Princeton Falls to Rutgers In Season Opener
Courtney Banghart used words like "fun" and "exciting" and didn't use words like "Niveen" and "LP" when talking about the first game of the 2013-14 season for her Princeton women's basketball team.
All teams have a diferent look from year to year, though the one Banghart's team has this go-round is so obviously new that it's not even worth talking about who isn't here anymore.
The new-look Tigers fell 79-65 to Rutgers at the Louis Brown Athletic Center Sunday afternoon in a game that left Banghart eager for what comes next for her team. Blake Dietrick had a career-high 20 points in the loss.
Minus four senior starters from last year's team, which won a fourth straight Ivy League championship, Princeton will take a little longer this season to find its personality. The head coach is not worried.
"I really like this team," she said. "It's fun to coach them. It's definitely different, but it's also very exciting."
Okay, her four graduates can be mentioned by name. Princeton handed diplomas to Lauren Polansky, Kate Miller, Meg Bowen and two-time Ivy League Player of the Year Niveen Rasheed last June. If you're keeping score, Rasheed's graduation brought to four the number of 1,000-point scorers Princeton has graduated in the last three years.
Princeton defeated Rutgers 71-55 at Jadwin Gym last year, and it was actually Alex Wheatley who was the team's leading scorer in that game. This time, Wheatley had 14 points and a team-best 10 rebounds.
"We rebounded very well," Banghart said. "I didn't think we would outrebound them, but we did [42-33]. I didn't think we shot it as well as we can. I think our offense is ahead of the defense now, but we followed the defensive scout very well."
Princeton shot 22 for 58 (38%), including 4 for 20 from three-point range. Dietrick had three of the four made three-pointers on the way to her first 20-point game, beating her career-high of 19 set last season at Harvard.
The Tigers trailed 28-25 at the half and 34-32 three minutes into the second half but were done in by a 19-5 run as Rutgers built a 16-point lead.
"This wasn't an easy opener," Banghart said. "Rutgers is much improved over last year, and they're always good at home anyway. They were 13-2 at home last year. I thought we competed really well. I'm really looking forward to coaching this team and seeing where we are going to go."
Princeton has its home opener against Marist this coming Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2 p.m.
Princeton will have its banner-raising celebration prior to the game, commemorating the most recent Ivy title and trip to the NCAA tournament.