Princeton wins Ivy League title and NCAA berth
PRINCETON, N.J. (AP)—After cutting down the nets following their final home game, Princeton’s seniors had only one thing on their minds: an NCAA tournament victory.
Niveen Rasheed overcame a bloody nose to score 14 points and lead Princeton to its fourth straight Ivy League title and NCAA berth with an 80-51 win over Brown on Saturday.
Kate Miller and Michelle Miller added 12 points apiece, and Megan Bowen and Kristen Helmstetter each had 11 for the Tigers (21-6, 12-1), who earned the NCAA berth by clinching the regular-season championship because there is no Ivy League tournament.
“Tournament win,” Rasheed said when asked what was left to accomplish. “It’s not a complete story yet. We’re very hungry for it, but we know it won’t come easy. It’s March Madness and anything can happen. I think we have the pieces to finish it.”
Sophie Bikofsky and Sheila Dixon each had 16 points for Brown (9-19, 3-11).
Princeton, which also won four Ivy titles in a row starting in 1974, lost to St. John’s in its very first NCAA appearance in 2010, bowed out in the first round to Georgetown in 2011 and was defeated by Kansas State last year. The Tigers will learn their seeding and opponent when the women’s bracket is announced March 18.
“The first couple of years, being on the big stage got to us,” senior point guard Lauren Polansky said. “Bill Bradley came in and talked to us after (Friday’s win over Yale) and gave a great speech. He told us how it had never happened to Princeton before and they were able to pull through.”
The Tigers set an Ivy League record this season with 33 consecutive victories, a streak which ended March 1 with a 58-55 loss to Harvard. Harvard held the old record of 32 straight victories set from 1995-98. Coincidentally, Princeton ended that Harvard streak with a 56-53 victory.
The current seniors—Bowen, Kate Miller, Rasheed and Lauren Polansky—have lost only two Ivy League games over four years, both to Harvard. Princeton is 58-2 against Ivy opponents since 2008 and the senior class is 95-19 overall during their four seasons.
Princeton won its 18th straight home game, but it was definitely in doubt over the first 20 minutes.
Bikofsky hit three 3-pointers and had 14 points in the first half, but Princeton still took a 33-32 lead into the break. Bikofsky and Dixon combined to score 25 of Brown’s 32 points in the half. The Bears were 6 of 12 from long range in the opening half.
Rasheed went to the bench with a bloody nose with about 12 minutes left, but the Tigers broke off a 22-4 run that pushed the lead to 57-38 with 8:57 to go. Amanda Bernsten’s 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Princeton a 64-45 lead with 5:30 remaining.
“I told them to keep writing their story and that and I’ll be there if you need me,” said Princeton coach Courtney Banghart.