For the second straight year it came down to the wire between Princeton and Delaware, but this time it was the Tiger women’s basketball team coming out on top with an 84-80 overtime victory Sunday afternoon at Jadwin Gym. It was their first extra period game since a double overtime loss at St. Joseph’s, 70-61, on Dec. 19, 2010.
Princeton’s homecoming after spending its last four games on the road, a stretch that spanned two weeks, three states and two different time zones, was filled with gutsy individual performances and an all-around cohesive group effort. The Tigers, winners of their last three games, improve to 6-4, while snapping Delaware’s five-game winning streak to drop the Hens to 6-2.
“I thought we fought really hard throughout (the game),” said head coach Courtney Banghart. “We shot 27 percent from three. For a team that shoots the ball pretty well to shoot that low and still get out with a win shows we’ve grown.”
In a game where control came at a premium and the score was tied 14 times, including twice in overtime, the Tigers had to employ a late run to keep their chances of earning the victory alive. Down 74-70 with 1:30 to play, a layin by Blake Dietrick and a pair of free throws from Alex Wheatley tied things up to send the game into overtime.
Princeton looked to expound on its late momentum entering overtime, but Delaware did not back down initially and took a possession lead twice. That was before a Dietrick triple with 1:05 left put a dagger on any final run the Blue Hens thought to attempt.
Dietrick’s three-pointer came after the normally successful long-range shooter had gone 1-for-5 in the game. While her shot may have not landed from beyond the arc like she is accustomed to, the junior point guard found success in the lane (7-for-12) and from the stripe (6-for-8) to score a game-high 22 points. She has now scored in double figures in seven games, tallying 20 or more points four times.
Over the opening period Princeton took a nine-point advantage, 15-6 at 13:38, but the Tigers were unable to sustain their lead and went into halftime up 38-36. The nine-point lead would be the largest advantage either team would see throughout the contest.
Trailing 49-43 with 16:12 left in regulation, Delaware took off on a 10-2 rally to put together its most serious run at control and its first lead since midway through the first half.
After conceding their once almost double figure advantage, the Tigers displayed their evolving confidence and cohesion as a unit and kept the game within a possession until their final 4-0 run to send it into extra minutes.
Princeton shot 47.4 percent (27-for-57) from the field, seeing key points come from the line (25-for-32) after going 5-for-18 from range. Delaware was held to 38.9 percent (28-for-72) from the field and 25 percent (1-for-4) from three-point, but did hold a 43-36 rebounding advantage.
Along with Dietrick, senior co-captain Kristen Helmstetter had critical moments of individual play and finished with her second double-double of the year and third of her career. Along with her 18 points, second-best in the game, she grabbed a career and game-high 11 rebounds. Helmstetter was nearly perfect from the stripe, going 7-for-8.
Joining the veteran duo were sophomore Alex Wheatley and freshman Vanessa Smith who had 13 and 10 points, respectively. Smith was 3-for-3 from the field and 4-for-4 from the line.
“We had some key contributors from our roster, which we’ve come to expect, (and) I thought the bench was totally into it. You need everybody in a game like this and I think we got piece of everybody and I still think we can get even better,” added Banghart.
Princeton will host a final midweek game versus Illinois State on Wednesday at 7 p.m. before a brief break in play and another four-game road swing.