#Julia #Cunningham #Princeton #womens #basketball #step #NCAA #Tournament #-
PRINCETON — Julia Cunningham still remembers the heartbreaking feeling as the Princeton women’s basketball team walk off the court in Bloomington, Indiana, last season.
It was thisclose to a berth in the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
Cunningham and the Tigers are back in the NCAA Tournament after yet another Ivy League championship and looking to take it a step further.
“We’re hungry,” Cunningham said. “We have our motto: One more. That’s from the Indiana game last year. It’s been in the back of our minds all season.”
Princeton (23-5) earned a No. 10 seed — the second highest in now 10 NCAA appearances — and enters its first-round contest against No. 7 seed N.C. State (20-11) in Salt Lake City (Friday, 10 p.m., ESPN2) on a 15-game winning streak. The winner advances to a second-round date against the winner of the game between No. 2 seed Utah and No. 15 seed Gardner-Webb.
The Tigers beat SEC Tournament champion Kentucky as a No. 11 seed last season before bowing out in a painstaking one-point loss to Indiana.
“Having that in the back of your mind where we were that close, we know what it takes to get there,” Cunningham said. “Bringing that experience back to the tournament is going to be huge for us.”
While Princeton is riding that 15-game winning streak, it hasn’t been as smooth sailing as a year ago when coach Carla Berube’s side pounded Ivy opponents with an average margin of victory of 27 points. In fact, the Tigers began the conference season 0-2 after losses to Harvard and Columbia.
Cunningham called it ‘The Climb.’
“We had to kind of regroup and find the identity of Princeton basketball again,” the senior guard said. “We were taking it one day at a time, one game at a time. We had faith in this team and the group of people we had. We never questioned that. We just kind of had to put everything together this (past) weekend showed that you can start 0-2 but it’s how you finish.”
The Ivy Tournament final against Harvard played out much like the season. The Tigers trailed by 11 in the the third quarter before tightening up their defense and throttling the Crimson with a 17-4 fourth-quarter.
“We’ve been clawing back in games all season,” Cunningham said. “Going down double digits isn’t ideal, but it’s something that we’ve experienced and we can handle. We looked at that, and we’re like ‘OK, point by point we’re going to get a stop, score and move on from there.’”
For Cunningham, this last go round in orange and black has added meaning because she is one of three New Jersey natives on the roster. She joked about coming to Tiger camp when she was in elementary school, but never envisioned actually attending, let along playing basketball, for Princeton.
“My parents haven’t missed a game,” the former Watchung Hills standout said. “I’m always asking people for tickets. The support that I’ve had from family and friends being in New Jersey, being local has been great. It makes it a little more special.”
|Read More Latest News From United States of New Jersey|