PRINCETON, N.J. -- Princeton coach Courtney Banghart and her Tigers are becoming old pros at making the NCAA tournament.
Still, winning a third straight Ivy League championship at home was a special feeling.Senior guard Lauren Edwards scored a career-high 29 points to help the Tigers clinch the nation's first berth to the NCAAs with a 94-57 victory over Dartmouth on Saturday night.When the final buzzer sounded, the Tigers sprinted to midcourt and celebrated, lifting Edwards up when she was announced as the player of the game. The team then proceeded to cut down the net."Cutting the nets down is something they will remember forever," Banghart said. "I care so much about them. I wanted that for them, almost more than the wins this weekend. The fact they did it with all their families here to celebrate is amazing."The Ivy League is the only conference that doesn't have a postseason tournament, so the regular-season champion gets the automatic bid to the NCAAs.The Tigers (21-4, 11-0) have won three straight conference titles, becoming the first team to do so since Harvard won three in a row from 1996-98. Princeton has lost in the first round of its last two NCAA appearances."I told them in the locker room, it looks like all you guys do is win from the outside world," Banghart said. "The way they practiced and work hard makes my job so much easier."There wasn't much suspense in this one after Princeton scored 13 of the game's first 15 points to take command early against Dartmouth (4-21, 2-9). The Tigers led by 13 at halftime and cruised to their 14th straight victory. Edwards had 19 points in the half and finished the game hitting seven of her 10 3-point attempts.Niveen Rasheed added 24 points and 16 rebounds for the Tigers."She was relentless tonight," Banghart said. "She just loves to compete."It was the second straight season that Princeton clinched an NCAA bid on its home floor. This year the Tigers did it a week earlier.Princeton will visit Yale and Brown next weekend before hosting Penn in its regular-season finale. The Tigers will then wait to hear their NCAA seeding when the bracket comes out on March 12."We have to figure out how to get them the most prepared," Banghart said. "We have a good handle on the team. Our returning players are going to their third NCAAs."Three of the Tigers' four losses this season have come to ranked teams (Stanford, Delaware and DePaul).