In chasing a perfect season and an Ivy League title, the Princeton women’s basketball team performed with an entertaining blend of precision, speed, flair, and grit. The only element missing from most games was suspense: Other than a 56-50 win at Yale in mid-February, the Tigers’ Ivy wins tended to be lopsided by halftime. Their average margin of victory through the first 13 league games was 26 points.
But in the Ivy finale March 10, second-place Penn provided a proper test for a team vying to finish the only undefeated regular season in Division I women’s basketball this year. Princeton was held to just 26 first-half points, and shortly after intermission, the Quakers trimmed the Tigers’ five-point lead down to one.
Then, as it had so many times before, Princeton’s defense took charge. In a nine-minute stretch, Penn managed to score just four points and turned the ball over five times. By the time the Quakers’ offense revived, the Tigers held a double-digit lead. They went on to win 55-42.
“You want to battle, and that’s what we love about playing Penn,” head coach Courtney Banghart said afterward. “It makes for such a great story, and that’s how I categorize my team: This team has made for a great story all year. … We’re certainly glad we can help the story continue.”
Since February, nearly every weekend had included a milestone for the Tigers. At 22-0, they broke a team record for consecutive wins, set in 2009-10, the first of Banghart’s five Ivy championship seasons. At 26-0, Banghart became the program’s all-time wins leader with 164 victories. At 27-0, the Tigers set another team record, this time for the most wins in a season. At 28-0, they tied the 1970-71 Penn men’s team for the best start in Ivy history. And at 29-0, they clinched the league’s bid to the NCAA Tournament.
After winning the Ivy title at Columbia, Princeton’s reaction was almost comically subdued — no dancing, no hugs, just a few waves to the applauding Tiger fans.
“We still have a sour taste in our mouths from last year, losing to Penn in the last game of the season, and we definitely don’t want a repeat of that,” point guard Blake Dietrick ’15 explained. “We’re still in business-mode.”
Three days later at the Palestra, sour gave way to sweet, business turned to celebration, and the Tigers etched their mark into history: 30-0.
Men’s lacrosse bounced back from a loss to Maryland, defeating Penn 17-11 in the Tigers’ Ivy League opener March 14. Princeton returns to action Tuesday at Rutgers and resumes Ivy play March 21 with a home game against Yale.
After a 4-0 start, women’s lacrosse dropped its first game of the season on the road against No. 8 Virginia March 14. The Cavaliers scored 18 goals — more than double the output of any previous Princeton opponent — in an 18-11 victory. Princeton returns home to face Penn State on Wednesday afternoon.
For the fourth time in two years, women’s track and field star Megan Curham ’17 has earned NCAA All-America honors. Curham finished 10th in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Indoor Championships March 13. She is the second Princeton woman to be an All-American in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track, joining Emily Kroshus ’04.
Old Nassau vs. Old Kwansei: Princeton football is spending spring break in Japan, where the Tigers will complete their spring practice season and play a March 21 exhibition game against the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters. As PAW noted in a 2011 story, Kwansei Gakuin has an alma mater that should sound familiar to Princetonians.