• December 2, 2021

Princeton ready to take on Florida State in Waco, seeks first-ever NCAA tournament win

Princeton's Lauren Polansky, Niveen Rasheed & head coach Courtney Banghart. Photo: Beverly Schaefer.
Princeton’s Lauren Polansky, Niveen Rasheed & head coach Courtney Banghart. Photo: Beverly Schaefer.

Princeton (22-6 overall, 13-1 Ivy League) arrived Friday evening in preparation for its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. The No. 8 Tigers take on No. 9 Florida State (22-9, 11-7 ACC) on Sunday, Mar. 24 at 5:10 p.m. ET. Prior to the team’s Saturday practice, head coach Courtney Banghart and seniors Lauren Polansky and Niveen Rasheed participated in the pre-tournament press conference.

Banghart’s opening Statement:

“We are so thrilled to be here. The amount of work and effort that goes into earning a bid like this is something we don’t take lightly, and to be back for a fourth straight trip is extra special. It’s been quite a journey this year. We’re led undoubtedly by our two captains, Niveen Rasheed and Lauren Polansky who have won an unprecedented four straight Ivy League titles. I think what you’ll see is a team that will be giving everything they have and will hopefully play as smart as they do hard. All I can say is we are so proud to represent the Ivy League and represent Princeton, and we’ll do our best. ”

On not getting too high in a big moment:

“I think that what you get with this type of competition is also the downside, and that’s that they get really hyped. Fortunately we’ve played in some games this year and in the Ivy League every game is a playoff game with no conference tournament. You could look at like we haven’t had a tournament game or you could look at it like we’ve had fourteen. We talk about playing with execution first and emotion second, and I hope that after preaching the two that in some way it sticks in their heads. It’s also up to my job. Part of my job tomorrow is to manage the game and part of that is to manage the emotions that the athletic mortality of my seniors brings. The bench talks, I talk, and hopefully one of them will take care of it if it becomes an issue.”

On making the NCAA tournament four years in a row:

“I think you build your base in the fall, in the off season development, in October and November. In those months I’m actually a lot more tightly wound than I am now, and you don’t count out seniors like I have. I knew going in, if we stayed healthy, that we had some battlers that were going to give us a chance. But when you go into the year, the beauty of college athletics is this tournament. It’s the unpredictability of it. I’ve thought back a lot over the last 24 and 48 hours of so much goes into this. If you think back to Thanksgiving Day or the day after Christmas, or as my kids say, Fall Break, Spring Break, Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, and every break in between we spend together, and the ups and downs of the season, obviously through a difficult course load, just so much goes into it. I think we are battle tested in that way. I’m never going to take this time for granted, and I’m going to make sure they don’t either. Hopefully we’ll just do execution first and emotion second.”

On what stands out about Florida State:

“I have great respect for Sue (Semrau). I think she is one of the best in our game on a year-to- year basis getting a group of kids to buy in. She’s got great athleticism, especially in the post position. She’s been playing really aggressive defensively, and of course she’s got two scoring guards, and when you’ve got two scoring guards that can score the ball like those two can you’re in every game. Then they get the benefit of playing in a conference where night after night possession is really valuable. Our impressions of Florida State are that this particular team is another one of her really good teams, and she’s a really great coach that’s going to manage her team well. We know that the challenge is great, and we know that takes the best of what we have and the best of what I have, and if we all do our best, I like our chances. But we all have to do our best. There’s not a lot of wiggle room there.”

On wanting to get the win:

“It’s evolved from just being happy to be here. I look back four years ago, and I would’ve said the same thing, that we’re not trying to just be here, but it’s human nature to be excited about the environment that they earned. If there was a way to guarantee that you play the way that you play well on the big stage, I’m disciplined enough to have found it. The problem is there’s no way to determine that. You just have to figure out the matchup, hope that you make shots, hope that you stick to the defensive game plan amongst the excitement, and that you execute on the big stage. The takeaways are the value of the possession in the NCAA tournament. I think that stars have to play well in March, and I’m fortunate enough to have a star. You have to be able to value the possession. Every team does, and so does Florida State. They can’t be loose either with the ball. The other way is to look at it like going to Kansas State and knowing that we lost a possession game at Bridgeport last year. That hurts, it really hurts, and I have wasted too many valuable hours of my life re-watching that game, re-watching the possessions and recognizing maybe there was something I could have done differently, and there were certainly things we all could have done differently. That just tightens up the value of possession. You don’t prepare for the end because you don’t see it coming, and I’m not prepared for the end.”

Princeton Senior Guard Niveen Rasheed

On Florida State:

“We know that they’re a very good team, obviously. Very athletic, in the ACC, have a lot of scorers averaging double digit points, I think five. We know it’s going to be a good matchup. If they play a zone, we’re ready. We’ve been practicing both ways, and whatever they throw at us I think our coaches have done a great job at preparing us.”

On Princeton seeking its first NCAA tournament win:

“Once we got in Waco yesterday, everything just kind of hit me. It’s tournament time. All your focus is just on this game tomorrow, and what happened in the past doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just one game at a time. Tomorrow is the biggest game of our lives, now.”

On handling the hype of the NCAA tournament:

“Definitely, maturity hopefully has taught me that. It’s my fourth year so definitely living, treating it as just another game, not getting caught up in the moment. Just looking at it as just another game in my career, not as if, I mean the tournament definitely puts a lot of pressure on you, but you can’t look at it like that. It’s just another game in your college career and live every moment and enjoy it, too. Just have fun.”

Princeton Senior Guard Lauren Polansky

On Princeton seeking its first NCAA tournament win:

“This year is definitely special, and coming in as freshman, it was a big stage. I think that was potentially a little bit frightening for us, but with our fourth appearance this year we definitely want it just as much if not more right now, and hopefully we’ll leave it all out on the court and get that win that we’ve been waiting for.”

On Princeton’s style of play:

“We’re a very deep team. We pride ourselves a lot on defense and getting us going in transition. Offensively, we’re a very attack minded team. So a lot of driving kicks to outside shooters, which we have this year, which coach is pretty excited about. I think the best way to describe us is very determined, and we’re a bunch of fighters.”

On handling the hype of the NCAA tournament:

“I think that our coaches have done a really good job of scheduling really tough preseasons for us. I think that that’s definitely got us prepared to play some of the big time schools that are a lot faster and more athletic than the Ivy League teams you would see. So I think that that’s helped us a lot to just be prepared for the type of play that we’ll see. Honestly, all we can do is be out there, have fun, and enjoy every moment of it.”

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