No. 11 Princeton women defeat No. 6 Kentucky, 69-62, to advance to NCAA Tournament second round

Princeton senior guard Abby Meyers lived up to her Ivy Player of the Year billing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday afternoon, leading the No. 11 Tigers to a win over No. 6 Kentucky with a game-high 29 points on 9-for-21 shooting and no second-half turnovers. (photo by Erica Denhoff)

Don’t call it an upset.

No. 11 Princeton led No. 6 Kentucky for all but 2:18 in the first quarter, maintaining a single-digit, multiple-possession lead most of the game en route to a 69-62 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Assembly Hall in Bloomington Saturday.

The win is the Tigers’ second NCAA Tournament victory in program history and sets them up for a second-round clash with No. 3 Indiana at Assembly Hall Monday at a time to be announced.

Princeton senior guard Abby Meyers lived up to her Ivy Player of the Year billing, scoring 29 points on 9-for-21 shooting, grabbing five rebounds and committing no turnovers in the final 24:31.

The Tigers had lost to then-No. 11 Kentucky as a No. 6 seed in the Ivy League’s last NCAA Tournament opportunity in 2019 after surrendering a lead in the third quarter and mustering a late-game rally that fell just short.

This time, though, the Ivy League champion Tigers’ fourth-best scoring defense nationally stymied SEC Tournament champion Kentucky both early and late, enough for Princeton to overcome 19 turnovers.

Princeton (25-4, 14-0 Ivy) entered the game as the No. 25 team in Associated Press’ national rankings, just 10 slots behind Kentucky (19-12, 8-8 SEC).

But it was the Tigers who looked like the slightly better team Saturday afternoon, keeping a Wildcats squad that stayed within clawing distance throughout at bay with big shots from Meyers and sophomore guard Kaitlyn Chen, who helped extend her stellar first year of action with 17 points, two assists, two steals in 40 minutes.

Senior guard Rhyne Howard led Kentucky in scoring with 17 points but on just 4-for-14 shooting. Howard was assessed a technical foul after protesting the lack of a foul call on Princeton after she hit a bucket to cut Princeton’s lead to 46-42 with 1:05 to play in the third quarter.

The Wildcats never got any closer.

Sophomore forward and Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Ellie Mitchell scattered the stat sheet with eight rebounds, six points, three steals and a helper in 34 minutes. Kentucky redshirt junior forward Dre’una Edwards contributed 16 points, half of those coming in the fourth quarter, along with 12 boards.