Princeton women’s basketball beats Penn to secure sixth straight Ivy League title

The Princeton women’s basketball team celebrated Senior Day on Saturday afternoon at Jadwin Gymnasium by beating the Penn Quakers, 72-55, for a sixth straight Ivy League regular season title. 

It was a triumphant day for Princeton’s spectacular troika of seniors:  Kaitlyn Chen, Ellie Mitchell and Chet Nweke.  Chen finished the game with 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 11 assists, a career high for the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year.  Asked by the ESPN+ broadcast crew to reflect on having played her final game at Jadwin Gym, Chen said,  “I honestly don’t think it’s hit me yet.  It just sort of felt like another game.  We had a job to do and we did it.”

Indeed, the Tigers did do a job on the Red and Blue, with a wire-to-wire win for the second week in a row.  Princeton has now defeated Penn 11 straight times. 

The Tigers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead behind a corner three by Madison St. Rose and a jumper in the paint by Ellie Mitchell.  Princeton made its first five shots and led 22-12 at the end of the first quarter.

Penn rallied in the second stanza to make the game a contest.  A jumper by Jordan Obi followed by a steal and layup by Mataya Gayle cut Princeton’s lead to 30-28 with under a minute to play in the first half.  Obi led the Quakers with 17 points on 6-for-16 shooting.  

But just as Penn was gaining momentum, Chen doused the Quakers’ comeback hopes.  With 13 seconds remaining before intermission, the senior from San Marino, Calif. stole the ball from Gayle and motored coast-to-coast for a contested layup to give the Tigers a 32-28 lead.  

In the third quarter, Princeton pulled away as they done so often this season.  Skye Belker opened the scoring by hitting a corner three to tally her first points of the day. The freshman guard from Los Angeles scored five points, all in the third quarter, on 2-for-7 shooting.

Back-to-back layups by Nweke pushed Princeton’s lead to 43-36.  The senior co-captain finished with 11 points and five rebounds in her final game at Old Nassau.  

Two layups by Ese Ogbevire briefly brought Penn back into contact.  The freshman guard from Katy, Texas scored eight points off the bench for the Quakers to narrow Princeton’s lead to five.  But the visitors would get no closer.  Another trey by St. Rose followed by a layup sparked an 8-0 run for the Tigers as the third quarter ended with Princeton ahead 55-47.  

St. Rose finished with a game high 22 points for the Tigers on 9-for-17 shooting, including 2-for-3 from distance.

In the fourth quarter, the Tigers dominated with their patented, close-guarding defense.  Three straight turnovers to open the final stanza didn’t help the Red and Blue’s cause, as they went scoreless for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter.  By the time the drought ended with two Obi free throws, the Tigers had put the game away.  

A final stoppage of play with under a minute left allowed Princeton coach Carla Berube to pull her seniors out of the game to a standing ovation from the Princeton faithful.  As the clock ran out on a 72-55 win, the Tigers completed a perfect 10-0 record at home for the first time since the 2019-20 season.  A jubilant Princeton squad danced on the court before cutting down the nets.  

Interviewed after the game by the ESPN+ broadcast crew, Berube gushed when she was asked to describe what it’s meant to have Kaitlyn Chen leading her team on the court.

“It’s hard to put into words the impact she’s had on this program,” Berube said. “She puts the team on her back when they need her the most.”

By taking care of business against Penn in their regular season finale, the Tigers have now completed their primary mission of securing another Ivy League regular season title.  Berube and company will now shift their attention to winning the Ivy League Tournament next weekend at Levien Gymnasium on the Columbia campus.

Although Princeton is tied with Columbia for first place in the Ivy League standings, the Tigers will enter Ivy Madness as the number one seed based on their higher standing in the NET rankings.  The Tigers are currently ranked No. 33 in the NET while Columbia is ranked No. 56.  That means the Tigers will again face Penn, the No. 4 seed, on Friday night in the semifinals of the Ivy League Tournament. 

The Quakers will hope their third matchup with Princeton this season is a charm, while the Tigers will look to continue their domination of their oldest rival.  The winner will earn the right to play for an Ivy League Tournament championship next Saturday night and the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.