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Columbia Spectator Staff

She is the Ivy League's second-highest scorer and third-best rebounder. She is in the top five of the conference in steals and assists per game. Despite being a forward, she is, statistically, a better playmaker than her team's starting point guard. And she's only a freshman. To say that Niveen Rasheed has made an immediate impact on the Princeton women's basketball team is an understatement. Last season, the Tigers finished with an overall record of 14-14 and a conference record of 9-5. With Rasheed on board, Princeton is currently 21-2 overall and 9-0 in Ivy play. The Tigers are even receiving votes in the AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Today Polls. Of course, Rasheed is not the only reason for Princeton's success. Three other players average more than 10 points per game for the Tigers, and two of them—junior guard Addie Micir and sophomore guard Lauren Edwards—are among the top five 3-point shooters in the league. As a team, Princeton scores 70.8 points per game while holding opponents to a mere 51.3 points per contest. But Rasheed stands out for being more than a collection of impressive statistics. With and without the ball, she is a presence on the floor. "She just plays with tremendous energy," Columbia women's basketball head coach Paul Nixon said. "I don't like the ‘Energizer bunny' cliché, but I feel like she's perpetual motion on the court. I think she's always active—she's moving offensively, she's moving defensively—and when you combine that with the fact that she's blessed with good size and athleticism, that's a combination that makes for a very good player." Rasheed showed just how potent that combination can be when Columbia and Princeton met earlier this season. In that game—a 22-point Princeton victory—Rasheed had 27 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, and five steals. Her point, assist, and steal totals from that matchup are career-highs, while her 16 boards against Cornell have formed her best single-game rebounding effort thus far. Limiting Rasheed's effectiveness is not easy—she averages 15.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.3 steals per contest—but for Princeton's opponents, it is an obvious priority. Nixon, whose squad faces the Tigers on Saturday, believes that all of his players need to be aware of Rasheed's movements when Columbia is playing defense. "We have to do a better job of having team defensive concepts with her, and bringing better help, providing more, not necessarily double-team situations, but more attention being paid to her by the players that aren't guarding her," Nixon said. "Really improving and focusing on our team defense is what it's going to take to contain her better than we did [in the first meeting]." Rasheed will look to continue her torrid play this weekend, when Princeton hosts Cornell and Columbia.

Women's Basketball