Sports

Crouching Tiger, hidden Quakers: Women’s basketball to battle No. 17 Princeton

Brown to take on undefeated Princeton in effort to spoil impressive run

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 13, 2015

The five starters for Brown huddle on the court. Despite being picked to finish last in the Ivy League, the Bears have three wins in conference play so far and look to add to that tally this weekend.

Having seen every other Ivy League team at least once already, the women’s basketball team will return home to the Pizzitola Sports Center this weekend to face its toughest opponents yet in conference heavyweights Princeton and Penn.

“We are just really pumped coming off of two great wins this past weekend,” said Jordin Alexander ’16.  “And we are excited to see what we can do this weekend.”

In last weekend’s matchups against Harvard (9-11, 2-4) and Dartmouth (10-10, 1-5), Bruno (9-11, 3-3) managed to eke out narrow victories, largely due to the team’s balanced contributions on offense. Notable efforts were made by Ellise Sharpe ’16, who scored a career-high 19 points for the third game in a row, and Sophie Bikofsky ’15, who set a new program record for career three-pointers.

Though not much was expected of the Bears this season, the team has made several changes in its style of play and the relatively young squad seems to be improving with each game. 

“I believe our greatest strength right now is the fact that we are coming together as a team,” said Rebecca Musgrove ’17. “We have better chemistry now than we have had all season, and it’s starting to show in the win column.”

Nonetheless, Bruno is not the only Ancient Eight team that is exceeding expectations. Undefeated Princeton (21-0, 5-0) is currently ranked 16th in the nation and sits comfortably in first place in the Ivy League. Princeton’s 21-game winning streak is due in large part to the squad’s potent offense — arguably one of the most fearsome in the country. The formidable Ivy foe scores the most points and holds its opponents to the fewest in the conference. In addition to points per game, the Tigers also lead the league in field goal percentage, accuracy from behind the arc and assists.

In order to stay in the game with Princeton, the Bears must be very aggressive on the defensive end from tipoff.

“We really need to be able to defend well,” Alexander said. “Both teams put up a lot of points, and if we are not ready to go on defense, they will definitely exploit that.”

The squad’s backcourt struggled earlier in the season but has made strides in refining its defensive capabilities with every game.

Though a win seems unlikely for almost any squad that goes up against Princeton, if any team were to miraculously end Princeton’s remarkable run, it would be Bruno. Last time the squads saw each other, the Bears unexpectedly derailed the Tigers’ quest for a fifth consecutive Ivy title. The contest saw a fierce offensive blitz by Bruno, including three treys from then-junior Bikofsky, which fueled the upset. The Bears must again summon that intensity on offense to be competitive this Friday.

“We just really want to focus on playing together and as a unit,” Alexander said. “We all know that everyone doing their job and playing their role is going to be the factor that gives us our best chance at giving these teams some good games and potentially pulling out some wins.”

While Princeton will be Bruno’s toughest opponent of the season, it is unlikely that Penn (12-7, 3-2) will surrender to the Bears without putting up a fight. Though the team currently sits in fourth place, the Quakers are the reigning Ivy champions. In contrast to the Tigers’ offense-driven style, Penn is a defensive powerhouse. The Quakers grab the most defensive boards per game and block the most shots in the conference. Leading the charge is sophomore forward Sydney Stipanovich, who was last year’s Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and averages about three blocks per game, in addition to being the team’s leading scorer.

If the Bears are able to continue to coax great offensive performances from the entire roster, the squad may be the perfect opponent to solve the Quakers’ defense.

“It will be a fun weekend, and we look forward to the challenge,” Musgrove said. “I know if we continue to play smart basketball, we can play with anyone.”