Three Tiger Takeaways from No. 25 Princeton women’s basketball’s triumph at Penn

The No. 25 Princeton women’s basketball team fended off a furious Penn rally in the second half to win its 13th straight game, 67-54, at the Palestra on Saturday afternoon.  The Tigers never trailed after taking a 4-3 lead off a layup by Madison St. Rose with just under eight minutes to play in the first quarter.

But don’t be fooled by the final score – this game was closely contested from the opening tip and the Tigers were fortunate to come out on top.  Here are three Tiger Takeaways from Princeton’s 13th straight win:

1. It’s all about getting stops 

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Quakers had the Tigers right where they wanted them. Penn had shut down Princeton’s offense in the third quarter, winning the stanza 18-11, and entered the final quarter down by only four points, 48-44.  The home team had momentum and could smell an upset over a nationally ranked opponent.

But Princeton did what Princeton does, getting stops when needed most. After Penn freshman guard  Ese Ogbevire cashed in a second-chance opportunity to make it a one-possession game, Princeton’s defense rose up and got four consecutive stops, which allowed Princeton’s offense to restore some cushion to the Tigers’ lead.

In all, the Tigers got seven stops in eight Penn possessions to seize control of the game during a critical five-minute stretch of the fourth quarter.  With Princeton closely contesting every Penn move, the Red and Blue managed to convert only three of 11 shots in the fourth quarter and turned the ball over five times. Game, set, match.

Interviewed after the game by the ESPN+ broadcast crew, Princeton co-captain Kaitlyn Chen explained how Princeton was able to secure the win: “We just talked about getting stops. And we said we have to stick to what we’re good at.”

What the Tigers are good at is getting stops when the game is on the line.  That’s why Princeton won yet another tough road game, their ninth of the season.

2. Kaitlyn Chen is making a strong case for another MVP award

She may not be the leading scorer in the Ivy League, but Kaitlyn Chen showed on Saturday why the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year should be considered the frontrunner to win the award again this year.

Chen led all scorers with 20 points against Penn, but the timing of her scores and the poise she demonstrated when the game was on the line made those 20 points seem like 40. Midway through the third quarter, Princeton’s offense was stuck in a rut while Penn was chipping away at Princeton’s lead.  The Tigers had failed to make a basket for over five minutes and needed someone to make a play to stop the bleeding.

As has been the case so often over the course of her Princeton career, that player was Chen.  The senior co-captain drove the lane and swished a gorgeous turnaround jumper over a much taller Penn defender to restore Princeton’s double-digit lead with 5;25 to go in the third quarter.

Chen scored 11 points in the final 16 minutes of the game to secure the win for the Tigers.  She also dished out a game-high five assists and grabbed two rebounds. Chen is the best player on the best team in the Ivy League, and she always comes up biggest when the Tigers most need the lift.

3. It’s not all a bed of roses for the Orange and Black

Princeton should have won this game easily considering that Penn turned the ball over a whopping 27 times in the contest, including 17 giveaways in the first half.  The Tigers tallied 28 points on turnovers (compared to only two points on turnovers for Penn), and yet they allowed Penn to stick around until late in the fourth quarter.  Credit the Quakers for outhustling the Tigers for most of the game, especially on the boards, where Penn outmuscled Princeton, 33-19.

Rebounding has been a strength for Princeton throughout most of the season, with the Tigers ranking second in the Ivy League in rebounding margin at +5.7.  But Penn showed on Saturday that despite Princeton’s superior size when matching up against most Ivy League foes, the Tigers may be vulnerable when they play an opponent determined to prevent the Tigers from getting second-chance opportunities. The Tigers looked lackluster at times in this contest, often losing the battle for 50-50 balls.

Another issue that popped up again today for Princeton was Madison St. Rose’s subpar shooting performance.  The reigning Ivy Rookie of the Year struggled with her shooting touch all day, scoring only four points on 2-for-8 shooting despite playing all but five minutes of the game.

It was the second time in the last three games that the Tigers’ second-leading scorer managed to contribute only four points. Against Yale a week ago, the super sophomore from Old Bridge, N.J. connected on only one of eight field-goal attempts.  Overall, in her last three games, St. Rose is 11-for-37.

Perhaps most troubling is St. Rose’s inability to hit the three with consistency during Ivy play.  In her last seven Ivy contests, St. Rose has made only five of 26 three-balls, or 19%.  The Tigers will need more reliable outside shooting from their star sophomore if they want to make a run in postseason play.

Despite these shortcomings, the Tigers managed to win their 13th consecutive game, tied for fifth-best in the nation and remain undefeated in Ivy play at 8-0.

Princeton has won every Ivy contest so far by double digits. Just imagine what it could accomplish when it starts firing on all cylinders.