Vanessa Smith Postgame Interview
Her team had given up 22 points in a little more than eight minutes and her opponent was shooting better than 70% from the field, and so Courtney Banghart decided to reduce coaching to a fairly simple three-word exhortation.
"We need stops," Princeton's women's basketball coach said to no one and everyone.
And no one and everyone listened.
By the time she called Amanda Berntsen "annoying" late in the second half, Princeton's defense had completely turned this game around. The result was an 81-58 win for the Tigers over Marist in the home opener for the four-time defending Ivy League champion.
Kristen Helmstetter had a game-best 18 points and freshman Vanessa Smith scored all 11 of her points in crucial first-half minutes, but this one was won with defense.
While it's nice to put up 81 points, it's not practical for Princeton to rely on shooting 53% from the field and making 12 three-pointers, like the Tigers did Sunday afternoon. No, if this team wants to join the four before it and have its own banner-raising ceremony - like the one that preceded the game against Marist - then it's going to have become the defensive terror that those four were.
After perennial NCAA participant Marist scored those 22 points to build a 22-18 lead after eight minutes - making eight of its first 11 shots along the way - Princeton tightened its grip.
Marist woud score 36 points in the final 32 minutes of the game. The Red Foxes shot 20 for 54 for the game, which means that they were 12 for 43 (27.9%) after their sizzling start.
Smith, a freshman from Twinsburg, Ohio, who scored seven points in Princeton's opener against Rutgers, came off the bench with the score 22-18 Marist and immediately energized her team, scoring on two offensive rebounds and then tracking down her own missed foul shot for another put back.
She also added another layup and then stepped out to knock down a three-pointer to make it 39-29 Tigers, making it a 10-point game for the first time with 1:40 left in the half.
It was 41-32 at the break, and that's when Helmstetter took over, scoring 13 of her 18 and making all three of her threes in the second half.
As for Berntsen, she was one of the army of players that Banghart put into the game who turned up the defensive pressure. It was subtle sometimes, like the possession where Berntsen "annoyed" a right-handed point guard to her left, didn't let her come back to her strong hand, forced her to give up the ball and saw that possession end in a missed jump shot rather that something crisper.
Princeton gobbled up that miss, like it did so many others, as the Tigers outrebounded Marist 49-23.
In all five Princeton players were in double figures, as Michelle Miller had 11 and Blake Dietrick and Alex Wheatley had 10 each to join Helmstetter and Smith.
Princeton honored the five members of its Class of 2013 at halftime, as Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters presented game jerseys to Amanda Roman (manager), Meg Bowen, Kate Miller, Lauren Polansky and Niveen Rasheed, who flew in from playing professionally in Greece to be there.
Princeton is at Rider Tuesday night.