There was no rest for the weary this weekend as the women's basketball team fought through two challenging conference games. The Bears (12-8, 3-3 Ivy) gave Princeton its closest Ivy League challenge of the season Friday, but eventually conceded the game, 57-45. But the team rebounded one day later, besting Penn 59-55 in extra time Saturday evening.
Princeton 57, Brown 45
Princeton (15-4, 5-0 Ivy) has been the talk of the Ivies this season. Ever since conference play opened in January, the Tigers have been walking all over their opponents, most notably demolishing Columbia 94-35 and Penn 83-48.
But if Princeton thought its matchup Friday would be another walk in the park, it was mistaken. Brown had been preparing for the nationally-ranked team for weeks, hoping to give the reigning Ivy League champions a little bit of trouble.
"They are a very strong team, very balanced," said Sheila Dixon '13 last week ahead of the highly anticipated matchup. "They have been blowing teams out. I'll be very interested to see how we measure up against them. I think we can play against them."
But the Tigers' impressive talent was on display right from the tip-off and slowed down the Bears in the first half — at only eight minutes in, Bruno was behind 12-3. But two treys by Lauren Clarke '14 and Hannah Passafuime '12 instigated a 13-6 run that cut the Tiger lead 18-17 with 6:45 remaining in the half.
"Their pressure rattled us in the first half," said Passafuime. "We adjusted really well. We had to claw our way back."
But the Tigers responded quickly, led by their high scorer of the night guard, Niveen Rasheed, and left the Bears with a double-digit deficit by the end of the first half, 30-18.
Out of the locker room, the Bears made the first move. Just 15 seconds into the second half, co-captain Aileen Daniels '12 scored a basket that started a 7-2 run that put Bruno the closest they would get in the second half, trailing 32-25 with 16:41 remaining.
From there, the Tigers flexed their muscles and increased their lead to double digits, enough to keep the Bears a safe distance behind. At the end of the game, Princeton came away with a 57-45 victory, but netted fewer points than any other league game this season.
The Bears struggled offensively, but were led by Passafuime with 10 points. Dixon and Lindsay Nickel '13 both netted nine points.
"It was a good marker for ourselves," Passafuime said. "We will compete with those kinds of teams, and when we play them again we will have a solid game."
Brown 59, Penn 55
The matchup against Penn (8-11, 1-4 Ivy) was a nail-biter from beginning to end. The Bears held a delicate lead for the majority of the first half as both teams traded baskets. With just under two minutes left in the first half, Penn guard Meghan McCullough tied the score 21-21 with a trey, the first of many deadlocks. Daniels responded with a lay-up on the other end, but at halftime the score was tied again, 23-23.
"It was a defensive battle the whole time," Passafuime said.
The second half was even tighter than the first. In the second 20 minutes of play, neither team was able to hold a lead greater than three points. At the final whistle, and the teams trudged back to their benches to prepare for extra time.
The Quakers were the first to score in overtime, but with four minutes remaining, Passafuime took over. The senior guard single-handedly went on a 7-0 run to secure the lead and eventual win for the Bears.
Penn made a late push, putting in a lay-up and two free throws, but Passafuime's offensive outburst was too much to overcome. In the last 15 seconds, Penn resorted to fouling to try and stop the clock, putting Nickel on the line to net two more points for the Bears and take the win 59-55.
"Everyone really stepped up in overtime," Passafuime said. "It was really fun to see everyone play like that for 45 minutes."
The Bears finally return to the Pizzitola Center this weekend after five straight games on the road. They host Columbia (2-17, 0-5 Ivy) and Cornell (9-10, 3-2 Ivy) Friday and Saturday evenings, both with a 7 p.m. tip-off.