Carla Berube knew her Tigers were in for a rough ride at Seton Hall Monday night.
The Pirates, one of the beasts of the Big East, handled Princeton last year at Jadwin Gym, 70-60, on their way to 24 wins and a long run in the WNIT, reaching the championship game after dispatching Columbia in the Elite Eight.
It’s still Princeton’s conference until another Ivy proves that it isn’t. Our contributors are united in believing that the Tigers will stay on top in 2022-23, with Megan Griffith’s ascendant Columbia program again placing second.
But there wasn’t consensus on how the rest of the top half of the league will fill out.
Penn could break back into the Ivy League Tournament after missing it for the first time last season, but we expect the Red & Blue to draw stiff competition from Harvard and Yale in their first years under new coaches.
Will #2bidivy happen in the league for only the second time in conference history? It very well could, and the bottom half of the conference is likely to be substantially stronger this season as Brown and Dartmouth return more experienced rosters under coaches that now have a year of Ivy play under their belts.
No. 11 Princeton couldn’t secure the first NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 berth in Ivy League history in a thrilling second-round matchup at No. 3 Indiana Monday night, overcoming early foul troubles and a shaky second quarter only to fall just short, 56-55, in the final seconds.
Princeton (25-5, 14-0 Ivy) allowed the Hoosiers’ game-winning bucket from senior guard Grace Berger with 29 seconds left, giving Indiana (24-8, 11-5 Big Ten) a 54-52 lead. Princeton’s subsequent possession went awry with an errant pass from sophomore guard Kaitlyn Chen in the final game of her first year of action.
Two free throws from Aleksa Gulbe sealed the Hoosiers’ victory, creating a cushion to absorb Ivy Player of the Year Abby Meyers’ three-pointer as time expired to arrive at the 56-55 final score at Assembly Hall.
Meyers and Chen each picked up two early fouls, hindering Princeton’s early efforts offensively. But they were both part of Princeton’s push to rise from a 43-29 deficit with 6:16 left in the third quarter to a 52-51 lead with 58 seconds left.
Berger subsequently hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 52-52, followed by a missed three from Meyers that led to Berger’s game-winning shot.
Princeton held Indiana to just six points in the third quarter, and the Hoosiers committed 17 turnovers.
But Indiana did just enough to squeak by, notching 22 points against Princeton’s fourth-ranked scoring defense nationally in the second quarter.
Junior guards Grace Stone and Julia Cunningham picked up the scoring slack early after Meyers and Chen quickly got into foul trouble, leading the Tigers with 13 points apiece.
Sophomore forward Ellie Mitchell lived up to her Ivy Defensive Player of the Year honor, grabbing 15 rebounds (10 defensive) and notching a steal and a block while adding six points in 40 minutes.
Berger led Indiana with 15 points and seven rebounds in 39 minutes.
Meyers picked up her second foul just four minutes into the game, all but ensuring she wouldn’t approach the 29-point mark she achieved in Princeton’s first-round win over No. 6 Kentucky Saturday. The Ivy Player of the Year finished with 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting in 31 minutes. Chen posted 10 points and five boards in 36 minutes.
Princeton’s loss ends an extraordinary run that saw the program pick up its second NCAA Tournament win Saturday and run up its win streak versus Ivy competition to 42 games.
The 2021-22 Tigers were one of the best, most complete Ivy teams in recent memory, women’s or men’s. Even with Meyers graduating, the Tigers are the class of the Ivy League until further notice, and with a roster so deep and devoted to stifling defense, they’ve got more big moments like this in store in the future.
— Matt Cohen (@Matt_Cohen_) March 19, 2022
The Princeton Tigers entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed matched against the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats in Bloomington, Ind. Ivy Player of the Year Abby Meyers paced the Tigers with 29 points as her club thoroughly outplayed their SEC opponent Saturday, administering a convincing 69-62 beating to advance to the round of 32.
Far from being intimidated by the moment, the Tigers clearly rose to it.
Don’t call it an upset.
No. 11 Princeton led No. 6 Kentucky for all but 2:18 in the first quarter, maintaining a single-digit, multiple-possession lead most of the game en route to a 69-62 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Assembly Hall in Bloomington Saturday.
The win is the Tigers’ second NCAA Tournament victory in program history and sets them up for a second-round clash with No. 3 Indiana at Assembly Hall Monday at a time to be announced.
“This is the business we’ve chosen.” – Brian Earl and Hyman Roth
“We played for, I would say, a good 15 minutes tonight, but that’s not good enough against a good program.” – Columbia head coach Megan Griffith, following the Lions defeat to top-seeded Princeton
No matter what the coaches who did not earn victories on Saturday thought, I felt there were three really good games of college basketball on display at Lavietes Pavilion, including a fantastic opener that saw Princeton escape an upset big from Cornell, 77-73. Hopefully, West Coast fans woke up at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning to catch it.
Here are some random thoughts and observations from the Ancient Eight’s Super Saturday:
The Princeton women showed off all the things that make them the cream of the Ivies Saturday as they declawed the No. 2 Columbia Lions, 77-59, in the Ivy Madness final.
The Tigers (24-4) head to the NCAA tournament undefeated in Ivy play, having won all but one league game — the dramatic semifinal against Harvard, this year’s tournament host — by double digits.
“The Tigers were just locked in to the game plan, to the scouting report, what we needed to do, what we thought would make us successful out there,” Princeton coach Carla Berube said. ”
Guard Kaitlyn Chen — in her first year of college play, like other Ivy sophomores — scored a career-high 30 points for the Tigers on 9-for-13 shooting plus 11 of 14 free throws and was named the tournament MVP.
Chen was just listening to her teammates.
“It definitely helps knowing my teammates have my back and they’re always there for me, and they keep telling me to shoot,” Chen said.
“I’m just glad, coach, thank you, that we got Kaitlyn Chen, because she’s an absolute baller at both ends of the court,” Ivy Player of the Year Abby Meyers said.
Meyers and Julia Cunningham had 16 points apiece, and Grace Stone had 12. The Tigers shot 48% from the field and collected 23 points on free throws as the Lions struggled to catch up.
Coach Megan Griffith’s Columbia team (22-6, 12-2 in the regular Ivy season) managed to come back twice. After facing an early deficit, they finished the first quarter tied at 16 and pushed to a three-point lead early in the second. And after Princeton built a 17-point lead in the third quarter, Columbia’s Abbey Hsu and Jaida Patrick combined for key baskets to make things interesting. Hsu finished with 16 points and Patrick with 13, and Columbia had a more than respectable 42% shooting night. That included 36% on threes — but the Tigers were more efficient there, too, at 46%.
What Columbia couldn’t do for any stretch of time was evade Princeton’s relentless defense, and frustration also seemed to contribute to the Lions’ 20 turnovers (to just eight for the Tigers). Princeton blocked six shots and committed nine steals.
“I’m not happy with that effort. They shouldn’t be either,” Griffith said of her players. “We played for, I would say, a good 15 minutes tonight. That’s not good enough against a good program. You’ve just got to want it more and you’ve got to show up, and we didn’t do that today.”
Meyers was the game’s only starter not expected to return next season, positioning Princeton and Columbia well for future matchups with more Ivy hardware on the line.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of great competitions between Columbia and Princeton in the future,
Griffith said. “I’m personally looking forward to that. I love a good rivalry … Penn and Princeton kind of had that in the last decade or so, but I do think that we are right there and you will see us in this rivalry for a long time to come.”
“They really have a great nucleus that [was] out there,” Berube said. ” … Yeah, I think it could be a really good rivalry for a lot of years.”
For now, though, the Tigers are top cats in the Ivy League, and they now turn their attention to the Big Dance.
“I’m just thinking about all these pieces that have been so monumental to get us at this place and it’s been such a great journey,” Berube said. “And I just don’t want it to end.”
When hostilities got underway in the first Ivy League Tournament action in three years, it was obvious that the Crimson were inspired by the gravity of the situation. They gave the Tigers all they could handle.
In the end, however, the Tigers held on in the closest Ivy game in Carla Berube’s two-season career at Princeton, 72-67. The Tigers needed six straight free throws from Kaitlyn Chen and Grace Stone in the closing moments.