Annie Tarakchian ’16 scored 12 points in the Tigers’ Jan. 30 win over Yale.
Beverly Schaefer
Familiar rivals vie for the top prize in Ivy League women’s basketball

During a four-decade span of Ivy League men’s basketball dominance that began in the 1960s, Princeton and Penn became known to fans as the “killer P’s” — two powerhouses that, in the course of one weekend, could reduce a hopeful contender to an also-ran.

The balance of power has shifted on the men’s side, but in women’s basketball, the killer P’s have re-emerged. Princeton and Penn had a combined 44–4 record against the other Ivies in 2013–14 and 2014–15, and this season followed that pattern in its first full weekend, with both teams sweeping Brown and Yale by an average margin of 17 points per game.

Crucially, the Quakers topped the Tigers in the Ivy opener at the Palestra Jan. 9, a two-point loss that sent Princeton into its exam break — and the remainder of the league season — with an added sense of pressure.

“Our backs are against the wall, and we have a new edge,” said co-captain Annie Tarakchian ’16. “That game showed gaps in our offense and defense. It sent us off into 20 days of just getting better.”

Princeton’s four senior starters — Tarakchian, Michelle Miller, Alex Wheatley, and Amanda Berntsen — have carried much of the scoring load this year, but head coach Courtney Banghart has been encouraged by the play of her young reserves as well. “We’re so much better than we were a month ago,” she said after the win over Yale. “We can be so much better in a week, and a week after that. That’s what you’re supposed to do — good teams get better in January and February.”

Princeton will have at least one more chance to face Penn in the season finale at Jadwin Gym March 8. But the Tigers, winners of five Ivy titles in the last six years, know that the rest of the league will be aiming to topple the killer P’s in the interim.

“We get every team’s best, so we have to be on our A-game,” said Wheatley, the team’s other co-captain. “We’re used to having a target on our back. It’s been that way all four years, and I’m glad nothing has changed. It makes every weekend exciting.”