ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy women's basketball team scored 12 of the game's final 14 points to defeat Princeton, 65-52, Friday night at Alumni Hall in Annapolis. The Mids, winners of the 2011 Patriot League title, won their fifth consecutive game -- all by double figures -- to improve to 6-3 on the year, while the Tigers, the two-time defending Ivy League champions, suffered just their second defeat in the nine games they have played this season.
"Some of the keys for us tonight were we needed to rebound, hit our shots and not turn the ball over and we did just that," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "We needed to be able to handle Princeton's full-court press. They got out of it around the 13-minute mark in the first half, and that was a complement to our players. We were able to get some easy baskets against it.
"Princeton is super talented and we have tons of respect for them. We're not going to play a better team all year. Tonight our shots went in for us. I am very pleased."
Princeton had sliced a seven-point Navy lead -- 53-46 -- down to just three points at 53-50 with 2:55 left on the clock. After a shot clock violation by the Mids, Alix Membreno (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.) tallied a steal and was fouled with 2:07 left on the game clock. She would march to the other end of the court where she would sink a pair of free throws. A Princeton missed shot on its next time down the court was grabbed by Navy's Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.), but the Mids were in danger of committing another shot clock violation when Kara Pollinger's (So., Fort Gay, W.Va.) ball fake was able to get her defender, Rasheed, off balance. Rasheed would foul Pollinger as she was trying a desperation three-point shot as the shot clock was about to expire. She would make the initial and latter of her three free throw attempts to give the Mids a 57-50 lead with 1:26 left to play.
Rasheed gathered in an errant shot by the Tigers on their ensuing possession, and she was fouled almost as soon as she took possession of the ball. However, she would miss the front end of the bonus free throw attempt and Geif grabbed the loose ball. Rasheed stole the ball back within a matter of seconds, but she missed a three-point shot with 70 seconds remaining in the game. Membreno snared the carom and was fouled with 1:06 left to play. She would make her first shot (58-50) from the line and miss the second. Navy's Audrey Bauer (So., Lake Zurich, Ill.) and two Princeton players gave chase of the bouncing ball, and just before it was to go out of bounds Bauer flicked it behind her and off of a Princeton player and the ball careened beyond the baseline to allow Navy to maintain possession with 58 seconds left to play.
Pollinger was quickly fouled, but she missed both attempts from the charity stripe. Princeton's Lauren Edwards missed a jumper on the other end of the court, with Bauer grabbing the ball and then being fouled. She made just the first of her two free throw attempts (59-50) with 44 seconds left, but Membreno grabbed the loose ball following Bauer's miss and, with nine players near or above the foul line, quickly found a wide open Geif underneath the bucket for an easy layup to give Navy a 61-50 lead with 36 seconds remaining.
It took only five seconds for Princeton to answer as Rasheed hit a jumper for the Tigers. Now forced to foul, Princeton sent Chey Arvin (Jr., Noblesville, Ind.) to the free throw line where she calmly sank both attempts to again make the Navy advantage 11 points (63-52) with 29 seconds left to play. The rebound after another Princeton missed shot was hauled in by Pollinger, who was quickly fouled with 19 seconds remaining in the game. She matched the success of Arvin to give Navy a 65-52 lead. Princeton would miss a three-point attempt a few seconds later that was grabbed by Pollinger who proceeded to dribble out the scant seconds left on the clock.
Navy initially started the game strong, connecting on six of its first eight shots from the field in jumping out to leads of 8-2 and 14-8. Princeton would tie the game at 19-19, then took a 22-19 advantage on a three-point field goal from Blake Dietrick with a little more than six minutes remaining in the half. Dietrick's three-pointer was followed 22 seconds later by a three-point shot from Pollinger to tie the game. It took just 22 more seconds before Dietrick hit another long-range shot, which was matched 23 seconds after that by a Bauer triple to knot things up again at 25-25 with 5:10 remaining in the half.
A Princeton missed shot was followed by a Geif field goal, then another miss by the Tigers led to a three-point field goal by Chloe Stapleton (Fr., Cary, N.C.) that gave the Mids a 30-25 lead with 3:26 left before the halftime break.
"We have a lot of confidence in each other," said Geif. "I know that if I am doubled I can kick it out and one of my teammates will hit the shot. There was the play in the first half where I had my shot blocked, but I passed it back out to Chloe and she drilled the three-pointer. That shot fired everyone up. It was such a confidence booster for all of us."
The teams traded field goals over the remainder of the half and the Mids went into intermission clinging to a 34-32 lead.
"Our players deserve a lot of credit for their positive attitude," said Pemper. "At halftime, they said Princeton had not been down at the half this year and here we were leading. We coaches didn't tell them that, so it was great research and awareness by our players. But I also think it shows just how into it they were."
As strong as Navy started the first half, Princeton was equally effective in the early part of the second half. The Tigers opened the frame on a 10-3 run to take a 42-37 advantage four minutes into the half. A jumper by Erin Edwards (Sr., Hockessin, Del.) snapped a six-minute scoring drought for the Mids and made it a three-point game. Her bucket also sparked an 8-1 sprint by the Mids that gave them a 45-43 lead with 8:42 showing on the clock.
"I don't remember the whole game, but I do remember Chantel Lavender (Jr., Trenton, N.J.) coming off the bench (during Navy's rally) and being a nice spark for us," said Pemper. "We were a little fatigued at the start of the second half. I knew her athleticism would be effective and she either got a couple of turnovers or forced a couple of turnovers. She was active out there and we needed that.
"It seemed whenever we needed a big basket we were able to get one."
Rasheed drilled a three-point field goal on Princeton's next time down the floor, but a Geif field goal started an 8-0 run by Navy that consisted of a second layup by Geif, a Pollinger triple and a Pollinger free throw that allowed Navy to open up a 53-46 lead with 3:45 left to play. Rasheed quickly scored four points for Princeton to make the score the aforementioned 53-50 with just under three minutes left in the game.
Both teams shot the ball very well in the game, especially in the first half. The Mids connected on 50 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half and 45 percent of their shots in the second half. Princeton converted 46.4 percent of its first half shots and were near the 50-percent mark for shooting for much of the second half until cooling off down the stretch for a tally of 29.2 percent over the final 20 minutes of play.
The Mids also held a 37-26 advantage on the glass, and turned the ball over just one more time than Princeton did (15-14).
Individually, four Mids scored in double figures on the night. Pacing all players in the game was Geif, who connected on 9 of her 11 field goal attempts in scoring 18 points.
"People are going to defend Jade differently," said Pemper. "Tonight she had five turnovers, which is a lot for her. But she finished really well."
Joining Geif in double digits were Membreno with 14 points and Bauer and Arvin with 11 points apiece. Bauer also grabbed a Navy-best nine rebounds, while Geif added eight boards and Membreno chipped in seven caroms. The Bauer-Geif-Membreno trio combined for 11 offensive boards.
Rasheed led Princeton with 16 points while grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
Navy will play its third game in a span of five days Sunday when the Mids play at Howard in a 2 p.m. game. It will be Navy's last game prior to the end of the semester exams at the Naval Academy.