One by one, players and coaches from the Ivy League-champion women’s basketball team climbed a ladder at Jadwin Gym, clipping sections of the net and posing for photos. It was a well-deserved ritual for the Tigers, who had just beaten Penn to finish a perfect 14–0 Ivy season. But somehow, the slow procession seemed out of place.
To really appreciate Princeton’s record-setting squad, you had to see them run a fast break. After a rebound or a steal, the Tigers would take off full throttle, slicing through the defense in a vivid display of energy, athleticism, and unselfishness — usually ending with a basket. For leading-scorer Niveen Rasheed ’13, it’s her favorite part of the game. “I know if I sprint as hard as I can, I’ll get the ball,” she said. “It ignites me.”
Rasheed, the unanimous choice for Ivy Rookie of the Year, and fellow freshman starter Lauren Polansky drove Princeton’s up-tempo attack, and returning players helped to set the pace. Lauren Edwards ’12, who joined Rasheed on the All-Ivy first team, showed equal proficiency inside and on the perimeter, working her way to the basket on one possession and then drifting out for an open jumper on the next. Two of Princeton’s best players in 2008–09 — Addie Micir ’11 and Devona Allgood ’12 — were the program’s most improved players this season, according to coach Courtney Banghart. Allgood sharpened her post moves, and Micir, known primarily as an outside shooter, became more dangerous off the dribble.
The five starters — along with a deep, versatile bench — enjoyed unprecedented success, including team records for scoring average (70.7 points per game), wins (26), and longest winning streak (21 games). Most importantly, Princeton earned its first trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers started the season ranked third in the Ivy’s poll of media and sports-information directors and ended it with the best NCAA seed in league history (No. 11 in the Dayton Region).
For a team that won its league games by an average of 22 points, Princeton maintained a remarkable intensity on defense, even when holding seemingly insurmountable leads. Banghart was particularly proud of her team’s defensive ranking — fifth in the nation at season’s end — and it was no mistake that Princeton’s top two scorers, Rasheed and Edwards, also were first and second on the team in steals.“We want that to define our team — energy and how hard we work,” co-captain Tani Brown ’10 explained. “Sometimes shots won’t fall, but you can always control your effort.”