Sports

Undefeated Princeton, second-place Penn next up for women’s basketball

Final road trip provides last chance for Brown to take down No. 14 Tigers, upset Quakers

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 27, 2015

Head Coach Sarah Behn goes over a game plan with the Bears. Led by the program’s best three point shooter ever, Sophie Bikofsky ’15, Brown’s season has exceeded expectations. A win over undefeated Princeton would add to Bruno’s strong campaign.

The women’s basketball team looks to deliver massive upsets this weekend when it hits the road to take on the Ivy League’s top two squads, Princeton and Penn. The matchups are the team’s last pair of conference games on the road for the 2014-2015 season and its final chance at finishing with a .500 record in conference play.

If Bruno (10-14, 4-6) wants to achieve this goal, it must get at least one win this weekend. Though not the aspiration of potential champions, evening out conference wins and losses would be an impressive improvement from the .286 winning percentage last season.

Last weekend, Bruno hoped for a sweep of its opponents but dropped the game against Columbia. The following day in Ithaca, the Bears were determined not to make it easy for Cornell. After unleashing a high-pressure defense, Bruno managed to pull out an impressive win against a formidable Big Red squad that sits just below Princeton (25-0, 9-0) and Penn (16-7, 7-2) in the conference rankings. After forcing a season split with Cornell, the Bears will hope to do the same against the Tigers and Quakers.

Bruno will first look to even the series against the Quakers. Penn is currently in the midst of a five-game winning streak, and the team’s explosive forward, Michelle Nwokedi, was just voted the Ivy League’s rookie of the week for the fourth time in five weeks.

The last time the Bears faced off against the Quakers, Bruno managed to hold its own against the defensive powerhouse, putting 75 points on the board and connecting on just over 33 percent of its shots from the field. Bruno’s offense was especially impressive, considering Penn’s defense has limited its opponents to just 55 points per game and 33 percent from the field on average. Leading the way for the Bears’ explosive offense was Jordin Alexander ’16. The guard recorded 31 points in the contest, the most by a single player in 15 years.

In order to be successful this weekend, the Bears must bring the same degree of offensive intensity as they did in their last matchup. Fortunately for Bruno, the squad usually generates effective offense and leads the Ivy League in free throw attempts and steals per game.

Next, the Bears will head back north and take on Princeton. The Tigers have jumped up to 14th in the country — ahead of basketball powerhouses like the University of North Carolina, Duke and Stanford — since the last time Bruno has seen them. Princeton is one of only two Division I teams in college basketball that remain undefeated — the other being the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team.

“We have really gotten to know the Princeton personnel and their tendencies on offense,” Alexander said. “We have really been focusing on how we are going to defend them and how we can attack their defense on offense.”

Defending Princeton’s offense is bound to be difficult for the Bears. Leading the charge for the Tigers is Annie Tarakchian. The six-foot junior plays at both the guard and forward positions, showcasing her versatility. In Princeton’s game against Dartmouth last weekend, Tarakchian nearly recorded a triple-double with 11 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. In addition to Tarakchian’s efforts, the Tigers have the conference’s top three three-point shooters and the second leading rebounder.

Princeton’s undefeated season has been one for the history books, and the squad seems to be on pace to break the Ivy League’s all-time best start 28-0 set by Penn’s men’s basketball team during the 1970-1971 season. But if any team were to play David to Princeton’s Goliath, it would be the young, quick and continuously improving Bruno squad. Last year, the Bears upset the Tigers, preventing Princeton from securing the title of conference champion with a 61-58 victory.

“We’re just really pumped,” Alexander said. “And we’re excited to see what we can do this weekend.”