The women’s basketball team improved over the course of its season-opening loss to Rutgers, and it picked up right where it left off Sunday with an authoritative 81-58 throttling of defending MAAC champion Marist.
The story of the preseason for the Tigers (1-1) was the loss of Niveen Rasheed ’13, far and away the team’s leading scorer during her time at Princeton. Against the Red Foxes (0-3), the Tigers were not lacking on offense.
Four of Princeton’s five starters reached double digits as senior forward Kristen Helmstetter led the team with 18 points.
The game turned into a blowout but was close for most of the first half. The Tigers and the Red Foxes traded blows for 15 minutes before a layup and two free throws from sophomore guard Amanda Berntsen gave Princeton a lead it would not relinquish with just under five minutes left in the half.
The Tigers went on a 15-5 run over the last five minutes to go into halftime up 41-32. Marist stayed in contention for about 10 minutes after that, but with 11 minutes to go Princeton pulled away with a 13-4 scoring tear that saw three-pointers from sophomore guards Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian and junior guard Blake Dietrick. That stretch put the game out of the Red Foxes’ reach for good.
Head coach Courtney Banghart said before the game that her team was still experimenting with different lineups, and that experimentation was evident in the box score. Twelve of the Tigers’ 14 players scored, and five scored in the double digits. The bench accounted for 30 points, and many contributors were young players, an excellent sign for a team that recently graduated its top scorer.
A particularly bright spot for Banghart’s team was the performance of freshman guard Vanessa Smith, who put up 11 points and had six rebounds in her second collegiate game. The rookie seems to have settled in already, as she scored seven against Rutgers in the season-opener.
Junior guard Mariah Smith led the Tigers with seven rebounds. The defense played physically for the second consecutive game, out-rebounding the Red Foxes 49-23. Smith, Helmstetter and sophomore forward Alex Wheatley pulled down five defensive rebounds each, making up for a 20-11 turnover deficit.
After washing the taste of the Rutgers loss out of their mouths, the Tigers will be back in action against a regional rival Tuesday night, when they face Rider. The Broncs (1-2) had a rough start to their season but got in the win column Thursday with a 62-48 home win over LIU Brooklyn. Princeton will head to Washington, D.C. after its trip to Lawrenceville, taking on Georgetown on Saturday, Nov. 23.