Princeton women’s basketball rolls past Harvard for seventh straight win

“We communicated well, got our hands up and worked really hard,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said to Ivy Hoops Online about her team’s defense in a 72-49 win over Harvard Saturday. (Princeton Athletics broadcast)

Princeton women’s basketball delivered one of its best defensive performances of the season to notch a wire-to-wire win over Harvard, 72-49, Saturday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion.

Although this contest was billed as a rematch of the 2023 Ivy League Tournament championship game, also won by Princeton, the Tigers might have had revenge on their minds dating back to last season’s road trip to Lavietes.  A year ago, the Tigers lost their Ivy opener at Harvard in shocking fashion, 67-59.  It was the first league loss for Carla Berube in her coaching tenure at Princeton.  

The Tigers made certain there would be no upset in Boston this time, scoring the first three buckets of the game and never looking back.  

Kaitlyn Chen opened the scoring with an over-the-shoulders and behind-the-back layup.  She then found Madison St. Rose for a backdoor layup.  St. Rose, who led all scorers with 16 points, tallied another layup after an offensive rebound by junior forward Parker Hill to put the Tigers ahead 6-0.

Meanwhile, Harvard’s offense came out stone cold, with the Crimson missing their first five shots of the contest.  Perhaps it was the pressure of playing before a packed, boisterous home crowd.  More likely it was the pressure applied by Princeton’s relentless defenders. The Crimson mustered only four points in the first quarter, their lowest output in any quarter this season and Princeton’s stingiest performance in any quarter this season.  The Tigers led 16-4 at the end of the first stanza.

The second quarter began with Princeton continuing to pour it on the Crimson.  A pretty mid-range jumper by Skye Belker opened the scoring to make it 18-4.  The freshman guard from Los Angeles scored 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting.  She was one of six Tigers to finish in double figures.

Harvard answered with a jumper by senior guard Lola Mullaney, who led the Crimson with 16 points.  Chen then drove straight down Main Street to make it 20-6.  Princeton’s senior co-captain finished with only 8 points on 4-10 shooting and 3 assists, but all of her points came at critical junctures.

Princeton continued to build its lead behind he stellar play of 6-foot-1 forward Ellie Mitchell.  The senior co-captain from Chevy Chase, Md. picked off a pass at center court and motored down the hardwood for an uncontested layup to put the Tigers up 22-6.  

Mitchell, Princeton’s all-time second-leading rebounder, hauled in 14 rebounds and tallied 10 points for her second double-double of the season.  She also dished out a game-high five assists and clearly was the best player on the court.  

Interviewed after the game by the ESPN+ broadcasting crew, Mitchell relished playing the villain before a hostile crowd. 

“We love playing in this environment,” Mitchell said. “It’s a lot of fun to play in.”

Trailing by nine at the end of the first half, Harvard made a valiant attempt to rally in the third quarter.  A three-pointer by junior guard Harmoni Turner followed by a layup by Mullaney brought the Crimson to within seven with 5:26 to play in the third quarter. 

But the home team would get no closer.  A 9-0 run by the Tigers squashed any hope of a Crimson comeback.  Princeton led 51-35 at the end of the third quarter.

In the final stanza, St. Rose drew first blood with a beautiful, high-arching reverse layup off the glass.  After a three-ball hoisted by Turner hit nothing but air, Belker drove the lane and missed an attempted layup.  A Mitchell offensive rebound, one of 12 on the day for the Tigers, resulted in a second-chance jumper by Belker. This time she made it count to put the Tigers up by 20. With 8:41 left to play, the game effectively was over.  

Harvard’s output of only 49 points was its lowest since losing at Princeton, 51-47, last February.

“It’s been a work in progress,” Berube said to Ivy Hoops Online about her team’s defensive effort after the game. “The whole team effort was really good.  We communicated well, got our hands up and worked really hard.”

Given Princeton’s dominance from beginning to end, it’s hard to credit one factor as making the difference. But the Tigers’ depth certainly stood out in this contest.  Princeton’s bench, led by freshman guard Ashley Chea and senior guard Chet Nweke, contributed 21 points to the Tigers’ cause while Harvard’s bench scored none.  Chea, a Montebello, Calif. native, tallied 11 points, while Nweke, hailing from Woodbine, Md., tied her career high with 10 points.  

With the win, the Tigers won their seventh consecutive game and moved to 12-3 on the season and 2-0 in Ivy play.  Princeton will travel to Hanover to face the Dartmouth Big Green at Edward Leede Arena on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  

With the loss, Harvard dropped to 8-7 overall and 1-1 in the Ivy League. The Crimson will look to regroup on Monday against the surprising Brown Bears, who are tied with Princeton and Columbia atop the Ivy League standings at 2-0.  

1 thought on “Princeton women’s basketball rolls past Harvard for seventh straight win”

  1. Defense against Harvard in last 2 games very impressive. In the 4th quarter of the tournament final Tigers gave up 4 points, just as they did in the 1st period yesterday. Columbia coach is only one in the IL to defeat a Berube squad in Jadwin. Saturday’s contest will be a lot of nail-biting fun.

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