 11 at The Palestra on the Quakers' campus.
. The Tigers lost three out of four games to Saint Joseph’s, Georgetown and Oregon that left them with a 3-4 record. Outside of an overtime win against Delaware, the Tigers have rolled over their last few opponents, winning by double digits.
“It was a matter of time,” Helmstetter said. “We’re good and we have a lot of good players. We’re young and we have a lot of talent offensively. We are working hard each day in practice and we are beginning to get better as a team.”
Princeton trailed 17-12 seven minutes into the game before eventually gaining control.
The Tigers took the lead for good, 31-30, following a Dietrick layup with 1:42 remaining in the first half. Overall, Princeton used a 21-2 run that bridged the first and second halves to open a 51-32 advantage with 12:54 remaining.
During Princeton’s burst, Alabama was 1-for-9 from the field. Simmons scored her first basket with 17:31 remaining.
“This was a big game for us,” Helmstetter said. “Coach (Courtney Banghardt) said it was a neutral court and one of us had to make it our home court. We went out and played hard with a lot of energy. We expect the most from ourselves everyday. We’re starting to click and get into our groove. That’s kind of exciting and I think that will push through.”
In the second game:
Virginia 70, Coppin State 45
The host Cavaliers placed three players in double figures led by guard Tiffany Suarez’s 16 points. Sarah Imovbioh added 13 points and Ataira Franklin contributed 12 points and eight rebounds for the Cavs, who used a 14-0 run late in the first half to reverse a 17-14 deficit and take control of the contest. Virginia (6-6) has won two straight games.
In dropping its third straight game, Coppin State (4-7) got 16 points from Kyra Coleman, who has 984 career points, and 14 points from Larrisa Carter. The Eagles shot 20 percent (6-for-30) after intermission.
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