January 30, 2002: Sports
Sports Web Exclusives! The Varsity Typewriter column
Junior guard Allison Cahill leads the Tigers, averaging almost 17 points a game. (Beverly Schaefer)
Players on Princetons womens basketball team said they could not wait for this season to begin. Now its clear why: Treating last seasons 225 record as a distant nightmare, the Tigers jumped out to a 75 record and shocked the league by defeating defending Ivy champion Penn, 6656, on the road on January 4. The win snapped Penns 15-game Ivy League win streak.
At this point last year, Princeton had not won a single game. Behind the stunning turnaround is new coach Richard Barron, whose up-tempo style has the Tigers averaging more than 70 points a game one point better than the teams historic season-average record of 69 points per game, set during the 197778 season.
At the start of the year Barron, who replaced interim coach Kevin Morris, said he wanted the team to stop having to make excuses. Done. Four players are averaging in double figures, including lone senior Lauren Rigney, who returned to the lineup after a back injury and scored a career-high 20 points in the win over the Quakers.
The Tigers served notice of their new power by going 21 during a winter break road trip through Louisiana. Guard Allison Cahill 03 who leads the team with an average of nearly 17 points a game poured in back-to-back career highs of 28 and 30 points in the two wins, which came against New Orleans and Centenary, respectively. Cahills offensive explosion earned her IvyLeagueSports.com Player of the Week honors.
Were definitely taking steps everyday, said Rigney.
As the Ivy League schedule goes into full gear, Barron is trying to keep his team focused and ready to compete in every game. I never talked to them about a certain number of wins, but you can expect us to play very hard and always give a good effort, said Barron. March 6 against Penn (the final game of the season) should be our best game of the year.
Sophomore Ed Persias halftime buzzer-beater electrified the crowd but wasnt enough to stop top-ranked Kansas. (Beverly Schaefer)
As usual, the start of Ivy League play will be a relief for the mens basketball team.
After the Tigers battled to a 5250 win over Holy Cross on January 5, they had played six of their first 11 games against teams that played in last years NCAA tournament, including Kansas ranked number one in the country by the AP at press time.
In the first half of their December 12 game, the defending Ivy League champion Tigers took Kansas to the edge. Sophomore guard Ed Persias three-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer cut the Jayhawks lead to six and thrilled the many Tiger faithful who were rocking Jadwin.
But in the second half, Kansass superior talent asserted itself, leaving Princeton with a 7862 loss. Weve played some of the best teams in the country in the last two years and I think that team might have been the best, said Princeton coach John Thompson 88 after the game.
But with a history of turning seasons around, the Tigers are keeping the white flag in their pockets. In fact, the win over Holy Cross gave the Tigers the same 47 record they had a year ago as they headed into their Ivy League season. Princeton went 124 the rest of the way, and won the league with an 113 mark.
Weve always played a difficult schedule against top teams. This year is not abnormal, Thompson said. Were young. We need to get everybody going at the same time to keep progressing. Well keep moving forward and well get better.
The Tigers opened their Ivy schedule at Harvard and Dartmouth January 11 and 12. Princeton then had a long layoff before hosting Western Maryland on January 28 and Columbia and Cornell the first weekend in February.
The Tigers face the greatly improved squads of Brown and Yale on the road the next weekend before hosting perennial powerhouse Penn February 12 in what could be the teams most important three-game stretch of the season.