Princeton women’s basketball rallies in the second half to beat Harvard, 60-49

The Princeton women’s basketball team rebounded from its first setback of the Ivy League season to defeat Harvard, 60-49, in the first of back-to-back games this weekend at Jadwin Gymnasium.   

The Tigers (21-4, 11-1 Ivy) needed a second half rally to shake off the Crimson, who led 35-30 after Princeton played one of its worst halves of basketball this season.  

The Tigers were led by senior co-captain Chet Nweke, who tallied 13 points, including nine in the second half, to go along with seven rebounds.  For her efforts, Nweke was named the Player of the Game by the ESPN+ broadcast crew.

Harvard (15-10, 8-4) got off to a fast start beginning with a three pointer on its first possession by Harmoni Turner, who scored a game high 20 points.  Turner, a 5-foot-10 junior guard from Mansfield, Texas, blitzed the Tigers in the first half, scoring 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting.  

Meanwhile, the Tigers continued to struggle with their execution on offense, turning the ball over 11 times in the first half.  Harvard capitalized on Princeton’s miscues, tallying 14 points off of Tiger turnovers.  In all, Princeton turned the ball over 20 times in the contest, a season high for coach Carla Berube’s squad.

Princeton’s trio of senior co-captains rescued the game in the second half for the five-time defending Ivy League champions.  The Tigers opened the third quarter with a dish by Kaitlyn Chen to Nweke for an easy layup.  Chen led the Tigers with a game-high  seven assists.  

A beautiful reverse layup by Madison St. Rose cut Harvard’s lead to a single point, 35-34.  St. Rose finished with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting.

Moments later, Ashley Chea hit a trey to tie the game at 37.  The freshman guard from Flintridge Prep (Calif.) tallied eight points off the bench for the Tigers, going 2-for-3 from three-point distance.  

After a TV timeout, Chen drove the lane for an uncontested layup and Princeton had its first lead of the second half, 37-35.  The Tigers would never trail again.

The Crimson managed only six points in the third quarter as Harmoni Turner went cold from the field, coming up empty on four of five shot attempts.  Princeton led by four at the end of the third stanza, 43-39.

In the fourth quarter, Princeton’s defense continued to shut down the Crimson while the Tigers slowly pulled away.  Back-to-back fall away jumpers by Skye Belker gave the Tigers their first double-digit lead, 49-39, with 5:35 to play.  The consecutive buckets provided the only points of the game for the star freshman guard from Los Angeles, but they came at the right time and helped cement the win for the home team.

Much of the damage inflicted by the Tigers in the fourth quarter occurred during a key stretch in the fourth quarter in which Harvard coach Carrie Moore decided to rest Turner.  With her leading scorer out of the game, Moore’s squad struggled to generate offense.  By the time Turner returned to action, Princeton had taken control of the contest.  

Overall, this was not a pretty win for the Tigers, who at times looked like they were suffering a continued hangover from the loss at Columbia last weekend.  Despite the struggle, Berube and company were all smiles in the final minutes as Princeton remained a perfect 9-0 at home this season.

With the win, Princeton kept pace with Columbia (20-5, 11-1 Ivy) to remain tied for first place in the Ivy League.  The Tigers will host Dartmouth tomorrow afternoon while Harvard will travel to Philadelphia to face Penn on Saturday at the Palestra.