Princeton women clinch share of Ivy League title with dominant win at Columbia

Princeton sophomore guard Kaitlyn Chen scored a career-high 27 points and committed no turnovers in 40 minutes in the Tigers’ Ivy League title share-clinching win at Columbia Wednesday night. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

Congratulations to Carla Berube and her Tiger quintet upon clinching at least a tie for the Ivy League regular season championship, her second in two seasons. The Tigers achieved their goal by soundly thumping their closest pursuers, the Columbia Lions, 73-53, at a delightfully packed Levien Gym on Wednesday afternoon. Can Kyrie’s return to Brooklyn be far behind?

Before unpacking another of Berube’s defensive gems, we should take a moment to acknowledge the terrific job of coach Megan Griffith in building a program and a culture on Morningside Avenue, practically out of whole cloth. No Lions team ever challenged for an Ivy crown as her club has done in her sixth season at the helm of her alma mater. The Lions came into the game with a record of 19-4, the same record as their New Jersey rivals. Princeton dominated the first meeting of these teams at Jadwin when Kaitlyn Davis got into early foul trouble.
Most people felt that they would learn from that loss. Wednesday’s game showed them they have much more to learn.
One of the youngest teams in the league, the Lions return everybody who matters for next season. They will be in the thick of things for many seasons to come.
As the teams began play, it was immediately obvious that Griffith decided that Abby Meyers would not be the player who will beat her club. Kitty Henderson, the Australian guard, was assigned to pick up Meyers in the locker room. She was very effective in keeping the ball out of Abby’s hands for much of the early going.
With the Tigers, however, it’s pick your poison. With Meyers bottled up, the Tigers found two players who weren’t: Kaitlyn Chen and Grace Stone. Together they combined for the first 22 Tiger points in the opening quarter, Stone with 13 and Chen with nine.
Meyers and Julia Cunningham each made a late hoop to power the Tigers to a resounding 26-8 lead after 10 minutes. Another single-digit quarter for the Tiger defense.
Chen’s profile in this league and on this team keeps growing. She has been called upon to assume the scoring load when Meyers had to sit for long stretches due to early foul trouble, and she has relished those opportunities.  Today, she was unstoppable. Her teammates were delighted to feed the hot hand. In the second quarter, she added 11 more points to reach 20. The Tigers rolled to a 47-21 advantage at the break.
Columbia gave the home fans something to cheer about in the third quarter. The Lions started the third on a 13-4 run cutting the lead to 51-36. A Julia Cunningham bucket followed by an “and one” by Meyers stopped the Columbia rally in its tracks. The quarter ended with the Tigers up 58-39 after Stone hit a jumper to close the scoring. Columbia’s 18-11 advantage in the third was among the very best efforts against the Tigers for the season.
The teams traded scores in the fourth quarter as the Lions were unable to mount any real charge. The final score of 73-53 demonstrated, once again, the Tigers’ prowess at both ends of the court.
The player of the game was Kaitlyn Chen, who scored a career-high 27 points on 11-for-20 shooting from the field, 3-for-5 from deep. Chen played all 40 minutes. Stone, whose early scoring shocked the Lions, concluded her night with 19. Meyers reached 12 to continue her 24-game double-figure streak.
Ellie Mitchell played 39 minutes and grabbed 13 rebounds.
For the Lions, Kaitlyn Davis looked like the All-Ivy honoree she most certainly will be, leading the Lions with 17 points, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Abbey Hsu added 13, with three bombs of her own. Duke transfer Jaida Patrick brings a lot of energy to the Lions, despite suffering a tough shooting night.
The chances are very good that coach Griffith and her squad will get another crack at the Tigers the second weekend of March in the Ivy League Tournament. They know that the Tigers will not beat themselves.
Princeton has a road game at Harvard Saturday before the season finale on Senior Night at Jadwin against Penn on March 4.