After opening the season with a victory over Rider, the Princeton University women’s basketball team lost seven straight games and stood an uncharacteristic 1-7.
But since getting healthy in December, the Tigers have resembled the team of recent seasons. Princeton closed out the regular season with a 20-9 overall record and a 12-2 mark in the Ivy League.
Princeton won the league’s regular season championship and earned the No. 1 seed for the Ivy League Tournament that gets underway on Saturday at Yale in New Haven, Conn.
The Tigers will face fourth-seeded Cornell at 6 p.m. in the semifinals. Second-seeded Penn will take on third-seeded Harvard in the other semifinal, with the winners to face each other Sunday at 4 p.m. in the final at Yale.
The Tigers turnaround coincided with the return to the lineup of Bella Alarie, who missed the first nine games of the season with an injury. After her return she was vintage Alarie, securing her second straight Ivy League Player of the Year Award. The junior averaged 23 points and 10.7 rebounds per game over the final 20 games of the season.
“Bella's contribution to this team can't be overstated,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. “She was a remarkably consistent game changer on both ends of the floor. She led the league in scoring and in rebounding, all of which we needed to have the success we had this year. Bella's continued development as a player, competitor, and leader is inspiring. She really wants to be great and is willing to put the work in to earn that. She deserves this honor and I'm grateful to the Ivy League coaches for their recognition.”
Princeton heads to the Ivy League Tournament having won 10 straight games. The Tigers closed out the regular season with an 80-68 victory at Yale as Alarie scored 31 points and Carlie Littlefield contributed to the triumph with 20 points.
The Ivy League championship was the Tigers’ seventh under Banghart. They will be looking for an eighth NCAA tournament in her 12 years as head coach this weekend.
“Every season creates it’s own different obstacles and challenges,” Banghart said on the Court Report on goprincetontigers.com. “I said after the (Yale) win that every championship is earned, but this year especially with all these guys went through.”
Princeton won both of its games against Cornell this season. Last year the Tigers defeated Penn in the Ivy Tournament final.
“Regardless of who we are playing in the first round it is win or go home,” Banghart said. “It is survive and advance. Cornell has my full attention. They are one of the most well-coached teams in our league. They have got nothing to lose.”