Princeton women stave off Penn in Ivy League Tournament semifinal


PRINCETON, N.J. – What looked like a rout for the top-seeded Princeton women turned into a close game, but they stopped a Penn comeback and took their semifinal game Friday in the Ivy League Tournament semifinal, 60-47.

The Tigers had reason to be confident: They were on their home court, they were the regular-season titleholders for the fifth year in a row, and they’d beaten the Quakers decisively just a week earlier in West Philly. Princeton scored first, then again, then again and again, setting up fastbreaks seemingly at will — 19 points in the first quarter on 50% shooting. Penn, meanwhile, was a portrait in futility: two points on 1-for-13 shooting.
“I felt really good after that first quarter,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said.
The game was as good as over.
But then it wasn’t.

Penn was down by as much as 19 early in the second quarter but started penetrating Princeton’s league-leading defense with sharp passes to cutting teammates. No one on either side was hitting threes — Princeton collected just one all evening, and Penn just four on 15 attempts — but Penn outscored Princeton in the second and third quarters to climb within six points. The most dramatic basket: a buzzer-beating shot from beyond halfcourt by senior guard Mandy McGurk to trim the lead to 11 at the half.

The comeback stalled as Princeton’s defense stiffened in the fourth quarter.
Berube said Berube’s defensive “came alive again,” getting “big stops” to fuel the Tigers’ transition game.
And the Princeton offense never really went cold: The Tigers hit on 47% of their shots for the night, to Penn’s 33%. Junior guard Kaitlyn Chen, as she so often does, led the way with 24 points on 11-for-21 shooting plus six rebounds. Freshman forward Madison St. Rose had 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting. And forward Ellie Mitchell had another double-double in dominating the lane: 12 rebounds, 10 points and 5-for-8 shooting. Princeton beat Penn off the boards, 39-26, and on points in the paint, 38-24.
For Penn, senior guard Kayla Padilla had 20 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
The key to limiting Padilla overall was “chasing her all over the place,” Berube said.
But Friday’s loss should not be Padilla’s final game in red and blue.
As coach Mike McLaughlin said afterward, with a 17-win season, Penn ought to get a chance to play in the WNIT, and the WNIT should jump at the chance at putting a game or two in the Palestra.
Princeton, meanwhile, is another step closer to another NCAA bid.
“At this time of the year, it’s about surviving and advancing and making it to the next day,” Berube said.