For the first time in program history the Princeton women’s basketball team will be advancing in the postseason, as the Tigers decisively defeated VCU, 94-76, in the first round of the WNIT Thursday evening at Jadwin Gym.
The postseason victory marks the first since 1996 and ends the Tigers most recent winless drought in their last four consecutive appearances.
With senior Kristen Helmstetter out due to injury, Princeton saw its youth flourish. Four sophomores earned the starting nod, including Annie Tarakchian who made her first career start.
Tarakchian went on to have a career night, establishing new personal bests in both points (18) and rebounds (12), and recorded her first career double-double. She also went a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in 29 minutes of work.
For the first time this season Princeton had two players post double-doubles, as classmate Alex Wheatley had a team and career-high 22 points and 10 rebounds.
Rounding out the Tigers’ top scorers were junior Blake Dietrick and sophomore Michelle Miller who added 18 points apiece. Dietrick had a season and game-high eight assists, while Miller posted a career mark in free throws going 9-for-9.
Princeton saw contributions throughout its lineup, shooting 50 percent (30-for-60) from the field and banking returns on its 24-of-27 performance on the line (88.9 percent). The Tigers also maintained their momentum and pace by dominating on the glass, outrebounding VCU 48-30 and limiting the Rams to only six second chance points.
The first half saw a battle for control, despite Princeton seeing its lead grow as high as seven twice. The Tigers were unable to neutralize the Rams’ leading scorer Robyn Parks, who finished the first period with 19 points, and helped VCU come back to tie it 36-36 at the break.
Princeton limited Parks to only six second half points and quickly established a multi-possession advantage to open the period. Three points from Miller from the line lifted the Tigers to their first 10-point lead of the night, 50-40, at 15:44 and from there VCU was unable to get closer than five.
Each time the Rams managed to cut Princeton’s double figure advantage, the Tigers responded and eventually closed out the game riding a 10-0 run.
The Tigers (21-8) will now head to Seton Hall (19-13) for a Sunday, Mar. 23 meeting at 5 p.m. in South Orange, N.J. The Pirates advanced after beating American 63-60 at home Thursday.
Postgame Notes: Princeton’s first postseason win came in 1996 in the consolation round of the NWIT over Illinois State … Princeton advanced to its fifth consecutive postseason in 2014 and sixth in program history … the Tigers and second round opponent Seton Hall last played on Nov. 30, 1996, a 53-34 Pirate victory … Seton Hall owns the all-time series 9-4.