Women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart expected her team’s play to be “messy” this season, compared with last year – a faster tempo, full-court pressure, and more steals, but also more turnovers.
Princeton’s first three games followed that pattern, as the Tigers forced nearly 25 turnovers per game, kept their own miscues in check, and won all three contests by double figures, including a 56-41 win over Villanova Nov. 19.
Marist, a mid-major powerhouse that had the fewest turnovers in Division I last season, tested the Tigers’ new style Monday night – and Princeton responded, outlasting the Red Foxes for a 68-51 win, the team’s 25th consecutive victory at Jadwin Gym.
“This was a quick turnaround with two very good teams, so I think it does prepare us for [the Ivy League schedule],” Banghart said afterward. “But I hope we’re a different team in February. I still want more from our group.”
In the first half, Princeton forced 10 Marist turnovers, including a handful that came from the Tigers’ trapping press defense. But the Tigers’ own turnovers – 11 in the half – kept them from pulling away. They led for most of the period and held a two-point edge at halftime.
After the break, as the Red Foxes improved against the press, Princeton tightened its half-court defense, forcing a pair of shot clock violations and holding Marist to 8-for-27 shooting from the floor (29.6 percent).
On offense, Princeton broke through with its best 3-point shooting performance of the young season. Backup point guard Laura Johnson ’12 hit three 3-pointers, including two on consecutive possessions to give the Tigers their first double-digit lead, 54-43, with 7:38 remaining.
Starting point guard Lauren Polansky ’13 also gave Princeton a lift on offense, scoring a career-high 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including 2-for-3 on 3-pointers.
The 3-point shooting was partly out of necessity. Marist double-teamed Princeton in the post, effectively shutting down center Devona Allgood ’12, who shot 2-for-10 from the floor.
“If they double down, we have great players who are going to shoot the three,” Polansky said. “That has been some teams’ tactic in the past, but tonight we made them pay for it.”
Versatile forward Niveen Rasheed ’13 led the Tigers with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and three steals. Nicole Hung ’14 added a team-high four assists, including two that set up easy layups in the first half.
Earlier in the day, Princeton (4-0) received nine points in the AP top 25 poll, an indication that the Tigers’ early wins against strong opponents have not gone unnoticed.
“It’s really exciting,” Johnson said after the game. “We’re glad that other people are looking out for us. But we’re happy with the wins.”