Princeton women push back to power past Penn, 71-52

Kaitlyn Chen put on a memorable performance in Princeton’s victory over archrival Penn Friday, notching 27 points, five assists and four rebounds in 37 minutes. (Photo by Erica Denhoff)

Editor’s note: Princeton-Penn is always a big deal, and our Toothless Tiger and Palestra Pete combine to recap Saturday night’s P vs. P action in audio and written form below: 

It was The Kaitlyn Chen Show, but more than that, it was The Princeton Defense Show at Penn on Friday night, and the Tigers roared back (sorry) from a first-half deficit to beat the Quakers handily, 71-52.

In some respects, the game was meaningless: For weeks we’ve known that the top two women’s teams going into the Ivy League Tournament would be Princeton and Columbia, and that they would face Penn and Harvard in the first-round games. But pride counts, too, and Princeton knew it needed this win to get a share of its fifth straight regular-season title.

On the Penn side, too, the stakes were emotional: This was Senior Night, and Princeton was the only Ivy the graduating Penn players had never beaten. Truth is, they’d never come very close: The 15-point loss in January at Princeton was their closest score. Their best chance probably would have come in the COVID-canceled Ivy tournament of 2020, or more likely the canceled season that followed, when the career of Penn’s last dominant center, Eleah Parker, would have overlapped with that of forward Jordan Obi.

On this night, with Parker cheering in the stands, Obi led the way with 5-for-6 shooting in the first half as Penn led by as much as seven points in the second quarter. Obi finished with a Parker-like double-double: 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting and 11 rebounds, plus a block and a couple of steals.

What kept Princeton in the game — down by just two at the break — was Chen, who had 20 of the Tigers’ 29 points on 7-for-8 shooting. The junior guard didn’t exactly go cold in the second half, but the rest of the team started hitting as well, and the defense turned up the heat on Penn; Chen finished with a season-high 27 points and five assists.

Princeton succeeded on defense by consistently collapsing on the ball and harassing Penn’s ballhandlers on both ends of the court. Penn committed a whopping 24 turnovers, to Princeton’s seven. Some Penn errors seemed unforced — the ball thrown away — but must have been influenced by the knowledge that a Princeton defender always seemed to be about to pounce.

The Tigers also trusted junior forward Ellie Mitchell to disrupt everything in the lane. Mitchell came through: Along with nine rebounds and eight points, she collected a block and six steals.

Senior guard Grace Stone played a major role in the second-half comeback, scoring 15 of her 17 points and going 3-for-4 from downtown after intermission. She also collected six rebounds, four assists and two steals on the night.

In her final scheduled game at home at the Palestra, senior guard Kayla Padilla had a bit of an off night: 17 points, but on just 6-for-20 shooting. She wasn’t getting open threes, and every slashing drive through the lane found her surrounded by orange jerseys. Padilla is a force — holding her to 17 is a major accomplishment — and Penn has a week to figure out how to unleash her if she has another shot at Princeton.

Penn finishes the regular season 17-10 (9-5 Ivy). Princeton is 21-5 (12-2) with a 13-game winning streak going into the Ivy tournament on its home court.

2 thoughts on “Princeton women push back to power past Penn, 71-52”

  1. Nice recap, George, but I cannot at all agree that this game was mostly meaningless or just for pride. For Princeton, there was a share of the Ivy League title at stake, its sixth in a row. I think that meant a lot to the players and coaching staff.

  2. I’ve got to say a word about the great Palestra crowd Friday night: 2,671 people, the biggest for an Ivy women’s game this season. As usual when Princeton comes to play in West Philly, there was a big showing of fans of both schools, and the Palestra really magnifies the effect of a crowd. (Jadwin, by contrast, is where noise goes to die.)

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