The Princeton Tigers entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed matched against the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats in Bloomington, Ind. Ivy Player of the Year Abby Meyers paced the Tigers with 29 points as her club thoroughly outplayed their SEC opponent Saturday, administering a convincing 69-62 beating to advance to the round of 32.
Far from being intimidated by the moment, the Tigers clearly rose to it.
This game was dominated by the Tiger defense. The usually high-flying Wildcat offense was held to 36% shooting from the field and 4-for-15 from deep. The Tigers, on the other hand, were red hot, making 69% of their shots from the field in the second quarter, cruising to a 32-26 lead at the half.
Twice in the third quarter, Kentucky was able to close the gap to two points but the Tigers, showing the poise and toughness that Carla Berube’s teams always exhibit, managed to skate out of danger. Abby Meyers and Kaitlyn Chen time and again came up with huge buckets. For the game, they combined for 46 of Princeton’s 69 points, making 17 of their 36 shots from the field. Chen played 40 minutes, Meyers 39.
The third quarter closed with Princeton ahead 48-44. It appeared that the Tigers had taken the Wildcats’ best shot but were still standing.
Surprisingly, the Tigers outrebounded Kentucky 31-22. Perhaps with Ellie Mitchell on the court, a rebounding advantage is not that much of a surprise. The Ivy Defensive Player of the Year finished with eight caroms, more than holding her own against the bigger and stronger Wildcat frontcourt.
The final period played out in much the same way as the first three. The Wildcats pressed Princeton for the entire game. For the most part, Chen controlled the ball, and she continued to do so under intense pressure in the fourth quarter. In the final minutes, Kentucky was forced to foul, putting the very efficient Meyers on the line, from where she made nine of 11 shots for the game. As a team, the Tigers shot 49% from the field and held the lead for 37 of the game’s 40 minutes.
Kentucky came into the game on a 10-game winning streak, including a win in the SEC Tournament title game over the No. 1 team in the country, South Carolina. Princeton’s win is its second ever in the NCAA Tournament and 18th in a row since December.
“We actually wrote on the whiteboard, ‘This is not an upset game,'” Meyers told
NCAA March Madness. “We knew coming in that we were going to be an underestimated team. I think as a mid-major, as just an Ivy League team in general, we kind of get underestimated.”
No Ivy team has ever reached the Sweet 16, but to achieve that status the Tigers must beat Indiana (23-8) on the Hoosiers’ home court on Monday. Carla Berube’s club will show up ready to compete.
“We’re going to enjoy this for like 10 seconds and then we’re moving onto Indiana,” Berube told
A Tiger win might be a long shot, but nothing this team does is a surprise. It should be enormous fun on Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.