Princeton women’s basketball returned to its winning ways by knocking off the University of San Diego Toreros, 62-51, on Sunday afternoon at the Jenny Craig Pavilion in San Diego.
The matchup was the second of two weekend games the Tigers played on their Southern California road trip, which served as a homecoming for three Princeton standouts – Kaitlyn Chen and freshman Ashley Chea, both of whom played high school ball at Flintridge Prep, and Skye Belker, a Los Angeles native who played at the Windward School before coming to Princeton.
Coming off a nail-biting, near-miss against No. 2 UCLA on Friday, the Tigers made quick work of the Toreros. Madison St. Rose led the way early for the Tigers, notching eight points in each of the first two quarters. The story of the half, however, was Princeton’s stifling defense, which forced the Toreros into a horrid 5-31 shooting performance. The Tigers led 31-18 at the break.
Princeton’s game plan was to push the ball upcourt as much as possible, and the strategy paid off as San Diego turnovers and errant shots led to one fastbreak scoring chance after another for the visiting Tigers.
The game got a bit sloppy in the second half, but Princeton was never threatened. When Chen picked up her third foul early in the third quarter, coach Carla Berube replaced her with freshman guard Mari Bickley, who quickly made two free throws and two layups to score six consecutive points for the visitors. The third quarter ended with Princeton firmly in control, 48-30.
The fourth quarter played out with relatively little drama. The highlight might have been a Princeton turnover, courtesy of Ashley Chea, who attempted a dazzling, behind-the-back pass to Fadima Tall, another talented freshman who made her Princeton debut in this game. But the pass sailed just beyond the reach of Tall and out of bounds. It hardly mattered as the Tigers coasted to victory, 62-51.
Princeton was led by St. Rose, who turned in another impressive performance with 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Chen tallied a nifty 13 points and led the Tigers with six assists. Bickley had six points off the bench for the Tigers. Her performances in both California games was one of many highlights for Princeton on this road trip.
With only two points on 1-for-2 shooting, Tiger co-captain Ellie Mitchell had another quiet game on offense. However, the senior center grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, and with so many other offensive weapons at her disposal, Coach Carla Berube may not mind Mitchell’s modest scoring contributions at this stage in the season.
With the win, Princeton moved to 3-1 on the season. Despite the heartbreaking loss on Friday at UCLA, coach Berube’s squad made waves with their impressive performances in the Pacific time zone and the Tigers appear to be perfectly positioned to challenge two more high-major programs next week when they travel to Florida to take on No. 25 Oklahoma and No. 18 Indiana in the Fort Myers Tip-Off.