One of only a few disappointments for the women’s basketball team last season was its loss to Harvard, which snapped a 33-game conference winning streak. The Tigers (11-6 overall, 2-1 Ivy League) started a new streak with their next game, but the Crimson (13-5, 3-1) snapped it again Friday, downing Princeton 78-68 at Jadwin Gymnasium.
“We definitely have a bit of a rivalry with them, and a chip on our shoulder,” junior guard Blake Dietrick said before Friday’s game.
Dietrick leads the Tigers in scoring this season but was kept relatively quiet by the Crimson defense, scoring just eight points on three field goals out of 15 attempts. Sophomore forward Alex Wheatley kept the Tigers in the game with 16 points, most of which came during a rally late in the first half. Princeton’s defense could not keep pace with its offense, however, and the Tigers were still down nine at the end of the run. Harvard went on a 7-2 run of its own to end the half up 44-30.
The defense finally buckled down in the second half, as Harvard shot 27.3 percent from the floor as opposed to 50 percent in the first frame. That was nearly enough to make up the difference — Princeton brought the score to within one with 6:17 to go — but Harvard just kept scoring. The Crimson got on a roll as the clock ran down, winning by 10. Senior guard Christine Clarke scored 25 of Harvard’s points, three short of her career high.
The Tigers were able to vent their frustration 21 hours later, when they downed Dartmouth by 23 points. Again, Princeton’s opponent managed to keep its leading scorers relatively silent, as Dietrick scored eight and second leading-scorer senior forward Kristen Helmstetter put up six.
“I don’t think it was Harvard or Dartmouth,” head coach Courtney Banghart said of her stars’ lackluster performances. “We’re pretty transparent in our program — they didn’t play well enough for us to be successful.”
While the Big Green’s (3-14, 0-3) defense silenced Dietrick and Helmstetter, three sophomores — Alex Wheatley and guards Amanda Berntsen and Michelle Miller — led the way. Miller put up 16 points while Berntsen put up 11. Wheatley had nine points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Despite the dramatic different in the teams’ records, the game remained close at first. The Tigers went on a run to give themselves an 11-point lead with just over eight minutes to go in the first half. The Big Green fought back, however, making it a 32-29 game at the half.
Things got out of hand for Dartmouth in the second half. Dietrick’s three-pointer six minutes in put the Tigers ahead by double digits for good.
The Tigers outrebounded the Big Green 44-21 and got 26 points from their bench. Sophomore guard/forward Annie Tarakchian scored eight of those points while freshman forward Jackie Reyneke had four points and seven boards in her home Ivy debut.
“The bench was critical,” Banghart said, praising Reyneke and sophomore forward Taylor Williams, who had four rebounds and two blocks while leading the team with three assists.
Banghart said the weekend was a good experience for a “remarkably inexperienced” team, but emphasized that youth was not an excuse for poor defense.
“I just thought it was an uncharacteristically poor defensive weekend,” she said.
After facing the teams with the best and worst records in the league last weekend, Princeton will take on Cornell and Columbia, the teams with the second-best and second-worst records, this weekend. As the Crimson also have an Ivy League loss, the Tigers’ hopes for the title are still very much alive, but they would certainly like to go into Feb. 22’s rematch without another loss.