This week brought good news for the Tiger women. On Monday they received word that their 17-game winning streak and overall 21-1 record had vaulted them to No. 21 in the Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the AP Poll. Tiger do-everything player, Bella Alarie was named national Player of the Week by the USBWA. Princeton hoped to add to the excitement by dispatching their nearest Ivy competitor, second-place Penn, in the Tuesday night rematch at Jadwin Gym.
The Tigers did not disappoint. While the Tigers pack plenty of scoring punch, their smothering scoring defense, currently ranked No. 1 in the country, is principally responsible for their stellar record. It is not unusual for Princeton to match up more or less evenly with an opponent in the early going, before ramping up the defense in the second half.
This scenario played out against Dartmouth on Saturday. The Tigers broke away in the second half turning a two point game into a 32-point rout. The Tigers are among the national leaders in winning margin. That was the formula the Tigers employed in the league opener at The Palestra in early January. Princeton broke open a tight game with an overwhelming third quarter, eventually dispatching the Quakers by 20, 75-55.
On Tuesday, however, the Tigers somewhat flipped the script as they came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders. This game was all but over after 10 minutes, as the Tigers closed the first period on a 14-2 run to take a 21-8 lead. The Quakers’ great rookie, Kayla Padilla, who scored 27 in her Ivy debut against the Tigers, was held to just four in the opening session.
In the second quarter, things got even worse for the visitors. In perhaps its best performance of the season, Princeton shut out the Quakers for nearly eight minutes, holding them to one field goal and five points in the quarter. At the half, Princeton held a 34-13 lead.
Penn, obviously smarting from its first-half mistreatment, sent Padilla out to turn things around. She gave it a heroic try, scoring 14 in the third session, one more than her team produced in the first half. The Quakers did manage to outscore the Tigers in the period, 18-17.
Princeton restored order quickly in the fourth. The Tigers’ 29-point explosion ran the final margin of victory to 36, 80-44.
Alarie played a game one might expect from a two-time Ivy POY. She scored a team-high 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added two assists. Freshman Ellie Mitchell continued her impressive contribution from the bench. She earned Player of the Game honors for her 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds. The very physical Tigers outrebounded Eleah Parker and the Quakers 48-27, in the process grabbing an astonishing 21 on the offensive glass. Eight Tigers were on the floor for nearly half the game. Six of them return next season.
Padilla’s hot third quarter propelled her to a game-high 24 points, as she continues her strong bid for Rookie of the Year and first-team All-Ivy honors. No other Quaker had more than four points.
The Tigers entertain Brown and Yale this weekend as they wrap up a home stretch of five games in nine days. Last night’s win clinched a berth in the Ivy League Tournament at Harvard for the Tigers.