After its heartbreaker at UCLA Sunday, the Princeton women's
basketball team responded by throttling Rutgers, 71-55, Thursday evening at
Jadwin Gym. An early offensive run, three double figure scorers and solid play
on the boards lifted the Tigers their fourth win of the year to improve to 4-2.
The win over Rutgers was the first in sixth season head
coach Courtney Banghart's tenure at Princeton and it proved to be a statement
victory over a Scarlet Knight team receiving votes in both national top-25
Freshman Alex Wheatley continued her scoring tear tallying a
team-leading 17 points off the bench, going 8-for-12 from the field. Senior
Niveen Rasheed scored in double digits for the fifth time this year, going
5-for-6 from the line en route to 15 points. She also had seven rebounds.
Rounding out the team's offensive leaders was junior Kristen Helmstetter,
earning her first start of the year in place of the injured Nicole Hung. The
forward scored 14 points, including going a perfect 4-for-4 from the stripe,
and grabbed six rebounds.
The game opened with the Tigers setting an early pace behind
an 11-4 run over the first six-plus minutes of action. Rutgers responded with a
trey from Erica Wheeler at 13:30, but that four-point deficit was as close as
the Big East program would get for the remainder of the game.
Inside the 10-minute mark, Rutgers' employed a full court
press, as they tried to force the Tigers to make rash decisions and turnover
the ball. A hurried Princeton offense in turns sent back-to-back fast breaks to
Wheatley to expand its lead to 19, 30-11 at 5:46.
Princeton held a 38-22 lead at halftime and continued to
overpower the Scarlet Knights throughout the second period.
The Tigers opened the half with a 6-2 run over the first
three minutes to hold a 20-point differential, 44-24.
Rutgers was unable to respond to Princeton's continued
flurry on both ends of the floor, as the Tigers' lead swelled to 25, 51-26, at
13:33. It would be their largest lead in the game.
As the second half progressed, Princeton never saw its advantage
fall to less than 12, despite an aggressive Scarlet Knight side doing what it
could to get back into the game.
Princeton outrebounded Rutgers 43-26, with senior Lauren Polansky leading the way with a season-high nine boards, all on the defensive
glass. She also matched a career-best with seven assists.
The Tigers shot 45.6 percent (26-for-57) from the floor, to
Rutgers' 38.5 percent (20-for-52).
Off the bench, sophomore Mariah Smith had seven points, five
assists and three rebounds over 16 minutes of work, while classmate Blake Dietrick came in and scored eight points and had four defensive boards.
Princeton will look to maintain its momentum into Sunday's
meeting with a 3-4 UMBC team. First tip is at 2 p.m. on Dec. 2.