No. 25 Princeton women’s basketball survives a Bear attack in 74-62 win at Brown

The No. 25 Princeton women’s basketball team fought back from the brink on Friday night, repelling the Brown Bears, 74-62, in Providence to remain undefeated in Ivy League play.

The Tigers (19-3, 9-0 Ivy) rode into Providence on a 13-game winning streak and were probably due for a letdown. Brown (13-9, 4-5), on the other hand, needed a win to cement its hold on fourth place in the Ivy League standings and a berth in Ivy Madness.

The Tigers got out to an early lead by flipping the script on the Bears, who lost at Princeton two weeks ago despite canning 11 three-pointers. This time, it was the Tigers who hoisted the long ball, making three early treys to take a 9-2 lead and forcing Brown coach Monique LeBlanc to burn an early timeout. The Tigers led by 10 at the end of the first quarter, 20-10, behind Kaitlyn Chen’s seven points. Princeton’s senior co-captain finished with a team high 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting.

In the second quarter, the Bears contained Chen and exploited Princeton’s interior while senior co-captain Ellie Mitchell rode the bench in early foul trouble. Kyla Jones, Brown’s leading scorer this season, tallied three largely uncontested layups and then hit a three-pointer to bring the Bears to within four, 30-26, with 2:23 to play in the first half. The senior guard from Chicago finished with 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting.

Princeton clung to a three-point lead at the half, 32-29, but Brown had all the momentum heading into the locker room.

In the third quarter, Brown appeared to seize control of the game. A Jones triple on the opening possession of the third quarter tied the game at 32. After a Princeton turnover, freshman guard Olivia Young drove the ball right at Ellie Mitchell, who backed away rather than risking picking up her fourth foul. The Bears had their first lead since early in the first quarter, 34-32.

The Bears kept up the pressure on Mitchell, daring her to stop Brown’s penetrating guard play. With 6:11 to play in the third, Mitchell threw the ball right into the hands of Jones, who streaked down the court for an easy lay-in to give Brown a 41-38 lead. The play was emblematic of Mitchell’s frustrating night.

Asked by the ESPN+ crew after the game about Mitchell’s performance, Princeton coach Carla Berube explained: “Ellie plays really, really hard no matter what the situation. She just has to keep her emotions in check.” A moment later the coach offered, “But she came up big for us in the second half.”

Two minutes after Mitchell’s glaring turnover, Grace Arnolie, a 5-foot-8 sophomore from Vienna, Va., swished a three to give Brown a 47-40 lead. Arnolie led all scorers with 18 points. Suddenly, the Tigers were facing their largest deficit of the Ivy League season. It was gut-check time for the five-time defending league champions.

With five minutes to go in the third quarter, the Tigers methodically worked their way back into the game by, you guessed it, getting stops.

Three straight empty possessions by Brown allowed Princeton to regain the lead when Madison St. Rose got a jumper in the paint to roll in for only her second basket of the game. The reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year finished another subpar game with only five points on 2-for-10 shooting. The Tigers led by one at the end of the third quarter, 55-54.

Princeton’s momentum carried over into the final stanza. Using their vaunted, close guarding, man-to-man defense, the Tigers secured stops on Brown’s first four possessions of the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, freshman guard Ashley Chea hit two clutch, pull-up jumpers during crunch time to push Princeton into the victory column for the 14h straight game. The 5-foot-8 guard from Montebello, Calif. came off the bench to score 12 huge points on 5-for-7 shooting.

When the dust settled, Princeton had survived, 74-62. Despite a tremendous challenge from Brown, the Tigers managed to win again by double digits, something they have accomplished in all nine of their Ivy clashes so far this season.

Still, warning signs continue to mount for Princeton. For the third time in her past four games, Madison St. Rose struggled with her shooting touch. The sophomore from Old Bridge, N.J. and Princeton’s second-leading scorer is in a bona fide shooting funk. Berube needs to find a way to get her sophomore superstar back on track in order for the Tigers to continue their run to a sixth consecutive league title.

Another sore spot for the Tigers on Friday night was the play of Mitchell. The indefatigable senior co-captain played with an uncharacteristic lack of discipline at times against Brown and ended up on the bench for nearly half the game as a result. While Mitchell was off the court, Brown found plenty of space in the paint for easy layups.

The real heroes for Princeton in this contest were the players who came off the bench. In all, six Tiger subs tallied 28 points for the Orange and Black, compared to only six bench points for Brown. In addition to Chea’s 12 points, Tabitha Amanze tallied six points in relief of Mitchell, while Parker Hill scored four crucial fourth-quarter points in the paint in relief of senior Chet Nweke, who, like Mitchell, struggled at times with foul trouble.

Once again, it was the depth of Berube’s squad that enabled the Tigers to survive on the road.

The Tigers will play their third straight road game on Saturday at Yale, while Brown will host the Penn Quakers in a matchup that promises to play a key role in determining the fourth and final spot for Ivy Madness four weeks from now.